Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July Garden Update

Once again, I have a cautiously optimistic garden update for all of you. Cautious optimism seems to be the theme of my garden. I know some things aren't going well, but I keep plugging along anyway.

As you can see from the above picture, the most successful thing going down right now is the cucumber harvest. I grew cucumbers in this exact same spot two years ago and got nothing - just a couple scrawny little things that sat and rotted in the crisper drawer. This year, however, the cucumbers are thriving. Why? I have no idea. I'm just happy to be getting something! I've already canned a batch of dill pickle chips and another batch (just a few hours ago) of pickle relish, all from our own cucumber harvest. And, based on what I see on those vines, there will be many more lovely cucumbers to come this summer. I'm not going to question it - I'm just going to harvest them and enjoy!

The herb garden has adapted fairly well to being moved to the front yard. The heat has taken its toll (I really should have been watering it more during that heat wave), but most things are thriving. Check out that lemongrass in the back - growing like a weed! I'm going to have to transplant it before it takes over that bush!

The only casualty of the move was my winter savory plant, which sadly died a few weeks ago. Everything else is coming along nicely and, as I said in my last post, I'm still enjoying popping out into the front yard to gather my herbs!

The old herb garden in the back hasn't been dealt with yet (except for weeding - it was totally taken over by grass until we finally got to it on Sunday). I tried to give some of those extra herbs away to neighbors and had some interest, except no one actually turned up to take them home. While I continue to try to find them homes, I'm starting my fall crops in the bare sections. I planted some small rows of turnips and radishes in the front of this patch on Sunday. It would be a great spot for greens, too, if I could get my hands on some more seeds.

The tomato plants next to the deck are finally looking awesome - they are enormously tall and are full of tiny tomatoes. Unfortunately, my tomato crop has been hit by some sort of bacterial wilting disease. It started in the raised bed, where I've lost three huge plants so far and it seems to have spread to every tomato plant in the yard. I've been trying to stave it off by removing any infected leaves that I see, but I think it's already too late for these - one of the largest branches has started to wilt. Hopefully I'll get some tomatoes off of them before they succumb. Below the tomatoes is a very lovely looking crop of carrots and another of green onions. At least something over there is going well!

Across from those, in the strawberry patch, is my one tiny tomato plant - Matt's wild cherry. The minuscule tomatoes only just began to ripen, so I don't know how they taste yet. This plant got off to a really slow, unhappy start (it still looks rather yellow at the bottom), but it's starting to surge forward again. I read that this wild variety actually reseeds itself, so we'll see what turns up on that spot next year!

The raised bed in the back looks amazing. The tomato plants - both the four I purchased and the five "mystery" plants that came up from the compost - just shot up. Once the plants got going, they quickly surpassed my six-foot-tall bamboo stakes and started falling all over the place. Unfortunately, just as that was happening, they acquired that bacterial disease. It started with one plant mysteriously wilting, then another. Then I noticed the spotty, yellowed leaves. Now every single plant is infected. I had to remove three of the beautiful plum tomato plants.

This picture shows the scale of the single remaining plant, which was the biggest from the beginning. Check out the top of the plant in the top right of the picture, then follow the stem back to the ground - it's at least twelve feet tall, and has another branch that's nearly as big. It, too, has this infection, but I've been pulling off diseased leaves and what remains looks pretty healthy. I hope it can pull through, because it's just dripping with baby tomatoes!

The other side of the garden, apart from the cucumber vines, still has a row of collard greens. Most of my chard died in the heat wave (they never got very big anyway) and I recently pulled out my bolting arugula. I put in half a row of carrots the other day and I'll be starting more in the coming weeks.

The big news out of this area, though, is the squash patch. The difference between this picture and the one I took a month ago is amazing. The pumpkins love it over there! I have yet to see a pumpkin start to grow, but the side shoots are only just starting to spread out. There are still two giant summer squash plants under there. They are filled with blossoms and growing like weeds, but so far we haven't gotten any squash. There have been very few female flowers and the baby squashes seem to shrivel and die off right away. I don't think it's a pollination issue, because those flowers are covered with bees. I really hope the pumpkins will do better than the summer squash - those are what I'm really hoping for!

We've also acquired a few mystery squash plants in the back garden bed. Two small vines popped up and I just let them grow. Even though I only took this picture two days ago, the vine on the left is half dead right now, having succumbed to vine borers. I guess the preventative foil I wrapped around the base of the pumpkin and summer squash plants paid off, since they're all looking great. I hope the other mystery squash sticks around, because I'm curious to learn what it is and how it got over there. 

The driveway plants are still struggling. I've given up on the cucumbers in the low oval pot - it doesn't drain and they've basically drowned. The cherry tomatoes are doing ok - a bit spindly, but I've harvested some already. They, too, have the bacterial disease, but I've pulled off infected leaves and it doesn't seem to be spreading. The bucket on the right, with our single potato plant, is looking like a disappointment. I tried digging for baby potatoes a few weeks ago and found literally nothing, so I don't have high hopes. We'll see what happens when the greens die back and we dump everything out.

Let's end on a high note - the peppers in the mobile bed are finally growing! I didn't do anything - I never even tested the soil. They just began to adapt, I guess. The six Italian peppers I bought, on the right side, are actually starting to thrive. They've gone from yellow to green, are growing well and even have flowers. A few of my from seed peppers are also getting bigger, although no buds yet. I hope I at least get to try a pepper or two before the season is over. There's definitely still time - I got small pepper varieties on purpose, knowing that bell peppers often took too long to develop in the past.

So far my harvest (which I have been keeping meticulous track of) has been minuscule - eleven pounds of food, total, and nearly six pounds of those have been cucumbers. I'm crossing my fingers that there will be no more disasters and hoping for a late surge!

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