What says summer more than a bee visiting the wide open spaces of a sunflower? I’ll tell you what—heat, mosquitoes and thunderstorms. At this point in the year we’re low the first two of those but it is finally raining nicely even as I write this.
The garden has hit that point in the year where I get to carry the occasional weighty load back to the car. Some croppage more serious than handfuls of salad fixins has been coming in. Warning: Lots to share so lots of pictures below! But don’t worry, we’ll pause for tea after a bit.
Starting in the potato corner, here is one of the chewed up plants. I haven’t found any Colorado potato beetles but there were some slugs seen, probably the result of burying the plants in leaf mulch and straw to get tubers along the stems. Since the plants were looking on their last legs, er, roots I dug around with my hand in the box and discovered once again the box method didn’t work. Red Norlands, the type shown here, aren’t an indeterminate variety. One more try next year with the right variety and then I go to a more traditional technique if that doesn’t work.
In my digging, I did find a nice handful on top of the soil below all the mulch. They made a delicious grilled accompaniment to some salmon.
Next to the tomato box and overshadowing it is my towering tomatillo. I grew it upward with the help of a cage, some bamboo poles and twine. It’s almost as tall as me and threatening to tip over.
Look at that beautiful, fat fruit! I’m going to have plenty for all the salsa, enchilada sauce, chili and curries I want to make. I wonder how many beginning gardeners have ever wondered if one tomatillo plant would be enough.
What was not entirely beautiful was the hornworm caterpillar I found creeping about the tomatillo. Yes, they’re amazing and turn into big, beautiful moths, but I tossed it on the path. They’re so big I can’t bring myself to squish them.
The last couple of times I harvested mint I was noticing there were two kinds growing in the sunken, bottomless pot. One had thick, rough leaves and the other had thinner, narrower leaves. Unfortunately the second kind was growing more vigorously than the first which I prefer for food and beverage applications. I dug the whole thing up and selected out the preferred variety and replanted it with some delicious (to a mint plant) compost.
The peppers are really suffering from the lack of heat I mentioned above. Plants are about half the size I would expect at this time. I even fertilized carefully before I planted them. They’re just very slow. A shot of epsom salts greened them up a bit but that’s all. This Wisconsin Lakes plant did put up one big fruit but with inadequate foliage it got sunburned. That’s something you need to watch out for with peppers but not everyone thinks about this with a heat-loving crop. I’ve harvested a couple of bright red jalapenos but they have absolutely no heat to them.
This pepper, on the other hand, seems to be doing fine. This whole plant, including the pointy fruit is only four inches tall! I call it “Hot Hulia” because my friend Julia gave it to me for my birthday nearly a year ago. It was taller then, but I brought it through winter indoors and it died back a bit on the top. Doubtless it was sold as an ornamental plant, but I harvested and dried the peppers and they are HOT! I’m going to make a chili powder with them when I get around to it.
The tomatoes are right on the brink of producing enough fruit to start canning. I did peel, core and freeze a small container the other day to save for a big canning session and soon there will be more to join them. The Honey Bunch cherry tomatoes are producing enough for a salad every couple of days and the Chocolate Cherry is about to take off, as well.
These are the tomatoes that have me most excited, though. They’re my first Japanese Black Trifele, a Russian variety despite the name. I’m letting them get perfectly ripe on the counter before tasting them. They’re reputed to have outstanding flavor. In just the few days since I picked these they’ve gotten beautifully dark. I think tonight’s the night.
The basil is doing OK. The Thai and lemon varieties, which we don’t eat much, are doing much better than the Genovese, which we do. Still, haven’t made any pesto yet. The odd leaf or two has made it into a salad or other dish now and then.
Here come the beans! Despite scattered reports of Mexican Bean Beetles throughout the gardens they apparently didn’t get a foothold like a couple years ago. Yay! And now the pods are ripening and drying and the plants are dying back. At least the bush beans are, the pole beans are still going strong. I’ve harvested almost all the Pinto beans and a few Great Northerns so far.
In other leguminous news, the peanuts seem to be doing better than the last update but not great. I’m blaming the cool weather on this, too. There have been a few more flowers but I doubt I’ll try growing these again, at least not without better soil and maybe some early warming technique like black plastic.
Halfway through the beds it’s time to stop for tea. Manure tea, that is. I’m steeping some composted manure in water which will be diluted and fed to select plants like the peppers and tomatoes, probably starting this week. I’ve heard it works wonders.
Adjacent to the compost buckets the latest planting of beets is struggling along. They’re competing with their Cousin Chard for light and I think I planted them just when it stopped raining regularly. Frankly I’m surprised they’re still alive.
Another crop suffering from the weather is the beloved sweet potato. When I planted them it was nice and hot and then the temps dropped the next week and stayed comfortably low. Another crop I’ll consider carefully in the future whether I want to chance it. Although, I guess anything I grow has a chance of receiving less than ideal weather. Note to self: Plant a selection of crops that take a variety of weather scenarios so something will do well.
I’ve been transplanting cilantro seedlings into random open spots like here among the struggling oca. Cilantro’s a cool weather plant so I’ve been able to grow it later than usual this year, but it still seems to go from seeding to flowering plant over night. Another plant I’ve been surprised by is my broccoli. It’s still putting out little, harvestable florets. In August!
The Bush Delicata squash is doing great, better than its cucumber cousins who are succumbing to something after getting off to such a great start. The label you can see here is made from a piece of aluminum window blind. I write on them with those little paint pens and though the colors fade some, they can last right through winter. There’s your tip for the day. I use paint pens for anything that goes outside now instead of Sharpies and they last way better.
The Malabar spinach has finally decided to climb and is now above the leaves of the squash. I’ve munched on a couple of leaves and they’re OK. They do taste like spinach but the texture is a little different. Soon I’ll find an appropriate recipe and make something with it and report back. I’m open to suggestions!
Look! The Brussels sprouts are sprouting sprouts! I have two plants, planted too close together, of course. We’re going to have lots of them this year. Thank goodness they freeze well. My family and co-workers may get these instead of honey for Xmas this year. Similar enough, right?
All the Sweet Spanish Yellow onions have been pulled and are curing and now most of the Red Zeppelin have come in. A few are still standing strong, but…
…that left some open ground. Notice two things. First, it’s unplanted but not bare. I keep mulch everywhere to prevent weeds from getting started. Second, it doesn’t look like this anymore because I planted something else right away. Keep that soil working! Romaine lettuce, broccoli, and two kinds of bok choy have gone in as wee seedlings I started in the basement.
OK, we’ve completed the tour of what’s interesting in the garden. Would you like another cup of the tea? No? Oh, I see you haven’t touched the first one. No worries.
Before you go take a look at this pretty flower growing by the community compost area. I have no idea what it is. There are several colors of it and it looks great, in my opinion. If you know it’s identity, share in the comments before you go. Please leave your mug by the bucket and have a pleasant rest of the day!