Summer Harvest: Are We There Yet?


Rachael Brown

Until this past weekend, our green thumbs were feeling a little wilted. It was taking so long for things to get going in our vegetable garden that we feared our planting schedule had fallen way off course. This felt especially true when we compared our plot with others in our community garden, whose crops are already thriving and look ready to eat, while it took our beet greens six weeks to start looking like much of anything.

Our friend Eric stopped by last Saturday to help with a little weeding, and give us some encouragement and advice on one of our biggest worries so far—timing. As I wrote last week, we chose to start a number of plants indoors; the original idea being to grow some healthy seedlings and then transplant them. But our paper cup plants suffered for lack of sunlight and then withered completely, and we took too long to course-correct by sowing them again in the soil directly.

But better late than never. On Saturday, with Eric's help, we planted new seeds for our lettuces (bibb, romaine, orach, tatsoi); herbs (dill, basil, sage, thyme); and tomatoes. I also threw a heap of wildflower and poppy seeds in an unused corner of the plot, just to see what happens. We did a full fertilization on all of the soil, using organic dried manure. We finally thinned our rows of carrots, attempting to transfer a few of the healthier looking ones to new furrows. (It was incredibly reassuring to see the little, orange-tinted roots as I pulled them up.) And, because we really love tomatoes, and want to make we have plenty just in case our seeds don't make it, we bought two starter tomato plants—an Early Girl and a Sweet Cherry, both with a 45 to 60 day maturation time.


Rachael Brown

As far as the other crops go, Bryan thinks we can start harvesting chard as soon as this weekend, but I'm not so sure. We'll hope that the carrots and beets are mature by mid-June, and the lettuces should take about a month before they're harvest-ready.

Overall we're feeling more confident after the work we did last weekend. Other gardeners have started stopping by to admire and offer advice as we work. Friends and colleagues have expressed enthusiasm (and dropped hints that they hope to share some of the bounty).

There are a couple of lingering concerns. First, we do wish we had gotten the lettuces planted earlier, to give them plenty of time before the withering D.C. summer heat sets in. And we also wonder if we'll start to have problems with pests and vermin now that the plants are starting to flourish. Thus far, we haven't seen any disease or critter interference, aside for the occasional bird snatching a worm.

But although it's taken time for our garden to build momentum, now, as we see the progress, it's brought back much of our initial excitement.

Past gardening posts by Rachael Brown:
Good Things Come to Those Who Garden
Seeds Into Shoots
In the Garden: Out with the Old, In with the New
Call Me "Gardener"

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Rachael Brown is a writer and analyst for Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit organization working to improve educational outcomes for low-income students. A former Atlantic editor, she has written for The Guardian and, among other outlets. She is also a former public high school teacher.

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