Real summer is here, and it is here with a vengeance. The heat wave that has scorched much of the U.S. has us firmly in its grip as well. But the garden is producing pretty well despite the heat and sweltering humidity. I am glad I gave everything in the main vegetable garden a good mulching. That has helped conserve moisture, keep the soil cooler, and keep down weeds. We have had record rainfall this year, including almost 7 inches of rain in July alone, but our last rain was 9 days ago. Our silty soil dries out fast, but the mulch helps considerably. Here’s a peek at what’s growing here in July, in no particular order.
We are growing quite a few different eggplant varieties this year, many of them for the first time. Pingtung Long is an old favorite, with long light purple eggplants that have a white mild flesh. The Apple Green variety is new to us, and I’ve got it growing in a container. It has lovely little apple sized, mild tasting fruits. And I’ve got Fairy Tale growing in the ground and in containers. It’s already given us lots of those little purple and white striped goodies that we love grilled. This year we are also going to try dehydrating some of our eggplant.
The pole beans are finally producing, and we got our first harvest this week. The wet spring made for a late planting, but they’re coming on strong now. Helda and Marengo, both flat podded varieties, were the first to set on. Blue Lake and Fortex won’t be far behind. I like the pole beans because they give us an extended harvest season, plus they make great use of vertical space. In an intensely planted garden like ours, going vertical makes sense wherever possible.
Chinese yardlong beans are appearing at HA for the first time. I’ve grown them in the past, but it was many years ago. I’m growing a red podded type called Red Noodle (recommended by Christina at A Thinking Stomach), and a green podded variety called Akasanjaku. We should get our first taste of Red Noodle very soon. It will be interesting to incorporate them into our cooking. Botanically, they are closely related to black-eyed peas, so the flavor is different from green beans. They are good stir fried as well as lightly boiled or steamed.
Winter squash are growing strong and setting on lots of squashes. All the moisture seems to have suited them. We have some large Gold Nuggets setting on now, along with Delicata, Acorn and Butternut types. I am also growing the striped Oriental Fairy variety for the first time.
Out of six summer squashes planted, only three are still alive. We lost one zucchini to a wind storm that snapped the vine, and two of the yellow squashes (Superpik and Enterprise) have succumbed to bacterial wilt. It’s been a terrible year at HA for striped cucumber beetles, which are a vector for the bacterial wilt disease. Squash vine borers also cause sudden wilting of a squash plant, but there was no evidence of them in the stems of the two plants. Still, we have harvested over 75 pounds of summer squash this year, so losing half the plants isn’t exactly the end of the world. And we still have the vining Tromboncino and Tatume squashes, which are used like summer squashes. So please, no one needs to start dropping off squash on our doorstep!
Also in the ‘uh-oh’ category, it seems I got the two rows of caged tomatoes a little too close this year. The lush growth and close planting has left me crawling on the ground between the cages to get to some of the tomatoes. Next year I will either split the rows apart and plant something else in between, or else give them a more generous spacing. It isn’t affecting the growth of the tomatoes any, only the comfort level of the harvester!
We are still in the middle of blackberry season here. I often sing the praises of the Apache variety, but our Triple Crown plants aren’t too shabby themselves. The berries aren’t quite as big, but they are tasty and plentiful. We’ve harvested about 6 gallons of all varieties so far, with more to come. Last year the last harvest was on July 31. We’ve been eating them fresh and freezing the rest for use all year long. My wife has been busy lately making Blackberry Fruit Leather. We also enjoy making Blackberry Syrup with some of our berries.
And even though we’re sweltering in the heat of summer, it’s time to start planting a few things for the fall garden. I planted one bed last week with some greens, including some Red Belgian Endive I got from a seed swap with Mr H. over at Subsistence Pattern. Also in the bed is some Fun Jen, and a miniature Chinese Cabbage called Soloist.
I’ve never grown Belgian Endive before. We will be able to harvest the leaves this year, but what we’re really trying to grow is some big and healthy roots. We will dig those up before winter, cut off the tops, then pot the roots up and take them somewhere like the basement where it’s cool. Then we can force new growth in the form of the fancy chicons that are prized by chefs and foodies alike. I found an article here that describes the whole procedure pretty well. The young plants are really pretty, with the green leaves streaked with red. I am pretty excited about growing this one. I am happy that Mike was willing to share some seeds with me.
Not everything we grow is edible. I’ve got some luffa gourds growing up in some remesh cages, and the little hedgehog gourd growing next to it. The Hedgehog is already setting on some of the little prickly gourds. Both have uses in soap making and crafts.
I’ll end this update with a few more photos from the garden and harvests. The captions should speak for themselves. I hope you enjoyed the tour!