Early August Garden Updates, 2020

We’ve had a lot of things happening – it was really hot for the beginning of summer, so my garden was growing like crazy. We’ve cooled down a bit for the last few days, and today it got sunny again. Here are some nice pictures of our gardens and yard:

bee balm
Some bee balm growing against the house. I split this plant – took some and put it in the cottage garden.
destroyed garden 2
Last month, I went out and found that my beautiful herb spiral was ruined by something – we suspect skunks. They moved the rocks, and then have been digging for grubs or something. Some plants survived – they didn’t eat the plants, just messed them up on their way to the grubs.
destroyed garden
Here you can see another spot where my spiral was messed up, but not as bad. I tried fixing the spiral for a couple days and then gave up. I will get some motion lights to try to deter the skunks before I try recreating it.
squash jungle
Here is the squash jungle. This part is butternut squash.
gete okosomin
Here are a couple baby Gete Okosomin squash. There are tons of them on the 3 plants I am growing.
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Here is a Gete Okosomin that we accidentally picked early. It was in a weird spot and I wanted to keep it off the ground – I went to adjust it and knocked it off the vine. It was 6 pounds. They can get up to around 20 lbs when ripe. We cut it up and it was soft like zucchini, so I used it as I would zucchini this week.
gourd plants
Here are the gourd plants. They are both birdhouse gourds. I had a mixed pack – there is one plant that is very tiny by the door in the background. I don’t know that I’ll actually get any gourds from it. I was hoping for a bowl gourd plant.  But birdhouse ones are nice. I want to make some cool gourd art eventually.
gourd flower
Here are the gourd flowers. They are really cool, I was expecting them to look like squash flowers. I like how these are growing, they just look really whimsical.
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Here are some gourds getting bigger on the vine.
tall sunflower
Our giant rogue sunflower (grew from last year’s seed, randomly in the garden). This was just before something knocked it over – it was broken at the base but still connected. I tried tying it up to save it. It still flowered but the leaves look dead.
tall sunflower 2
Here is the bloom – for a few days after I tied it back up,  the leaves would wilt by end of day, but be all healthy looking by morning. But for the last few days the leaves have been wilted all day. It now has 3 blooms though, even though the leaves look sad.
red sunflower
Here is my first red sunflower – one I started from seed this year (on purpose instead of volunteer/rogue).
squash jungle 2
Another picture of the squash jungle, from inside the garden fence.
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Here is a terra cotta frog I have in the cottage garden. (photo courtesy Elton Powell)
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The terra cotta frog sits under the foxglove. (photo courtesy Elton Powell)
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Here is another view of the foxglove. (photo courtesy Elton Powell)
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I’m growing Balsam for the first time – the blooms are pretty. (photo courtesy Elton Powell)
toad
Here is a little helper, (well, kind of a big helper), Mr. toad. He was living in the main garden, I found him under my tomatoes.
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I’ve been wanting a wind spinner. I have a plastic colorful one, but I wanted a metal one. I had some scrap aluminum sheet, so I made my own. I just made it the other day so I have not seen it actually spin in the wind yet. We’ll see how this works. (photo courtesy Elton Powell)
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My Wizard has a friend. This black and white kitty comes to our yard sometimes. She has stayed with various neighbors around here, but I don’t know what home she originally came from. My son named her Shadow. She and Wizzy are good friends. (photo courtesy Elton Powell)

Early July – Garden Growth Explosion!

Things are growing really well around here. We’ve had really hot weather, with temps in the 80s and 90s. It’s also been super humid, but we haven’t had a lot of rain – we have been getting rain maybe once every couple weeks, it seems. We got a decent thunderstorm the other night but I’ve been having to keep up with watering everything every couple days so that plants don’t die on me. We haven’t really had to mow our grass much, weirdly. The lack of water is helping us there.  Usually our lawn a bit of a jungle. Below are some updated pictures of our yard and gardens:

