Whoops! My apologies, I have neglected to post about my garden lately, which historically means that I have been neglecting my garden. This year, however, I have been able to get down and dirty just often enough to keep the garden from getting choked out with weeds. When I last wrote, we were entering into the lull between the harvests of spring sown and autumn bearing crops. The mosquitoes were just about to get bad. But first: the weather.
July brought several waves of torrential rain to the area which caused the Des Plaines River and its tributaries to jump their banks. The Fox River also neared record flood stages. The storms were only locally severe. Where I drove through flooded streets in Woodstock, Huntley and Elgin, I arrived home to dry pavement as often than not. And with that, Summer heat, humidity and mosquitoes arrived along with a significantly greater beetle population. I observed more fireflies at night than I have in recent years. The Japanese beetles also emerged in force, and have been devouring the everything from the Virginia creeper to wild grapes to bush beans. I even found the little bastards munching on my raspberry and okra leaves.
Shortly before I left for RollerCon, I visited my parents to celebrate my Father's birthday and to envy my Mother's weed free garden. She grew massive onions this year, many exceeding 2 pounds in weight!
My own onions were looking much undersized in comparison. The papers on the Walla-Wallas and Pattersons were dry and yellow and many of the tops had fallen. I pulled them, as small as then were, and laid them out to cure in the garage. The Red Ace onions were all still upright so I let them be for the time and harvested them a few weeks later. The first green beans were also ready and I picked these. I took the time, to pull out all of the creeping weeds and grasses from the onion and bean beds as I went and observed many tiny weed seeds. After the first hard frosts this fall, I shall definitely have to take the flame-weeder to the whole of the garden if I don't want a mess of weeds next year.
When I returned from my week of officiating the Roller Derby in Las Vegas I found the summer harvest season had begun without me. I was a behind peak in picking green beans. Many of the pods were starting to bulge outwards with immature beans. The pods should be filled with juicy flesh, but upon inspection, the majority were just husk and immature seed. Oh, well.
Fortunately, this week the Asian-type pole beans started to sneakily set pods. I had been disappointed in their growth, as few of the plants have grown very far up the trellis. I also had not observed any flowers. I was surprised then to find dark, spiraling pods hiding ankle high in the plants. I picked a few dozen and ate them with ramen noodles, shiitake mushrooms and soft boiled eggs. Hopefully there will be more of these to come.
All of the red varieties of okra have started to bear pods, and of these only a few were too large and woody to use in the year's first batch of veggie stew. I have a new Cuisinart 3-in-1 cooker which can get hot enough to sauté and brown the vegetables. I was dubious about how well it would work, but it heated up quick enough the first time I used it. It is very convenient to just add my water and set it to a timed slow cook setting in the same vessel. The okra will continue to bear enough for the slow cooker until October.
The yellow squash plants have been looking great and have been setting a decent amount of fruit. The zucchini plants have powdery mildew and have produced few fruits. I have been diligent on picking these summer squash while still small. They are good diced and sautéed with salt and powdered paprika. The cucumber vines are healthy. I have harvested many pickling cucumbers and made a big jar of garlicy pickles. I have harvested and several English cucumbers as well. I liketo eat these with hummus. I am very pleased that all of the cucurbits are free of insect pests so far.
The tomato plants have been stunted by early blight and are yielding lightly and late. The Juliet variety turned out to bear fruit larger than I expected, more the size and shape of a Roma than a cherry tomato. Fortunately, these plants are still growing and we have fruits for salads, grilling and fresh eating. There won't be any sauces or soups this year. The Early Girls were more than fashionably late to the party. The early blight was worse on these and the plants will die soon. The late season, slicing variety are becoming ripe, but have born few fruits and the plants are also sickly. The eggplants have been doing squat and I have harvested four small pepper, all from two of the Melrose plants. This will be my last year, I believe, growing peppers and eggplants. Rounding out the nightshades, are the potato plants which are still green and upright yet curiously spare on flowers.
Saving the sweets for last: all of my fruit crops are doing very well. To my surprise, the new Anne and Killarney raspberry canes have been yielding fruit. The remaining older canes have also produces well. In the strawberry garden, the Albion plants have been yielding heavily. These fruits are very sweet and some are quite large. This week, the much anticipated white peaches have begun to get ripe on our peach tree. Between these three fruits, it is a sweet August! I have been putting these in my morning muesli and kefir. The peach season is short though, soon they will get softer and start falling from the branches. Everyone from the black hornets to the neighbors to unfamiliar friendly landscapers will gorge themselves upon the sticky, runny flesh.
And just like that, it will seem that Summer will be at an end. School buses have appeared in school parking lots. The nights have gotten a little cooler and a little longer. Singing black crickets have joined the nighttime chorus with the frogs and toads. It won't be long now before it becomes an apple cider and pumpkin spiced world.