Report from the garden, late August

I can hardly believe the end of the summer is upon us, but the parade of vegetables and state of the garden make it evident.  Overall, it has been an excellent year garden-wise, with abundant harvests and few pest problems.

What worked and what did not

The garden design continues to be a challenge, primarily because I can’t resist planting more than the space really allows.  Ideally there would be a wide path between the garden fence and the garden beds.  As there is no path, this makes the beds wider than I prefer, making it hard to reach the fence edges.  Alas, until the fence needs replacing, this won’t change.  Other than that, I am liking the raised beds and the u-shaped design.  The hoophouse, of course, is still fabulous even if I am still on a steep learning curve with it.

Cucurbits This year all the squashes were squished into the area next to the hoop house in semi-raised beds.  The intensive planting worked mostly ok for the squash family this year, although it did encroach a bit on the tomato row.  The plants were productive, with 8 pumpkins ripe and ready, 9 butternut squash, and armloads of summer squashes.  Most of the plants are now developing powdery mildew, hastened by the dry weather of late.  The cukes suffered from the evil striped cucumber beetles, but still managed to produce, although I was not awash with cukes.  The Futsu Black squash was not as productive as the butternut — so far I can only see 3 fruits.  If it tastes amazing, I may try again, allowing it a bit more space, otherwise, it will get axed.  The primary problem proved to be reaching the cucumbers through the squash.  As the blueberry bushes were on the other side of the fence, while the berries were ripening I did not want to risk disturbing them by reaching in for cukes.  If I can solve that glitch, this is a good answer for the squash.

Tomatoes I trellised the tomatoes against the west side of the garden along the fence this year, and planted the peppers in front of them, and in front of the peppers, basil, some lettuce, more chard.  This has been ok, but only because I mulched with IRT mulch and the dry weather has kept fungal diseases to a minimum; in reality, the plants are too crowded.  The tomato plants waited until I went on vacation for a huge growth spurt which overwhelmed their trellis, then  fell forward to begin crowding the peppers, which did not like this one bit.

If I try this again I will leave more space between each tomato and plant only peppers in front of the tomatoes.  I’m just not dedicated enough to keep up with pruning, but my favorite varieties are all indeterminate thus tend to overwhelm the space they are allotted.  I’m toying with the idea of homemade wire cages next year, made from concrete reinforcing wire.  Please weigh in if you have suggestions!

If I go that route I might also make smaller cages for the peppers.  This year I grew Tequila Sunrise, Hungarian Black and Johnny’s Carmen peppers — I’ll definitely grow Carmen and Hungarian Black again, and more of them, they are delicious.  Tequila Sunrise has ok flavor and is pretty, but I’m not wowed.  Time for something new.  In the past, I’ve grown banana peppers, and miss them, so I want to plant more peppers next year.

Peas & Beans I planted the peas in front of the pole beans, and while it was awkward, it did work.  We had an excellent harvest of Sugar Ann snap peas before a hot spell put an end to them.  I replanted a fall crop in a different spot July 29 after pulling my spring brassicas, but with the very dry weather and my camping absence, they don’t seem to be making much progress.  They need a good gentle day of rain and some weeding, then maybe we’ll see some growth.  A small planting of bush beans (4×6 on June 12) yielded over 9 lbs. of beans, though they are about done now.  By far the most prolific were the Royal Burgundy.  The Indy Gold wax beans were good, and the Bush Blue Lake not so much and are now blacklisted –no room for underperformers at Henbogle!  Planting the pole beans behind the pea trellis was an exercise in agility, but once planted, has been a good use of space.  They are coming into their own now and I foresee several more pickings from them.  Once the pea trellis was gone, I sowed another row of Royal Burgundy bush beans in front of the pole beans, and more in the corners where the garlic was.  I did not have great germination for this second planting, I think again, because it has been so dry.

Brassicas The biggest disappointment is the Purple Sprouting broccoli.  It is huge and unproductive; I say off with its head but alas, it has no head.  I’m giving up on this purple vegetable, and will next year make room for more Cheddar and Graffiti cauliflower, and the wonderful Piracicaba broccoli from Fedco.  Unfortunately, I just didn’t get my sh** together and get a fall crop sown in the right time frame, so we won’t be enjoying a fall crop of brassicas this year (boo hoo, no Brussells sprouts for Thanksgiving this year).  My spring crop was great and the Piracicaba broccoli and Tuscan and Beedy’s Camden kale are hanging in and gearing up for the cooler weather.  With some rain and a dose of fish emulsion I bet we again be awash in them. I need to get moving on that!  Given this I will plant fewer spring brassicas next year and aim for a big fall planting.

Alliums The leeks and onions did not enjoy the dry summer.  The Rossa Lunga di Tropea onions did ok, but the Walla Walla sets I purchased died back early, and producing small bulbs.  The leeks are not looking very happy so I need to begin a regimen of watering and give them a shot of fish emulsion.  Unfortunately, the leeks near the fence have experienced, like my garlic this spring, some chicken predation.  Argh.  Ah well, I’ll leave those to overwinter, perhaps.  Next year I need to make sure the alliums get mulched and adequate water.

Greens We had a fabulous spring lettuce crop, but I have been lax about starting fall lettuce seeds.  Fortunately there is a vendor at the farmer’s market who grows lettuce seedlings year round, so I will pick up some seedlings for planting in the hoophouse.  We do still have a bit in the garden bit it too could use a dose of fish emulsion and a good watering.  We had an excellent crop of chard, and I need to freeze more of the chard and perhaps try a batch of pickled chard stems a la dilly beans.

Root crops We had an excellent crop of Cylindra beets which became 2 batches of pickled beets, and have a few golden beets in the ground right now for fresh and delicious eating.  The carrots, well, not so much.  For whatever reason, I had a terrible time germinating carrots.  Should I try yet again in the hoophouse for a late fall crop?

Herbs, etc. I had plenty of dill for my dilly beans, despite early slug damage.  Parsley is bursting from the beds, and unfortunately, smothering the cilantro.  The cats will enjoy a bumper crop of catnip all winter.  I have celery planted, but it is very strong.  I may try some later this fall in soup, but this crop needs a regular supply of water, and it did not get it.

More later on my favorite tomato varieties.

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4 Responses to “Report from the garden, late August”

  1. Jackie Says:

    I grew Early Purple Sprouting broccoli and it was a disappointment for me, too! Planted it in Feb. and it didn’t start to from head until July and they were tiny. Not again!

  2. meemsnyc Says:

    You have so much going on in your garden! It looks fantastic. I am totally guilty with trying to cram things in too. I had all these seedlings growing and couldn’t bare to “kill” them so I planted them whereever there was room. :)

  3. Lou Murray, Ph.D. Says:

    I planted purple cauliflower twice this year, once from seed and once from a store-bought transplant. Both turned out to be purple broccoli. Thanks for the nice photos of your garden. No wonder you’re getting so much produce. It’s a beautiful garden.

  4. villager Says:

    That is a great garden recap! I made our tomato cages out of concrete reinforcing wire and I love them. It’s easy to harvest, and they’re sturdy enough to (usually) stay upright without additional support.

    ‘Chicken predation’ – hah! Better than having a deer salad bar like we have. At least the chickens earn their keep. I didn’t get my brussels sprouts planted in time either. Oh well, can’t think of everything!

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