It's fairly typical that gardens reach a high point, somewhere in mid to late July when the plants are growing robustly- sending off fruits, flowers and beauty at a rapid pace. Bare places in the garden seem suddenly filled with green as branches begin to touch and flowers mingle to give the garden a mosaic of color.
Then comes August with unending and insufferable heat, sometimes drought and demanding conditions on the garden keeper. Afternoons are just too hot to do much outside and even the plants have lost their aggressiveness for growth. Drip irrigation keeps the roots moist, but the leaves respire and are wilted by the end of the day. Nightly overhead watering is a must. It's like the plants need a cooling shower to feel their best.
So that's where we are on the gardening calendar- both me and the plants are feeling the non-stop 85+ degree days and it's exhausting! But it's a good time to reflect on some garden progress and measure- with an eye towards next year's plantings- what's working and what's not.
I'd read that some people were having good success by growing their yellow squash and zucchini inside a tomato cage, so it would grow up, rather than crawling over the ground, to save space and keep the fruits cleaner and less prone to slug tasting. While it is a space saving idea- see the nice row of basil I have in front of the squash which wouldn't have been possible space-wise if the squash had been left to roam- the plants are less productive than those planted without cages. A hint as to the nature of squash is that these varieties don't have tendrils so maybe they're just not meant to grow up.
I thought it would be fun to have fall gourds to give to children who come to pick at the raspberry patch so I have a few plants at the outside of the new perma-beds. These gourds have tendrils and they love reaching out and using the tendrils to pull themselves up a trellis I have set behind them. They seem prolific and rampant and natural climbers where as the zucchini and yellow squash are not. Next year the zucchini will be free-range!
The first of the berries are ripening on the Annie canes and they're yummy. The Heritage variety has thousands of flowers and is just setting fruit thanks to the hundreds of bees who work tirelessly to pollinate the crop.
Last year I was concerned that there were not enough bees but this year we have bees of all sizes and shapes- including a flying something I'm calling a humming-bee.
Whereas bees tend to lite or pass by rubbing on flowers while they gather nectar, this creature hovers like a humming bird. It's just about 1.25" long and has a long snoot which he sticks into the flower. I've never seen one before and there were 3 in the flower garden, immensely enjoying the bee balm which is in full bloom. If you know what this "bug/bird" is, let me know.
The raspberry patch has been pruned to make picking easier- the canes were quite out of control.
This is the third berry season, and I'm hoping to have a fantastic crop.
One of my goals this year was to grow great tomatoes- without cracking or blemishes and that would taste as good as the famous Jersey tomatoes. I can't say how many articles I read over the winter- sooo many- and integrated them all in my mind to bring the best tomatoes I've ever grown.
The secret to growing a fine tomato crop is to "prune the suckers". Many instructions included pictures of the "suckers", how to cut them, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what was a sucker and what was a branch that would ultimately make a tomato. Then I read an article that said cut all the green branches off under a flowering cluster leaving all the energy of the plant for top growth and fruit development. Ah-ha, now it made sense, so that's what I did.
Though it looks strange and a little nakedy, the fruits are sun ripened and delicious. The plants grow more green at the top and make more flowers for more fruit continuously. I planted companion plants of basil and alyssum among the tomatoes and I'm really happy with the results.
Having so many flowers is awesome- enough to give away and to sell at the road stand. One man thanked me for "the honor system"- he said it made him feel good to be trusted. It is a great pleasure to share the many good feelings that stem from this little farm.