Garden Diary - August 2009

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Wednesday, 26 August, 2009
A Visit to Turnip Truck Garden

We're off to visit The Turnip Truck, Bucks County, Pennsylvania's original organic kitchen garden company. Jenn and Alex McCracken do as much as you want for your personal organic kitchen garden. They'll design, create, maintain, even help you harvest produce (though most clients want to save the fun stuff for themselves.) What we'll see today is their own personal garden, where they practice what they preach.

Here we are at the garden. Alex is on the left, and Jenn, back to camera, is telling us about Turnip Truck Gardens.

Turnip Truck also provides organic orchard care. Alex has a 15 foot orchard ladder. That's why
Turnip Truck Gardens now has this splendid vine teepee, swathed with Grandpa Ott morning glory,
lab-lab vine, miniature pumpkin vines, a gourd vine, cinnamon yam -it's been in the ground for
four years so guess it's hardy, with attractive shingled leaves and little air potato tubers. Neat!

There's another arbor at the far end of the vegetable garden.
It's huge. See the gray, slightly arched crossbar? That's the top
of a "normal" arbor, its height more than doubled by
the airy bamboo surmounting it, supporting the wildly growing vine.

Hops do that, once established.

The garden is magnificently productive. Jenn and Alex cleared the ground four years ago. They dug out multiflora roses, pretty much by hand. Horse manure adds some nutrients. Winter rye is tilled in after growth, to amend the tilth. Clean straw mulches open ground, deterring weed growth and introducing little on its own, unlike spoiled hay. Looks prettier too, bright and yellow, unlike skanky wet hay. The McCrackens raise many different kinds of heirloom tomatoes from seed, ditto peppers and eggplants. All are carefully labeled as to variety, so family, friends, and visitors will know not merely that they're eating a tomato, but which variety of yellow, oxheart, black, or traditional red tomato they're enjoying. There's more than your basic salad-and-tomato garden grown here.

Herbs and flowers, sometimes in combination like this vignette of dill and black-eyed Susans.

Borage, beloved by bees and with a cucumber-like taste.

Swiss chard, with a rainbow array of colors, as popular as
an ornamental as it is in the kitchen. Easy to grow, too.

It has a solanaceous flower, like an eggplant, potato, pepper or tomato. But the fruit
looks more like a miniature melon. "A friend who works at a garden center called me."
said Jenn. "She said they had a strange little vegetable and she knew I'd want a couple.
And she was right." A couple of the little fruits were ripe and Jenn thought we should all
have a taste of pepino. Melon-like, juicy, pleasant. New to all of us, never tried one before.

Then Alex wanted to show us his pride and joy. So we walked over to the other garden, to meet Trixie.


What's this?

Alex slowly lifts the cover . . . .

As we all wait outside the deer fence he peers underneath

Tah dah! Meet Trixie. Alex is planning on entering her in the Longwood competition
on October 17. He wants to show people that it IS possible to raise a 500 pound pumpkin
organically. He's battled blight in the form of yellow vine disease, our extremely wet weather,
and also the cool growing conditions - and it sure looks like he has a contender in Trixie.

UPDATE: Jenn e-mailed me on 30 August, "Just so you know,
Trixie is not going to make it to Longwood - she has stopped growing
& is developing soft spots. So, it's all the better you & your club were
here to see her this week & witness her reaching 505 lbs.
There's always next year . . . . !"

Everyone was impressed with Trixie. All the people, that is. I do think that this little red hen,
one of a trio, looked underwhelmed. That might be because the coop is in the other garden
and the pumpkin patch is out of sight. But then, in my experience it is hard to impress a chicken.

If you want to follow Alex's pumpkin growing adventures from plot preparation through seed sowing,
and growing, with set-backs and solutions, comments and frequent updates, look here.

And now time to head home, after another fun filled and informative meeting for the garden club.

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