Year 4 – Home made booze, expanding the variety list, nature calls.
A few years ago I watched an episode of “River Cottage” and saw a tutorial on sparkling elderflower wine. It’s one of the easiest home boozes to make and since one of the elderberry bushes was now producing lots of flowers, this was the year. From one, one year-old bush I had enough to make 35 bottles! So easy and great for a light summer drink. My proudest gardening moment to date.
After doing well with almost everything growing in the garden, I felt ready to expand the list of foods, and with that, came some problem solving. Firstly, I wanted to try and grow more brassicas. I had a little success with kale and broccoli but wanted to also try cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts. Our spring season is so short before the hot humidty of summer hits, and brassicas take a considerable amount of time to grow. Starting them indoors seemed like the only option so I made some grow boxes. It certainly help get a start on the seedlings but I lost all of the plants to bugs once they were planted out, both in the Spring and the fall. I’m not giving up on brassicas but they certainly are a challenge here in TN.
Another challenge were certain kinds of fruits that struggle to tolerate our heat. I had such high hopes for the currants and gooseberries along the cooler side of the house. I even set up a trellis to try to grow them as espalier, but it was a disaster. Espalier relies on every trained off shoot and branch to survive but since the currants and gooseberries are difficult to grow here, meaning that each of those shoots and branches could easily fail, it was a risky move. Of the 8 plants in total, 4 survived and I’m doing my best to keep them alive.
Aside from the brassicas and the espalier, this year was a year of huge strides. For the first time I grew summer and winter squash, melons, bush beans, and tried rhubarb again. It was planted in a cooler location and survived! The raspberries and blackberries, now in their second year were producing large yields, and there were more peas this year too with sugar snap and snow peas. The pea additions still needed better trellising so I made some pea hedges and A-frames for the larger varieties. As well as providing a better space for the peas, it gave the whole garden structure and a sense of design.
And to finish this year’s round up – some cuteness. As usual, I had planted a salad bed around mid March. By the end of May I noticed a pile of straw and fur in the middle of the bed. After gentle investigation, I discovered baby rabbits that looked less than a day old. Within 2 weeks the babies were already venturing out into the garden and I never saw much of them again. But what an absolute delight to have them as guests for a while.