The Veggie Garden, Summer 2021

A very vital part of our property is the area dedicated to food production. It consists of about an acre that includes: the hen house and their land, a small orchard with 21 fruit trees, an area with raised beds for herbs, strawberries, carrots, lettuce and spinach, large areas for blueberries, raspberries and gooseberries, and finally two large cultivated areas for rotating vegetable crops. Of course, there are many annual flowers we allow to seed around as they will - calendula, poppies, nasturtiums, sunflowers, cardinal climber and black-eyed Susan vine.

A friend who recently visited asked if we eat from the garden often and, in short, yes we do. I make a point of noticing how many ingredients on my dinner plate came from the garden and often it's up to 75% during summer months. We also preserve much of the garden which yes, it's a lot of hard work but it is worth it.

Here's a look around this year's veggie garden I find as visually pleasing as much of my ornamental garden.

My herb box with beautiful basil in purple and green. 

Sunflowers planted by the birds. We enjoy seeing what will emerge in the world of sunflowers, they seem to be a little different every year.

A trio of textures and colors. Kale on the left, a 'Kalibos' cabbage on the right and castor bean plant above for ornamentation only.

Artichokes were fantastic this year. I couldn't keep up so many were allowed to flower. The bees do love these flowers so much.

One of our European pear trees is 'Rescue', and this is the first year we've had fruit. We harvested 9 perfect pears earlier - pears don't ripen on the tree, they ripen after you pick them. We look forward to eating them this week.

One of two 'Honeycrisp' apples, our very favorite. One tree is loaded, the other only 10 or so apples.

I believe this is a 'Gala' apple tree.

A 'Petite Negra' fig tree. I harvested a few incredible fruits a few weeks ago.

I included this photo of our persimmon earlier this month but it's worth repeating. Our persimmon has fruit for the first time. It's been in the ground since early 2017.

One of about four grape vines that are producing well. We either give them to the hens who love them or to our neighbor who makes wine.

What remains of my gooseberries after the heat dome. Not one good gooseberry this year. 

The raspberries were awful this year, at least the yield was. We also lost about half of the canes perhaps to moles or perhaps verticillium wilt. Right now we have some good ones coming on but have not picked and frozen quarts of them as we have summers past. Every year is different in the garden. We also have a plum tree that produced fruit for the first time this year, two cherry trees, an Asian pear and a couple different apple varieties. Oh, can't forget the never-has-set-fruit nectaplum.

A self-sown chamomile feels right at home here.

Herb box from a wider angle. Other herbs include tarragon, winter savory, nigella or black cumin seeds, citronella, oregano, chives and more.

Fennel flowers

This is a good reminder to pick the stuff and make pesto.

Leeks, onions and shallots have all done very well this year. They loved the heat. Turnips on the far left.

Standing in the middle of the pumpkin patch looking northwest. The trellis support is for cucumbers. 

More onions and, in front, the shallots. As soon as the tops flop over I'll leave them be for a while then harvest them and let them dry. Then I'll cure them in the hoophouse for an additional couple of weeks, finally storing them in the garage for winter eating.

We have four raised beds in the center of the vegetable garden. One has herbs year round, another strawberries. The two largest are where I sow lettuce, some kale, spinach, carrots and radishes.

Garlic is also grown in raised beds. This was harvested several weeks ago and is now cured and stored in our garage for winter use.

Sunflower, sown by the birds. I love the multi-flowered look of this one.

Calendula 'Radio' - these and Calendula 'Strawberry Blonde' are all over the place. I love it though. I think they have crossed and made kind of pinkish/peach offspring.

Calendula 'Strawberry Blonde'

Castor bean plant. Yes, poisonous seeds. We still love its exotic look.

A second shot. Everyone comments on this plant in particular when they visit the veggie garden.

Our corn to the right is a second sowing. The first was a dud for some reason (critters may have eaten some of the kernels) so FM re-sowed. We won't have much in the way of our dried corn for masa flour this year, but that's ok. It's how the garden rolls - changes every year.

I had sown seeds of a native wildflower clarkia in the greenhouse this spring and stuck a couple starts in here, hoping to see some reseeding next year.

Nasturtiums are everywhere in one particular area where we grow the pumpkins and butternut squash this year. I rip them out by the hundreds and let a few flower. By this time of the year they are usually covered in aphids so out they go.

This row of sunflowers we planted. Tomatoes and peppers at their feet.

Cardinal climber was sown at the edge of the garden where leeks and onions live to allow it to fill in and take over by autumn long after the onions have been harvested.

A gigantic sunflower. The birds have been especially busy feeding on these lately, blue jays and goldfinches primarily.

Asparagus plants that will turn golden by autumn. These are pretty enough to be an ornamental plant in my opinion. We had our fill of fresh asparagus this spring and look forward to it again next year.

Detail of asparagus leaves

FM along the path with raspberries to the left and below them our blueberries. To the right are pie pumpkins and butternut squash.

Our "zocalo" where we often sit and enjoy a few moments in the evening. During the day it serves as a holding station for coffee and water bottles and apparently dried corn on this day.

Evening light on the zocalo catches the colors of self-sown annual flowers. This is from earlier this summer.

A path between the veggie garden and orchard with our pole beans on the left. The tipis will be rebuilt next year as these have seen several years of use and are beginning to decompose. This year we pickled about 15 quarts of dilly beans - not nearly as many as we have had in years past. The beans came on late due to the heat wave. I also have a couple zucchini plants at the foot of the bean tipis.

