Thursday, September 2, 2010

Garden Review

I thought I'd show people today what my garden looked like in August. I should admit that it's not so nice looking anymore. Plants are beginning to die back and I can't keep up with the tomato harvest. There are some ferocious weeds out there that got a stronghold while I wasn't looking. I figure there's maybe a month and a half before the first frost, anyways, so there isn't much point in putting a lot of effort in cleaning it up right now. It'll be easier just to till it under in early November. I need to till the mammoth pile of compost that has been cooking all summer on the other side of the yard into the garden anyways. Needless to say, who knows where we're going to find volunteer tomatoes coming up next June?

Anyway, on to the garden in review!


How thrilled I was with this first harvest of a zucchini and two cucumbers in July! No matter that these and all the other cucumbers I grew this year were the bitterest I've ever tasted.


The produce seemed to get off to a slow start, but it wasn't long before I got a bucket like this one every couple of days. There's an assortment of Roma and cherry tomatoes, burgandy okra, super bitter cucumbers, and an 8-ball zucchini in there.

A veritable feast, given than at one point I thought I might only have a bucket of these for all my efforts.

Bucket 'o Hornworms

It wasn't until later that I found out how much Oscar relishes a tomato hornworm. I could toss her one and she'd torment it by flinging it around the yard. At some point she'd get down to business and start licking it, at which point I'd distract her away from the caterpillar with a treat. It's not that I worried that eating a hornworm would hurt my dog, I just didn't want to clean up regurgitated hornworm in the house. All that chlorophyll would be hard to get out of the rug.

The garden looked really good in mid July. I had rows of tomatoes.


I put in several 8-ball zucchini plants this year. These were great bushy plants that did very well for me, and this variety has more flavor that the typical cylindrical ones you buy at the grocery store. I will definitely grow these again next year. Today I noticed that the vines have finally succumbed to powdery mildew so I pulled most of them up. Steve and Ally may be relieved by this news. I think they've about reached their zucchini saturation point.


More tomatoes....


Even more tomatoes... The cherry-type tomatoes (tommy toes, as they're called around here) were very prolific and sweet. While I know what varieties I planted, I'm not sure exactly what any given plant is out there. I was late in getting the plants in the ground and in my rush they all got mixed up together. Regardless, Ally has had a great time picking them and eating them out of hand. I let her pick all that she wants. I'm happy that she can relate the little seedlings we had on the dining room table back in March to these plants out in the garden. It's never too early to teach your kid that food does not grow in the grocery store.


Okay, so I had an excessive number of tomatoes. I planted over 30 tomato plants this year. I wanted to use up some older seed that I'd had for several years and I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of tomatoes in case I lost some of the plants to blight, like last year. In the end I might have lost 1-2 plants, and the rest have been producing fruit like crazy. Unfortunately none of my slicing tomatoes have done very well as they seem to crack and rot before I can pick them. We had a week or two with frequent thunderstorms in late August that resulted in most of the tomatoes splitting their skins, much to the delight of the fruit flies and mold. Nonetheless, Ally seems to be delighted in watching me pick squishy rotten tomatoes off the vine and pitching them over the garden fence.

They do make a satisfying splat when they hit the ground.


These are scarlet runner beans that I planted these as ornamentals. The hummingbirds love the orange-red flowers. I'll be saving some of the beans to plant again next year. While the young pods and the beans inside are edible, anyone eating them should be aware that raw scarlet runner beans contain a toxic protein that can make you quite sick. Other beans, such as kidney beans, also contain this toxin. Proper cooking reduces the toxin to safe levels.


I also have a row of burgundy okra. I love okra, but I never get enough pods at any one time to make a decent sized batch of fried okra. Typically I get 2-3 pods a day, which I normally just eat raw while working in the garden. One day Oscar begged for a piece of raw okra, and now I share them with her. Okra plants are easy to grow and produce hibiscus-like yellow blossoms (indeed, they're in the same family of plants). Harvesting okra is a little tricky. You want the pods to grow big, but pick them too late and they're all stringy tough. Sometimes the difference between a good pod and a tough one is just a day. I've learned to test the pods by bending the very tips....if the pod doesn't flex at all and feels stiff, then it's too old to eat and I just leave it on the plant. Later I'll go back and harvest all these old pods to use in fall decorations.


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