persimmon
I’ve been wanting to add Persimmons to my yard for awhile. American Persimmons SHOULD survive here, they are supposedly hardy to zone 4. (we are zone 5). I have been daunted by the prices I’ve seen around, but then a couple weeks ago I saw Musser Forests had a deal on potted ones, I got 2 for $8 each (so a good deal). You need two to get fruit. We will probably have to wait years before that happens, but that is fine.
deer proof persimmon
We found some old chicken wire and made a deer guard for the Persimmon trees. They are settling in wonderfully.
mulched arborvitae
I mulched the rest of the trees up front as well. Our Arborvitae were starting to be lost in the grass, since we can’t mow there anymore. So they, the lilacs, and the elder trees and gooseberry bush all were mulched too.
one week difference
What a change a week makes! I took the pic on the left last week, and the right one today. With our heat, everything is just exploding out there. The squash plants and the tomatoes are loving this summer.
gete okosomin plant
Here is a Gete Okosomin squash. I’m getting worried that these are going to take over but it will be an adventure training them along my fence. I’ve had to move branches of theirs and of the butternut squash plants a few times already.
gete okosomin
Here is the start of a Gete Okosomin squash – I’m hoping this flower was pollinated, and then this fruit will keep growing.
patty pan
I see a patty pan starting. I’m growing some Gelber Englischer Custard Squash – like an orange patty pan. They are supposed to be really good. I have three other types of summer squash as well, but this is the only patty pan type.
tomato
I have tomatoes fruiting all over the place. I’ve been wrangling the plants, tying them up to their trellises. I’m going to have to go in and start cutting some of the lower branches soon, to make it not such a jungle.
lemongrass
Here is my lemon grass. I’m just keeping it in the greenhouse. It seems to be doing pretty well.
foxglove
My foxglove plant made a new flower stock, which shows that it is settling in where I put it.
bean flowers
My beans are finally getting flowers. These are Roma Bush beans, they are supposed to be a wider green bean. They were slow to start, and then I reseeded and the old seeds came up just after that (of course). And then the deer ate a bunch of the tops, so I was worried I wouldn’t actually get any beans. But this is promising.
gourds
Here you can see my gourd plants, trying to reach for the sun. I have now attached a couple of tall sticks to the fence here (thick trellis-like sticks) so that they can keep climbing. I’ll get some pics of those for next time. I’m growing these from a mixed pack of gourds, so I’m not sure what they are – I’m hoping they are birdhouse or this large round kind. (You can make bowls with the large round kind).
chicken house before
We are starting a project – a Moon Garden! I saw an article in a recent Farmer’s Almanac Magazine about moon gardens. So we cleared this wall (the old chicken house) – it had a bunch of junk sitting against it for a long time. We painted it white. Here is the before picture (I of course didn’t think to get the “before” pic before starting to paint it)
chicken house after
Here it is painted. The idea is to have a bunch of white and light colored flowers, mixed with green. When the moon hits the garden, everything should glow nicely and make a nice scene. That is the idea anyway. I have a few plants I want to move, and some seeds I’ve ordered for other things. Then we just have to wait for it all to grow and bloom.

Tomatoes in August, and lots of squash

The garden is doing really well. We are getting ripe tomatoes in August! Typically it’s into September before we get any.  More exciting pictures below!

tomatos
Some of our tomatoes – I’ve been watching for them to start turning pink. Then I pull them in because I don’t want to tempt fate. I left a roma to ripen on the vine and it started getting blossom end rot. So I’ve been letting them start to turn and pulling them in.
big ripe tomato
Here is the big tomato in the previous picture, now ripe.  It ripened on our counter.
round squash
We have lots of squash – I saved seeds from an Heirloom pumpkin (I think some kind of hubbard squash) – I have two plants, and both of them seem to be growing different shapes of fruit. This one has things that look like this, rounded. The other one has big pumpkin shaped green and yellow squashes. We’ll see what we end up with. Either way, it’s very exciting.
pumpkin
I received pumpkins from a coworker in the fall and saved seeds – he had grown them locally. This is one of those pumpkins. The plant has two fruits that I can tell, and they both are oblong like this and currently zucchini colored.
butternut
Here is my butternut squash – this fruit grew from almost nothing in about a week’s time.
giant pumpkin
Here is the other heirloom squash. This one continues to grow. I am wondering if the color will change much when it ripens, or how it will change.
onions
We harvested onions today – I got 110 yellow, and 20 red. I had been taking them here and there for cooking as well, so we grew a little more than that.
calendula
Some of our calendula – these were two plants that have merged into one mass of flowers.
sunflowers
More sunflowers keep blooming.
sugar rush peach pepper
Here is one of my Sugar Rush Peach peppers – it’s not ripe yet – they are supposed to be an orange color.
bee
Here is a bee that was sunning itself on our porch.

The garden is really doing well – a lot of stuff is starting to wind down though. I can’t believe it’s already almost September.  But the season is still in full swing.

Harvesting and Freezing

I’ve gotten a lot of vegetables so far this year.  I’m still waiting on my tomatoes to ripen, but they are coming along. I’ve been picking suckers and new flowers left and right, and I can see the tomatoes are starting to get a pinkish tint to them.  We’ve had 80-90 degree temps this week, and it’s expected to continue – I think that will help with the ripening.