The gourd tunnels have loofah and birdhouse gourds and on the right we are growing baby boat delicata squash. All the gourds and squash are loving the hot weather and are producing well.

My garden shed is where I store and dry seeds and flowers.

I liked this shot of the upper veggie garden as seen though the trunk of a vine maple tree. Through it you can see broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage on the left and hanging loofah and birdhouse gourds on the right.

Love from Blue Jay Lane Farms

It's been an interesting summer so far. Super-duper hot and dry then a week of below average temps. Our tomatoes are just beginning to ripen, we thought for sure they'd love the heat but no such luck. FM has harvested a measly three tomatoes. The cucumbers, although late, are now producing well. Beets, turnips, carrots are all fine and we have been enjoying them for several weeks. The cauliflower, oddly, grew large and beautifully but produced no heads. It has never done that before. I think it was the heat dome. Broccoli and cabbage did great, so it's a mystery to us. We'll try again next year.

This is our fifth year growing a vegetable garden and we love it. It's a lot of hard work, planning, weeding, watering and experimenting. I like to save seed so that's an extra step in planning and storing. Tending the hens is fun, it's primarily FM's job and he's damned good at it but I love hanging out with them and feeding and caring for them. Now if they would only start laying again....! I also enjoy giving bits of the farm as gifts, for example last year I gave loofah sponges with homemade salve from beeswax and calendula-infused oil, all from the garden of course. What a joy. It's a wonderful shift in perspective while working out here, harvesting and spending time in the veggie garden. We are so lucky to grow our own food and encourage anyone wanting to jump in to just try it. The rewards are amazing.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you SO much for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you all, the amazing gardening community. Happy gardening and harvesting one and all!


  1. Despite the hot and dry you still are having a good harvest. Interesting how some things responded to the adverse conditions. My beans are producing well now but the peas are just coming on with the cooler weather. A great year for some zucchini types (not all), garlic and, for us, raspberries though I have been waging a war of wills with a porcupine. You're right, every year is different. There's always next year.

    1. I was so surprised when my two zuke plants didn't produce diddly! I just pulled them out to give the three winter squashes more room to ramble ;-)

    2. Peas! I forget about peas and fall sowing. Interesting about your zucchini - Colleen - curious about yours too! Mine did well for about a week then a break in any flowers for a good three weeks.

      Winter squash needs room to ramble, good use of space, Colleen!

  2. Your vegetable garden is beautiful and you have good reason to be very proud of it. Other than our citrus trees, artichokes and some herbs, I gave up on my edible garden but I admire yours. Being a flower addict, I'm especially impressed by those gorgeous Calendula. Castor bean plants grow by the side of the road here (although it strikes me that I haven't seen a single one this year, perhaps due to our rainfall shortage). I've been tempted to plant one in my garden for its sheer beauty but I keep hesitating...

    1. Thank you, Kris! To grow citrus trees, though...envy! How glorious. Well, they veggie garden as any food producing crop, needs water so I don't blame you for not growing edibles in your part of the world.

      Oh, the calendula...want some seeds? I'd be happy to send some! I have a BAZILLION! Really.

  3. By way of comfort: I have a Spicezee Nectaplum planted in 2015. Starting in 2018 it would produce a fruit or 3. I was going to take it out, but the fruit is very tasty. It is, unfortunately, very prone to peach leaf curl here. I spray copper, the only thing I ever spray, but I'm tired of doing it. The tree is supposed to be semi dwarf but I don't think so because even with pruning it's huge. Hard to spray. And copper builds up. ANYWAY, even though we had a 26 degree frost in April, I got a lot of fruit. So it's staying another year. Question...I have a Surefire sour cherry. My favorite. The last two years it had cherry fly maggots. I pick every single fruit so I don't know how they are reproducing. I make sure none survive as soon as I see the holes. Do you ever get them? It's a huge disappointment. I won't spray. Growing food is hard! I live on green beans and zucchini and lettuce, that's all I have room for. I dislike tomatoes, so that saves space which I give entirely to winter squash and it's doing great this year. Heat.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Aaah, the Spicezee Nectaplum. Good to know your experience. Ours has had peach leaf curl two or three years in a row and I have yet to spray, only because I forgot to get copper.'s frustrating, isn't it? We'll keep it for a while more before we give up, it just may be too wet of springs here to grow them.

      Cherry fly maggots, I am sorry! Holy cow! Growing food IS hard. Hats off to farmers everywhere! And home gardeners! I agree. We have never had cherry fly maggots, knock on wood. I'll keep my eyes open for them, however. Have you asked your local extension office/master gardeners? They may have an answer/solution.

      I don't/won't spray either (aside from trying copper), stubborn as I am but it's my choice. No way. Too many insects and birds here.

      Green beans and lettuce and zucchini sounds good to me. And WINER SQUASH for the win! Yummm!! So - what's your favorite zucchini recipe? Just curious. I made zucchini boats last weekend and they were delicious.

    3. Recipe? Ummmm. I almost always stir fry or bake it either sort of Italian ish with parmesan and garlic, or stir fry with greens and ginger and mushrooms sort of Asian ish. No recipe. But I stir fry it until it is brown and almost crispy. It's good.
      I read somewhere that it's warm spells in February and then rain and cold that causes peach leaf curl. That happens every year here.

  4. So beautiful, inspiring and a lot of hard work. My dad's tomatoes are also a bit of a disappointment this year—thus far. They like it hot, but only at just the right time, or so it appears.


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