Friday, August 31, 2018

August's Garden (2018)


It has been a normal August: hot, humid, and dry.  

Carrots, tomatoes, and peppers have been harvested underneath as the yard-long, green bean plants have taken over the top of the arch.  The cucumber plants which were here in the spring are long forgotten.  


The sweet potatoes and beans are loving the heat.  The large plant on the left side of the picture is a self-planted okra.  It decided to sprout in the sweet potatoes and I decided to let it grow.  I wasn't sure how they would like each other but so far, both are happy.  The test will come when it is time to dig the potatoes.  Okra has big, wide deep roots so it might be a problem.  We'll see.


The tomatoes look a bit, well, they look extremely ratty - this is normal.  Next month around the middle of September, the weather will cool down and everything in the garden will suddenly come back to life.  

The plastic netting worked perfectly and repelled the rascally raccoon.  He hasn't been back.  The mesh will stay until I pull up the tomatoes because they are tangled together.


The okra plants were topped when they were small so they would branch out instead of growing tall.  This is easier for me to reach when harvesting; although, they won't get very big since they were planted late.  Smaller plants and herbs were planted with them in the same row.


This was a success.  I planted Buttercrunch lettuce in an empty space under the okra.  The leaves shaded the seedlings and helped them survive the heat.  Lettuce doesn't like hot weather.  No other seeds planted anywhere in the garden this month have survived, only those under the little wire cage fence.  I think we have a baby rabbit.  No, I know for certain we have a cute, precious, adorable, irritating baby rabbit.  We have seen him hiding in the deep grass.  Bill is making more cages so I can get my fall garden seeds planted...AGAIN!

Buttercrunch lettuce under the okra leaves.
The winter hoop houses are in need of many more plants.  This will not be enough for us.


The melon patch has croaked.  It looks as bad in real life as it does in the picture. The problem is the soil - it is worn out.  I need to add more compost to increase the nutrients, but I just don't have enough.  This is the area that grew collard greens for two years straight.  It will lie fallow for a while and be piled with leaves all winter.  Maybe by next year, it can handle a light feeder like lettuce.

I dug the potatoes and only got a handful.  It wasn't worth the effort.  I have stopped bothering to water so the beans have died.


Last month the cantaloupes did fine in this area but when the summer drought hit, it stressed the watermelons too much.  There was not enough calcium in the soil so they died from blossom end rot.  


However, the one watermelon plant which miraculously appeared in my strawberry patch has performed beyond my wildest imaginations.  The one and only difference between the strawberry patch and the melon patch is the soil.  The ground around the strawberries has been heavily mulch every winter with oak leaves.  Over the years, the soil improved and is exceptionally rich.  I wish my whole garden was like it but I can't add enough organic matter to keep ahead.  

The vines are showing wear due to all of the heavy work they have accomplished.  I will be adding compost with a bit of fertilizer this week as a reward for its success.  Hopefully, it can keep growing until frost.


It has been impossible for me to know when a watermelon is ripe.  I have tried everything over the years and failed miserably.  Thumping and listening for a "hollow sound" was worthless because all the notes sound the same to a tone-deaf, non-musical person like me.  Rolling them over and checking to see if the underside is yellow, not white doesn't apply to all varieties.  Orangeglo has an orange tint and Royal Golden turns yellow all over.  Keeping track and counting the days from bloom to harvest is beyond my mental ability.  Pushing down and listening for a squishing sound has worked for me in the past but the rinds on these melons are too thick.  I want a foolproof, reliable method to harvest at peak season - I think I found it.

This was the first watermelon we picked.  It was yellow on the underside, not white so this is a maybe yes, or maybe no?

 


Another sign which indicates ripeness is the curly-Q tendril located beside the leaf stems where the melon attaches to the vine.  When it turns brown, the melon is ripe.  This first melon I picked on August 13th, had a brown tendril close to the melon but green tendrils on either side.  The melon was ripe but I wondered if it would be better if we waited longer.

The tendril below is thin. The leaf stem is thick and has been cut so it is easier to see.

Tendril close by melon turned brown.
The side tendrils (in front of my hands) were green and had not changed much.

Side tendrils are still green.
One week later on August 19th, we picked watermelon #2.  The tendril by the melon was completely brown.

Tendril by melon is brown.
However, the tendrils on either side were only half brown. Waiting until both were half brown, half green, made a difference in the flavor.  This melon was sweeter than the first one. We were onto something.

The picture below shows a long tendril, a chopped leaf stem and another smaller tendril which I didn't notice until I magnified the picture.

Side tendril is half brown and half green.
On August 28th we picked the biggest melon of all and dubbed it "Monster Melon."


The tendril close by the melon was definitely dead.

Tendril by melon was brown.
Both side tendrils were brown all the way down to the stem. We were concerned the melon might be too ripe and beginning to sour.  There is a point of no return.

