This year it’s all about what can survive in the very low-water growing conditions we’re experiencing on the left-side of the country. In the Dirt to Dinner garden a lot of my growing is focused on squash, cucumbers, melons, and a few other drought-resistant crops. Which apparently includes salsify and artichokes. I just have two artichoke plants near one another in a corner of the garden and they are feeding my family and two others with all the artichokes we need and some of the buds have still flowered and gone to seed. It’s a hot, dry spot, surrounded on two sides by sidewalk, and, honestly, I have not been very attentive to the patch this year–at all. Maybe the roots are feeling the drought pressure and sending out as many buds as possible to insure survival long-term? I honestly don’t know, but please pass the Hollandaise.
Another crop doing especially well this year is the runner beans. Runner beans are happily perennial in my climate, but they don’t last forever. Most years they all die back to the roots for the winter and in the spring it’s normal for a few not to regrow. I don’t have them tagged by year, so I can’t tell you what their life-span should be, but under my high-stress growing conditions I’m pretty thrilled with the return rate. This year they were especially early, growing new vines and leaves by early April. And now, in spite of the unusually cool spring temperatures and cloudy (but rainless!!) days, they are beginning to flower. This year I have added in additional patches of ‘White Romanian’ runner beans, which I understand will have fully white flowers, instead of the lovely, hummingbird-attracting plain-red, red-and-white, or red-and-pink flowers most of my other beans grow. I like runner beans for their usefulness at all stages of bean production, their beautiful flowers, and the big, fat dry beans they give me for chili or soups all winter. If they are also able to produce in spite of the lack of moisture I will have just the excuse I need to collect even more of them. ;-)
I am also surprised and pleased by how well the potatoes are doing with very little water in their tall beds of straw. Potatoes probably should not be your first choice as a sustenance crop in an arid climate, but I love them and started them as early as possible this year to take advantage of what moisture was available while the weather was still cool and as of Memorial Day weekend, I have to say I am encouraged. The soil around the stems is dry and dusty, but the plants look healthy and have moved through their Sleep, Creep, and Leap stages pretty much on-time. The ‘Ozette’ fingerling potatoes in the back garden are slower-growing than I would like. I don’t know if that’s the variety or the conditions. Since they are often referred to as the oldest variety in commercial cultivation, I am willing to bet they are widely adapted and will do their best in their mulch pile on their own schedule.