Friday, August 1, 2008

End of July Garden Update

So technically I'm a day late, but it is time for the monthly garden review.

First of all, I finally have a new blog header picture! I've been waiting for that particular bunch of cherry tomatoes to ripen for weeks solely for the photo op. I've had them pegged for my blog header for a while and today they were finally picture-worthy in my opinion.

I have to admit, the end of this month finds me in kind of a sad gardening mood. I realize now that the early part of the summer was easy on us. July has been much more difficult. Challenges that passed us by early on have started to hit us hard the last couple of weeks of the month.

Here's a plant-by-plant update:

* July started with bitter lettuces being dug up and added to compost. Their former bed sat empty for most of the month of July. For fall crops, I direct sowed some broccoli and cauliflower in that spot and so far I've only seen one broccoli seedling.
* Carrots are still in the garden and we've harvested a few, but generally I've decided I planted them too close together and didn't thin them out enough. They haven't had adequate room to grow to a useful size.
* The green onions have been slow to grow, but the ones I've pulled up to use in salads have been good. Next year I want to plant a bigger crop of these. We go through green onions faster than what this crop has allowed.
* My two zucchini plants provided us with lots and lots of zucchini. Most of it has been shredded and frozen. A week ago one plant succumbed to the squash vine borer and I fear that today the same thing is happening to the remaining plant. I think zucchini is done for this year.
* My potatoes didn't make it this year. I planted both Red Norland and Irish Cobblers. They started out impressively enough. But I didn't have a lot of soil to mound on them properly. What really did them in, though, is the amount of rain we had this May and June. It rained and rained and rained and area rivers and ponds flooded. Many people lost their homes so I guess I'm lucky that I only lost my potatoes. The tops turned yellow and died off way early and when I dug them up, the potatoes I found were rotten. I'd heard that potatoes were "really easy" to grow, but I don't think I'll try them again next year.
* My sweet potato plant looks healthy as ever. It has been vining out all over the place and will probably take over the area previously occupied by its next door neighbor: the zucchini. Still no idea how it is doing underground, but if the foliage is any clue, it's doing well.
* My yellow onions started to fall over which I took as a sign to harvest. I pulled about every other one up and was really disappointed with how small they were. I expected bigger. Maybe I planted them too closely together. I left the other half of onions in the ground to see if they'll grow anymore and the other ones are drying on my back patio before I store them.
* The bush beans did really well. We had two fairly large harvests and they tasted great. I plan to do pole beans next year. I might plant more bush beans too to provide us a harvest before the pole beans are ready.
* The pumpkins have become a thorn in my side, so to speak. The main reason I'm growing them is because of my husband thinking it would be neat to have our own pumpkin to carve at Halloween. Meanwhile, the pumpkins have provided me more worries than the rest of the garden combined. They are huge and are growing into the neighboring beds. There is no longer a walkway between the pumpkins and the tomatoes and bell peppers. Plus, I am tormented by an infestation of squash bugs and squash vine borers. I have to go out and kill bugs and tear off leaves with eggs every day. And now my pumpkins are covered with a nasty case of powdery mildew.The good news is that I seem to have several pumpkins set (3 different kinds) and if the plants hold out, we should have a decent harvest.
* We have three watermelons growing on the vine and the first one looks almost ready.
* We have had 8 muskmelons growing on the vines and so far I have picked two. The first one turned out to be not quite ripe yet. The second one, however, is delicious and juicy.
* I have been overwhelmed by the cucumbers my two little plants have produced so far. I have put up 10 pints of dill pickles and 8 pints of bread and butter pickles and I have a big collection of cucumbers in my fridge that I think I'm going to do as dill spears sometime this weekend. Not only are they plentiful, but they taste really good too. My mom says she's never tasted a better cucumber. At the nursery they were just labeled as "burpless cucumbers".
* We have been harvesting green bell peppers once every couple of days for use in salads or as a seasoning. I have ten bell pepper plants and one has already produced all of its peppers and I pulled it for the compost bin. The other plants are still full of small but growing peppers.
* My spaghetti squash plants have been making me proud. I have 9 spaghetti squash in various stages of development. I think the first one is about done.However, my leaves are turning yellow and the plants don't look good. I don't know if the problem is squash vine borer, powdery mildew, or just lack of a good watering, but I worry that the plants won't last long enough for the squash to ripen.
* The tomatoes are doing well (knock on wood). I have been bringing in a bowl of ripe tomatoes every morning. Most of them are cherry tomatoes, but some of the bigger ones have started turning. Last night we sliced and ate our first Cherokee Purple with dinner and it was delicious!

I suppose I should consider myself lucky and remember all the positive things that have come out of the garden so far. It has been a pretty good garden, especially when you consider this is my first real garden. And nothing is perfect. There will always be problems. I guess the trick is to stay one step ahead of the bad guys and never let them get the upper hand.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 90 F
Low temp: 66 F
Partly cloudy with thunderstorms this evening.

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