It’s close to the end of July, so the calendar year is over half completed. What kind of progress am I making in my garden this year? There is, of course, my backyard landscaping. I’m putting in new planters so will have more space to grow food next year. I finished the retaining wall on the west side yesterday, and started backfilling dirt and leveling the yard. I’m pleased with the progress towards my summer’s goal of finishing the backyard. But, that’s not the progress I’m appreciating most. [Click images to enlarge to full size.]

Last year, I ate 20 different crops from my yard, sometimes in abundance, sometimes in just one or two pieces of a test crop. This year I’m up to 17 already (see list below) and will clearly surpass last year’s 20. But, this, too, isn’t what I’m realizing is my most important progress.

Here’s a hint: See my previous post on The aesthetics of watering and waiting. Yesterday morning, as I gave myself several hours to prune, pick, compost and tie back berry canes, I once again noticed the blossoms in my yard. A few of these are non-food flowers–the tall pink cosmos and the unknown wild flower from seeds a friend scattered last year. But there is the big, soft, bright yellow squash blossom, the tiny yellow lettuce flower, and the yellow flower of the mystery melon or squash that will surprise me, because I didn’t stick the stick with its name in the ground. Yellow is popular, it would seem, but so is white. The basil flower is white (yes, I know, I should have picked it before it bolted) as is the cluster ball of tiny white blossoms from the leek. (Look closely at the leek flower cluster and you’ll see I’m not the only one who appreciates it!) The tiny cape gooseberry flower (with the ripening fruit “shell” in the background) is also white. All told, I’ve got quite a delightful bunch of flowers to enjoy.

For me, this year’s important progress seems to be learning to really relish my time in the garden and to take time to notice nature’s beauty. It isn’t just about eating great food. It’s about the joy of working in my garden and making discoveries about how nature works and appreciating the little hidden gems that are surprising me each week.

Here is a list of my 2008 crops, so far: leeks, beet greens, chard, brocolli, kale, black raspberries, raspberries, lettuce, apples, plums, peach, figs, tomatoes, cucumbers, crook-necked squash, orange, purslane.