Originally uploaded by Utterings

I realize that I haven’t updated on the Growing Challenge in a very long time — and I’m supposed to be making weekly reports at this point! As a memory jogger, The Growing Challenge was started by Melinda of One Green Generation as a way to encourage people interested in sustainable living, or homesteading agriculture, or providing a bit more of their own food (rather than relying on grocers) to take a measurable step forward — by growing one new food-producing plant from scratch.

This photo captures one of my four enormous beanstalks. It’s taller than I am (6′ in stockings) at this point, and consists of two Kentucky Wonder pole bean plants which grew from a pair of seeds I dropped in the soil in mid-May. Clicking on the photo will bring you to my “Gardening 2008” photostream at Flickr, where you can see close-up shots of the bean buds.

Other produce is growing well, too:

  • I’ve been regularly clipping lettuce (started seeds indoors and planted three forlorn little plants outdoors in early May) leaves for salads, and all varieties are growing back faster than I can eat them. None of the three plants have gone to seed or begun to taste overly bitter, so I’m continuing to harvest.
  • I’ve thinned the carrots (planted as seed in May) out, and probably need to make one more run through the row next weekend. I won’t grow any root vegetable crops in the future; I don’t have enough space to yield a crop large-enough to be useful.
  • Tomatoes (planted seedlings as my seed-starting efforts yielded only dead babies) have been amazing — I harvest a mixing bowl full of cherry berries twice a week, and have been eating them by the handful as snacks, in salads, or coarsely chopped and mixed with basil, sea salt, and a little black pepper, then tossed with chunks of mozzarella cheese. The Big boy plants have some good sized green fruits on them, and the Lemon Toms look interesting.
  • I’ve had no luck with peppers (purchased seedlings) for the second year in a row, which is both disappointing and expensive (as colored peppers are one of the priciest produce items on my list). I have one small fruit on one of my plants, but it’s not growing in weight or glossiness as it should be to indicate ripeness. I’m afraid the beetles will nab it while I’m away this week.
  • The zucchinis (planted as seeds in mid-June) are enormous and beginning to put out blossoms.
  • One of the moon and stars watermelon (planted from seeds that my Companion Planting Team Captain, Pattie, mailed to me from Georgia) plants has yielded a vine that’s beginning to put out questing feelers. The color of it is gorgeous!
  • The herbs are growing almost faster than I can use them — I haven’t begun to run out of Basil, the Fennel (both fronds and bulbs) has been delicious over fish packets, the oregano is finally beginning to grow, and the Parsley (all grown from seed) and Lemonbalm (a filched stripling in a pot) are both beautifully large and lush.
  • I replanted both cucumber and eggplants in large clay pots, since the first set of seeds yielded nothing. One eggplant is growing well, and I transplanted 5 of his brothers for delivery to my aunt next weekend. The cucumbers are just beginning to get their second leaves, so we’ll see how that goes.
  • The marigolds just keep producing blossoms, and the plants I grew from seed are larger and more bountiful than those that I purchased as seedlings from the nursery. The wildflowers in the makeshift bed along the side of my building are finally beginning to blossom — they’ve had to contend with shovel-wielding children and unruly dogs, so that’s miraculous in and of itself — those in the window boxes on my balcony are starting to bud, though the pots on the patio are still only green.

Not a bad way to go — my grocery bills are much smaller than they might be, and I’m getting more creative with my eating. It certainly helps that the weather hasn’t been inspiring me to eat much of anything! Tonight’s dinner will be a salad, warm cornbread muffins, and the last of the cheese in my fridge. Nothing beats cleaning all of the perishable food out before leaving on a trip — and hopefully when I return from Atlanta on Thursday night, I’ll have another harvest waiting to be reaped.

Pattie, when my time management skills improve, I will arrange one of these trips so that I have time to meet you! It’s crazy that I’m in your home-city a half-dozen times a year and we haven’t connected in person yet.

P.S. Speaking of photos, the Flickr sidebar on the blog includes highlights of my trip to NYC earlier this month — be sure to click through from RSS in order to see them!