Late August is the season when as a gardener, you know what you did right, and what you didn’t do so right. It’s proof time, and the outcome is different every year. Soil conditions, weather, insect populations, irrigation problems, cultivation (or lack of it): all these things can affect a garden’s production. This year, because I was away from home for over two months, altogether, in May, June, and July, I didn’t have high expectations from my garden. But the garden has proved, once again, that it can hold its own as long as it has water and just a little bit of care now and then.
Because I got the tomatoes in late, not enough fruit will ripen to can big batches of charred tomato salsa, which will disappoint the family because they love the stuff, but since the beginning of August, we have had plenty of tomatoes to make fresh salsa and eat any way we choose, so I’m pleased with my tomato output. The plants are doing well considering the jumble on the greenhouse floor in spring and setting them out into the garden late. The Cherokee Purple heirlooms haven’t produced a whole lot outside, but the one plant I put in the greenhouse is going wild. And oh, the flavor! They are certainly rivals for the Brandywines in flavor. I have huge Brandywines almost ready to pick.
Rainbows, another heirloom, are starting to ripen as well.
The San Marzano plants are loaded with small green fruit, but I suspect many of them will end up box-ripening unless we get a long Indian summer through October. I’ve started a bag in the freezer for them, since they are ripening just a few at a time. At some point, I’ll have enough in the freezer to try a batch of sauce with them.
We are eating the cherry tomatoes and Sun Golds almost daily.
When I came home from Britain, I noticed that I had an insect problem in my greenhouse. Black ants had started an aphid farm on some of my peppers. I tried spraying the aphids with a 50% vinegar solution as recommended online. It killed most of them, but it also damaged the leaves on the plants. And then the ants redoubled their efforts, and in a day or so, had spread aphids to all the peppers and eggplants in the greenhouse. Aphids are covering everything except the Cherokee Purple tomato. I conceded the battle. I can’t find the ant nest, or I’d pour boiling water on it, and I won’t use chemicals. So I won’t be getting many eggplants or peppers this year, and I’m going to have to figure out what to do about those ants at some point. It’s probably going to mean digging up the planter box after the plants die to expose the nest.
One crop that’s not doing as well as it normally does is the Minnesota Midget cantaloupes. I picked the first ripe one a few days ago, but there are not nearly as many on the vines as is usual for these prolific bearers. I don’t think they like the spot I put them in because they are getting too much shade from the tomatoes in the morning and from the berries in the afternoon, but I was a little short on space after my grandson asked me to grow some corn.
So the cantaloupes were kicked out of their sunny spot for corn, which seems to be doing pretty well, better, at least, than it normally does in my partly-shaded garden. We have picked a couple of ears and should be picking more this week.
I don’t know what happened to my potatoes this year, but they were pretty sad-looking when I got home from Denver at the end of May. I didn’t have any straw to mulch them with, and they seemed to miss it. Then Dennis left the back gate open on the day he came to pick me up in Reno after I got back from Britain. A doe and her fawns meandered through and ate many of the potato plants down to stubs. (Much to my surprise, she did little other damage, only cropping a few volunteer tomatoes and nibbling some raspberry leaves.) I have been digging a few potatoes as I want them for cooking, but I don’t think we’re going to have many to store this year for the winter. I’ve shut the water off to them so they don’t rot in the ground before I get them all dug. It’s time to get my grandson out there with me. He loves to dig potatoes. I planted Yukon Golds, Yukon Gems, and red potatoes from last year’s crop. It’ll be interesting to see how the Yukon Gems did. They were a new variety for me.
It’s also looking like I won’t have any pumpkins and very few winter squash this year. I deliberately did not start many plants this spring because I have so much pureed pumpkin and squash in the freezer from last year and the year before, I didn’t need a big surplus this year. I will have a few acorn squash which I love stuffed and roasted with sausage (click on the link for the recipe in another post), but I’ll be surprised if I have more than a couple of butternuts, and I don’t see even one pie pumpkin out there on the three plants I put in. I think they didn’t like being shaded by the blackberries. In a garden the size of mine, with as many trees as we have around, you can’t make everyone happy when practicing crop rotation!
But the berries produced well this year, and the freezer is full of raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries, loganberries, and a few strawberries. There is so much fruit in the freezer, I don’t know where we’ll put a deer or bear if Dennis is successful in his hunting this year.
Also, the green beans did better this year than they have in several years. They are still producing, and I expect to have put up four canner loads by the time this is published.
And the little apple tree is loaded. I didn’t expect so many apples after the fairly severe pruning we gave it late this spring, but the tree seems to be liking its new haircut.
I also still have beets in the ground, and I am hoping they will hold until the weather cools enough for roasting because I do not need to can any more beets. There are carrots still in the ground as well, although if the grandkids have their way, there won’t be many left before long! Also, lettuce is volunteering again from plants I let go to seed this spring, and there might be time to have a few fresh salads before frost.
All in all, I’m quite happy with how my mostly-neglected garden grew this year. It’s given me more in produce than I was able to give it in time and attention. I can’t say the same about most other things in life, and that’s worth thinking about.