Today's post really is a hodge-podge of ideas, inspired by Monica's Mish-Mash Mondays and their sundry offshoots, but I realized last week that in all my posts this summer, I have neglected saying much at all about the vegetable garden. So let's remedy that omission first of all, before getting to the fun stuff. Here is an overview of the season so far:
April: Planted spinach and a lettuce mix from Renee's Garden. Intended to plant some sugar peas and start an asparagus bed, but didn't get to it. Probably the earliest start I've ever had in planting veggies, thanks to the unusually warm spring.
May: Harvested lots of spinach and lettuce and ate a salad nearly every day. Planted the rest of the seeds and seedlings--green beans (bush beans), kohlrabi, beets, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, green bell peppers and pimento peppers (red), fennel, and a squash seed mix that included zucchini and yellow straightneck summer squash.
June: Continued to pick some spinach and lettuce until it finally bolted with the heat. By the end of the month the first green beans were ready to pick.
July: The constant rainfall of June meant a bountiful harvest in July, and the veggie garden needed to be checked nearly every day. The green beans were excellent, and though I didn't intend to, I even froze several pints from the excess. A manageable amount of summer squash and zucchini were harvested ( no zucchini explosion this year!). But cucumbers were another story. The two hills of cucumbers I planted threatened to smother half the rest of the garden, despite a belated attempt at a makeshift trellis for them. The main problem, however, with the cucumbers is that they tended to hide beneath the dense foliage, and by the time I spotted them they were often over a foot long! I gave away several to my sons, who both have always enjoyed them, but most of the overgrown cukes found themselves in the compost pile.
August: A lack of rainfall in July and the laziness of the gardener here have contributed to a slowing down in production. Two lessons learned here: 1.) squash and cucumbers need water to produce 2.) Do not leave a section of garden hose lying in the grass unless it is completely visible to the Lawnmowing Man:) Nevertheless, this squash blossom and a squash I found today suggest both it and the cucumbers may not be done.
August, though, is the main reason we plant a vegetable garden at all, because it is the height of tomato season! This is the only time of year the Lawnmowing Man, aka Mr. Procrastinator, shows any interest in the garden at all. Each night finds him searching for any signs of red in the veggie garden. The first ripe tomatoes were early this year, as I expected after such a warm season, but all of the first ones, other than the grape tomatoes, were inedible, suffering from blossom end rot. I've never had this problem with tomatoes before, and Mr. P. and I were both worried what this might mean for the tomato harvest this year. But after doing a little research, I found out that this is due to a calcium deficiency caused by fluctuations in moisture. (No wonder--soggy June and arid July!) It also tends to affect the first fruits only, so the past two weeks we have finally been able to pick some tasty fruit to eat.
Four varieties of tomatoes were planted-- two four-pack seedlings purchased from a local garden center, Better Boy and Supersteak (the large one ripening in the top photo); and two types I planted from seed--a grape tomato (name forgotten right now) and a new hybrid 'Razzleberry.' The 'Razzleberry' seeds were a freebie with my order from a catalog. They have a pinkish cast and are very firm. They would be a great tomato for a commercial grower, because they have a nice uniform shape and would ship well. But for me...well, so far I haven't been impressed with their taste. The grape tomatoes, however, are delicious and perfect for salads. No problems with blossom end rot here, although if you look closely at the stems of the photo above, there may be another problem . . .
On the cucumber foliage nearby, there is some disturbing evidence. Thanks to Carol, I now know that this is called frass. I love to expand my vocabulary, so you might be hearing me use this new word a lot. As in, "Oh frass! I hope this didn't come from a tomato hornworm!"
Let's hope the frass came from this guy instead. He was absolutely devouring the fennel this morning, so I wouldn't be surprised if he produces a lot of frass. Much to the delight of my grandchildren, there have been quite a few swallowtail catt sightings on the fennel lately.
This has been a banner year for butterflies, and I hope all the caterpillars in the garden mean even more to come through the fall. While early summer saw flocks of Red Admirals, more and more species have come to visit in the last month, including this Tiger Swallowtail enjoying the lantana.
And a sure sign that fall is on the way . . . I spotted the first woolly worm this morning climbing the garage door. Like Lisa's first woolly worm, this one is a rusty brown, which, according to Midwestern lore, suggests we'll have a typical winter, not too mild but not too harsh. If you'd like to know more about how these woolly prognosticators can predict the weather, click here.
One look at my garden these days, and you'll know it's definitely the dog days of summer. Summer blooms are fading, and fall color is still at least a month away. It will be hard to find much new to show for Sunday's monthly Bloom Day post. These surprise lilies were a pleasant ....um....surprise at the end of July, but of course, all that remains now are a few tattered petals.
What I do wish I had in my garden right now are some summer phlox. This beauty is in the MG Idea Garden and is nearly six feet tall! 'Elizabeth' is a cultivar of phlox I'd definitely recommend.
Another phlox in the Idea Garden that caught my eye was this shorter, but just as pretty 'Miss Holland.' Phlox is definitely on my "must plant" list for next year to liven up the garden during these "dog days."
Speaking of dogs . . . we have a visitor this month! Accompanying Youngest Daughter home from Oregon two weeks ago was Coconut. Coconut loves to travel by car, but this was his first flight. He did very well, despite having to be crammed into a small little carrier stowed under the seat on the plane. Although pets are supposed to be in carriers the moment their owners enter the airport, Daughter kept Coco on a leash until it was time to board the plane and let him out as soon as they landed. I think he charmed everyone with his good behavior so that no one had the heart to tell him he needed to be confined:)
It's hard to believe that YD has been home for two weeks already. She "lost" a few days to the stomach flu, thanks to me, but otherwise we have been doing lots of catching up, and she has enjoyed having the luxury of being able to sleep as long as she wants--as has Coconut:)
She's been putting lots of miles on my car meeting up with old friends who were just as eager to have her come home for the first time in nearly a year, as I was. Coconut and Sophie have enjoyed getting re-acquainted as well.
This past weekend was a whirlwind of activity as my Older Daughter arrived from Arizona for a long weekend, and the two girls were able to re-connect after not seeing each other in nearly two years. Since they didn't know if they would be able to both come home again at the same time before older Daughter's wedding next May, YD and the sisters-in-law threw her a shower on Sunday. Youngest granddaughter enjoyed being an assistant hostess and checks out the cake table.
All my "girls"--Older Daughter center, Youngest Daughter to her right, Daughters-in-law on each end, and Granddaughters second from left and in front.
All the "boys" (sons and grandsons) along with my parents came over in the evening for pizza, and the house was filled with more talk and laughter than it has heard in years. The time was all too short, as Older Daughter had to go back home yesterday. I was exhausted after she left, but it was worth every sleepless hour to have all my family together once again.