In the winter we were buying a lot of kale, so I grew a bunch of it, and we haven’t used a whole lot yet.  So this weekend I decided to pick as much as I could, and freeze it.  I left the plants, with new baby leaves in the centers, so I will still have fresh kale until we have snow (it supposedly can survive frost, and gets better after a frost, so we’ll see how that goes).   I ended up with a giant basket of kale:

My big basket of kale.  This basket is about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and just under a foot tall. That's a whole lot of kale.
My big basket of kale. This basket is about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and just under a foot tall. That’s a whole lot of kale.

I took the leaves off the stems, blanched them for 2 minutes, and then froze them up.  I ended up with about 10 cups of frozen kale.

This year I decided to grow lemon balm.  I picked some to dry for tea.  It smells so good!

Lemon balm.
Lemon balm.

I have had tons of zucchini and yellow squash, and I have frozen a lot of it.  I read online that you can get away with not blanching it first, so I am trying that this year.  Last year I blanched it, and it worked fine but it was more labor intensive;  Also, since it was wet when I put it in freezer bags, I ended up with blocks of frozen zucchini.  I don’t know if the slice/freeze method will still produce this result; I’ll have to wait and see.

I also grew acorn squash for the first time this year.  I had four plants; most produced only one fruit – I did have two forming on one plant, but when I went out this weekend I realized that one of the fruits was rotting on the vine.  The other four seemed ready to pick.  The plants still have flowers so it may produce more, I will have to wait and find out.

Acorn squash.  Yum! We love eating them roasted with cinnamon sugar and butter.
Acorn squash. Yum! We love eating them roasted with cinnamon sugar and butter.

My corn is getting close to being ready.  The silks are turning brown on the cobs. Last year I read that you wait 10 days after the silks turn brown – I checked a few cobs and I think by this next weekend they may be ready.  I noticed today though that I must have raccoons or something attacking the corn.   It must be raccoons – they are notorious for getting into corn in this area – I found a half eaten cob in my garden on the ground. I hope they give me time to get at least a few ears before they get them all. I’m not sure how to deter them – they climbed my fence.   I’ll have to figure out some kind of raccoon deterrent – maybe putting a lip on the top of the fence so they can’t come over the top of the fence.

The harvest season begins

This is my favorite time of year.  I love when I can just go to the garden to pick dinner.  My vegetable plants are really starting to produce for me.  I had some chard and kale already this season, but the last few days my zucchini and yellow squash have started to have large enough squashes to pick.  Yum.  I have a lot of plants so I know I will eventually be overrun.

squash
Yellow squash and zucchini, waiting to be sliced. I sauteed these two up with some onion. These were about 6 inches long each (the cutting board under them is very tiny, in case it makes these look gigantic).

This year I have 5 zucchini, 2 yellow squash, and I think 4 acorn squash plants. Last year I had 3 or 4 zucchini plants, and by mid September I was very tired of zucchini.   I froze what we had left and didn’t eat any for a couple months.  They were very delicious in the middle of winter when I wasn’t sick of zucchini any more.  This year I received a pressure canner for my birthday, so I’m planning on using that to can a lot of our harvest.  I also plan on freezing some things.

I have gotten some pea pods, but not enough to do more than just eat the peas straight out of the pods.  My son has been enjoying that. I worried my peas wouldn’t like the heat we’ve been having but they are doing well.  Next year I will have to have more plants.

My beans have been producing well.  I actually got enough from my first harvesting of them to use for a side dish for tonight’s dinner:

Yummy beans.
Yummy beans.

I started with some green bean plants, but they didn’t do very well at first. I wanted more plants, so I bought a packet of purple beans.  They really took off, and I’ve been getting more purple beans so far than green.  The green plants are growing taller than the purple, and I can tell they are going to produce well – there are a lot of flowers and baby beans growing along the vine where they’ve climbed up my string support system. They are even climbing one of my sunflowers.  Last year I had a few bean plants, but I never got enough beans at one time to cook on their own; it was always just enough to cook up with something else.  I’m hoping to can or freeze some this year – hopefully I have enough to do that.

I have a lot of green tomatoes forming.  I’m growing three varieties of indeterminate tomatoes, and the plants are going crazy.  I have been consistently pulling off suckers from the plants, and now because there are so many baby tomatoes, I’m pulling off extra flowers too, in an effort to let the forming tomatoes get bigger faster, and possibly ripen on the vine.  I worry that they may take too long if I don’t do that – last year I had to let my tomatoes ripen in the house.  Our growing season isn’t very long – we may get frost by mid September.

It’s an exciting time of year.