The picture below shows two thick, green leaf stems plus the completely brown, thin tendril.

Side tendrils were completely brown.
All three melons were too heavy for me to lift.  Dustin always cooperates when I need help.  He was eager to hold the heavy watermelons while balancing on the bathroom scales as I tried to read the weight numbers while focusing the camera.  He was promised all he could eat (which is a shockingly large amount) if he did a good job.

34.5 Pounds
35.2 Pounds




49.2 Pounds
The Monster Melon weighed 49.2 pounds! It was huge! I had to clean out my refrigerator before it would fit inside.

Monster Melon

22 1/2 Inches
On the inside, there were not many seeds and we unanimously voted the flavor, THE BEST IN THE WORLD!!!!!!  Three brown tendrils are the secret to achieving the sweetest watermelon flavor!  Now I finally know how to pick a watermelon at peak ripeness.  I have arrived.

The original seed which began this melon was miraculously dropped in the perfect spot in my strawberry patch by someone or something unknown.  I give credit for this success to the Good Lord.  This has been too good to keep to myself so I will be giving away free seeds to anyone who sends me their mailing address at jmorrrris9@gmail.com.  I will leave this message posted until all of the seeds are gone.

YUM!
I found another foolproof method for detecting perfect watermelon ripeness but it will only work for me.  We plugged melon #1 which involved cutting a chunk out while it was still on the vine.  If it doesn't taste ready, stick the plug back in so it can continue to mature.  We were going to put duct tape over the hole to keep ants out but our expert taste-testing judge deemed it ready.




CRUNCH! Tough rind!
Who knew a dog would like watermelon???  I didn't.  However, not everyone is blessed to have Scooter so this method will only work for us.

There are still more melons on the vine and I feel confident I can pick them when they are perfect.  What an amazing watermelon plant.


Additional Links

Last Month's July Garden (2018)

Last Year's August Garden (2017)

12 comments:

  1. I would love some watermelon seeds! Does your email address have three “r’s” in it? Just wanting t make sure I send my address to the correct email! And thank you!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is 4 letter r's. jmorrrris9@gmail.com. I would love to send you some seeds because we have been saving them from watermelon #2 and Monster melon. Next year you must let me know how it works if you plant them.

      Delete
  2. That is a LOT of watermelon. No matter how you slice it:). Congratulations!

    I'm definitely e-mailing you for a few seeds. There are no guarantees with this cooler Oregon weather, though. Some parts of Oregon get very hot and grow great melons, such as Herminston. But, where I live...I confess...I did not get a single one this year. The problem I had was that the type I ordered needed a pollinator plant. I planted the seed that was enclosed in the package and the plant died:(. So, the ones that are left won't set fruit. I do have one about 1" in diameter. Big WOW! I also have 3 cantaloupe, one of which I ate and it is lackluster in flavor. But, who knows. Maybe "Jeannie" watermelon is the way to go. You can blow your magic touch onto them before you mail them:)

    I'm not sure what Google is doing, but this is Becky--who does not appear to be signed in anymore. I'll see if I can fix that, but don't want to type this all again. The rest of your garden looks great, as well, just perfect for the end of August. The end is in sight for part of mine, as well, and other parts will produce for another 6 weeks or so at least.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have no magical skills, it is the good soil around the strawberries. Don't expect me to give you the good compost, I am too selfish to share that! However, we have plenty of seeds and I will give you all you want. Next year, you must let me know how they grow. I hope you grow one larger than mine! If I had to guess, and this is only a guess, I think it might be a "Cobbs Gem" variety or a cross from it. I threw away many seeds last winter into the compost pile, then the compost went to the strawberry bed, so that might be what it is...maybe.

      As for Google, they are driving me crazy also. They seem to have lost all of my login information on everything and no new emails have arrived.

      Delete
  3. That water melon vine is incredible. I've never had good luck growing any melons and certainly not he mammoth sized ones you grow. Very impressive!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I could give you some to eat, it is delicious and there is no room left in the refrigerator. This is my first year to be successful with melons. It wasn't me, it was the soil.

      Delete
  4. Our wild melons (the ancestor of commercial watermelons) is used to make a preserve. Waatlemoenkonfyt. Similar to marmelade, using the rind rather than the minimal fruit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I looked it up because it was new to me. I have heard of watermelon rind pickles, and one year made watermelon jelly (which was a hit), but never knew there was a marmalade made from the rind. I might try to do something with the next one I pick. Right now I am too busy with the rest of the garden!

      Delete
  5. Wowza Lady! Those are some impressive watermelons. Great job!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alas, I ate the last piece last night...which was a mistake...didn't get much sleep because I had keep getting up all light long!

      Delete
  6. Very impressive. Enjoy all of your watermelons. Our dog likes watermelon too.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow! I envy your garden and harvest..Love your watermelon as well..

    ReplyDelete