Tuesday, September 29, 2020

September's Garden (2020)

My goal was to show a garden planted and ready for winter; alas, the weather has thwarted my plans - no plowing nor planting due to rain.  The sun finally shone this morning as I began taking pictures, then it started raining before I could finish.  My winter garden is sitting on the front porch awaiting a few dry days. 

October 15th is the average date for the first frost for my area.  That means it could get cold in a few days or it might not freeze until the end of the month.  Whatever happens, it will make a huge difference in the size of the last harvests of the remaining summer vegetables. The garden has many empty areas but this is what it is still producing.

On the short fence surrounding the garden are some late-planted Natsu Fushinari cucumbers.  They have been a smashing success. 

They have grown and produced better than any cucumbers I have ever planted. They are resistant to diseases and get larger than the pickling cucumbers I normally grow. The late ones are just now beginning to bear; hopefully, there will be enough for a few meals or maybe a basket full if the frost delays. These are from earlier this month and show the size difference.  

Further down the fence row beside the cucumbers are the Purple Hull Peas.  They continue to crank out peas and are ready to be picked now.  

Remember the three tiny volunteer bean seeds last month that appeared at the beginning of the first row between the beet seedlings?  Well, two of them happened to be Jacob's Cattle which I said: "did not produce enough beans for the amount of space they used and I wouldn't bother growing them again." 

That was a month ago and look at them now, covered in beans!  Why couldn't they have done that before?  These beans have made a liar out of me and I refuse to apologize to a bean! 

Since I am admitting to failures, there are only five sugar beets growing.  After all that work (letting the spring crop bolt, collecting, winnowing, and drying the seeds), none germinated.  These five were from the store-bought low germination seeds.  

This tall odd-looking thing is the Malabar Vining Spinach which continues to wind around a fence post.  The Blue Curled Kale from last winter's hoop house is still alive.  

Three late-planted yellow squashes are just now producing and together, there is enough for an occasional meal.  All were squeezed into various empty spots that opened up between other plants.  

The Dixie Butter Peas are working on a second crop. They may or may not mature before the first frost arrives and are cutting it close.  If these are planted late in the spring, they can't produce a second crop.  To see the peapods, the vines must be raised.

The Tahitian Butternut Squash, true to character, has aggressively taken over the middle of the garden.  It has reached the end of the row, turned the corner, and is heading back up into the Dixie Butter Peas.

If you trim the leaves and look inside, squash are growing everywhere.  Many of the small ones have been harvested and I think the flavor is better than yellow or zucchini squash.

None of the late-planted potatoes sprouted but one that was missed when the others were dug, has popped up.  It indicates it probably won't be possible to have a second crop in this area before bad weather arrives.   

Only two green bean plants are still alive.  It was a dismal year for them and I didn't get all I wanted.  It is impossible to count the times I repeatedly planted seeds acquired from various sources.  They are generating a few beans every couple of days.  

As for the watermelon section of the garden, this is the row with the watermelon vine on one side and assorted unknown greens on the other.  

Two watermelons have already been picked and two are still on the vine, almost ripe...but not quite.  This is a situation where you wish for a late winter because they are my favorite best-tasting variety, Orangeglo.  

This year's biggest watermelon award was presented on September 10th by Scooter to the Desert King.

It was perfectly ripe, picked at the right time because the tendril was completely dead.

I bought the seeds years ago because they are grown in arid climates and should (so I assumed) do well without a large amount of water.  Wrong. They have always been small and disappointing.  This year, since we have had ample rain, the Desert King finally managed to be impressive.  It weighed (with Dustin's help on the bathroom scales since I refuse to step on them) 36.2 pounds!  It tasted delicious.

There is a second melon on the vine and this is how big it is it today.  The spent vines were removed and the healthy vines have been wrapped around a dill plant to avoid being accidentally trampled.  The tendril is only half brown.  It is a coin toss if it will ripen before frost.

The basil plant was harvested down to a few leaves and has quickly recovered from my rough treatment.  It will be harvested again before cold weather.

Nothing has been previously mentioned about the Conquistador Celery because it tasted horrible. It has been threatened with being ripped from the ground and tossed into the compost pile if the bitterness doesn't disappear after a frost. 

This huge mound of green is one bean plant!  A Zipper Pea seed sprouted in what was a walkway in the early garden and was left to grow.  Since there have been so many disappointments with seed germination this year, I didn't have the heart to pull it up and learned to walk around instead. 

It worked hard all summer long, is still blooming, and will continue until the cold weather.

In the back of the garden, the crazy trellis has become even crazier.  It is listing to one side due to the weight and is cattywampus (my late dad's favorite word for anything crooked).  The unruly Long of Naples squash has decided to sneak back up the sides among the Lima beans after I meticulously untwisted it and moved it to the ground.

Finally, after watching, watering, and fertilizing this unruly squash all summer long, now, right before frost, it decides to produce some squash that probably won't make it in time.  We (used in the royal sense) are not amused.

The sweet potatoes under the arch don't seem to mind the squash vine invading their territory. Their cold day of reckoning is rapidly approaching. 

I made a major mistake this year.  The tomatoes I planted in the early spring were all determinate which means they produce all their tomatoes around the same time to make it easier to can.  Now all but two are finished.  I should have planted more later in the spring so we would get ripe ones right up until frost.  

With the tomatoes gone, it is now possible to better see how the back row was planted intensively. 

Long vining Lima Beans cover over the tall arch but only use up one square foot of soil at the base of the arch.  Okra are below the Lima Beans and wedged back against the short fence about three feet apart so half of their roots can get nourishment from under the pathway.  Bush beans stretch forward toward the sunlight in the area which opens up under the okra leaves.  One vining Tahitian Butternut squash seed was planted at the beginning of the row and it spread through the empty spaces. It repeatedly tried to go up the tomato fence but I kept it pushed back so it would not shade any tomatoes.  

The far back row is about thirty feet long, two feet wide, and has supported a large number of plants.  A large plot of land is not necessary to grow vegetables.  Much can be cultivated in a small area.  This view from the side shows how the weight of the bean vines are bending the arch backward.

Now to the back left corner by the field.  It is hard to see what is growing because the leaves all blend together. 

The pepper plants under the bean arches have been completely stripped of peppers twice and more are ready now.  

The self-planted butternut squash plant growing out of the compost pile is still spreading and producing new squash.  Two of the large ones were picked because I feared something in the field on the other side of the fence might get them first.  I also kept the root watered because it can't grow more roots along the vine since it isn't touching the ground anywhere else.

Since I have not been able to find another round hay bale, Bill has been raking up the grass from the yard and dumping it on tarps to dry.  It will be spread after the ground is plowed and the seedlings are planted.  I really wish I could find another round hay bale to use.  It made a big difference in the fertility of the garden. 

This year there has been plenty of rain at the right time and it has made all the difference in the world.  The garden has produced better than ever before; however, when I look back at last year's September 2019 garden, I still feel the sting of defeat from the drought. The difference in both gardens is shocking. On this day, one year ago, I said:

If I had to guess, I would say we could have had five or ten times the harvest we are getting now if it had rained.  It is hard to know how to prepare for our weather.  Some years it floods, other years it is drought.  If it always flooded, I could raise my beds, but that would be disastrous in a drought.  If it was always dry, I could put the hardy plants together and irrigate.  It is the not knowing that keeps me off balance.

My harvest has been more than ten times bigger than what we got last year. I am grateful, but still off-balance.