Tuesday, August 13, 2013

More Record Lows

The sun has just set. The deer that had been grazing in the soybeans across the road have disappeared back into the woods. The dogs are done playing in the yard. The tree frogs and crickets and bats and nighthawks are out, and the first coyotes of the night are talking about dinner. We are expecting record lows in the upper 40's tonight. Again. The forecast for the week is gorgeous -- for mid-October: highs in the low- to mid-70's, lows in the upper 40's and lower 50's. This is most definitely not weather that ripens tomatoes. I feel lucky to have picked a total of about three pounds of tomatoes from the garden so far; all assorted cherry tomatoes and bright yellow taxi tomatoes. The vines (finally all trellised this weekend!) are laden with big beautiful green tomatoes, and little fuzzy green tomatoes, and slightly orange or yellow (but still mostly green) tomatoes. This is just not tomato weather. The plants, though, look lush and green. Every eggplant has at least one fruit on it. The greasy beans are so laden with beans and thick leaves that I had to add wooden supports to the trellis to keep it from falling over. The cucumbers went from not ripe to over-ripe in one day somehow. And although I have picked exactly one dozen okra, the okra plants are still wondering when summer will arrive. 

I gave a few garden tours to friends this week. It is always nice to give a garden tour. When I walk around the garden weeding, harvesting, problem-solving, or watering, all I see is a to-do list. The cabbages need weeding, the tomatoes need more tying-up, the okra needs more heat. But when friends come to see the garden, I get to see so many different things. I forget that most people don't grow as many tomato plants as I do, or that seeing 16 different varieties is a novelty. I love when people see an Amish Cockscomb bloom up close for the first time, or taste a Ground Cherry, or see the neon extravagance of the Celosia in the garden. To have friends take pictures of the garden makes me so happy. And it makes the work worth it, even when in the back of my mind, I worry that there will be no ripe tomatoes, or that I will lose the war against the grasses.

Rich weed-whacked the garden this weekend, which always makes it look instantly better. He mentioned while giving a tour of the garden last week how something was eating our kale. And indeed, the kale that had been robust and thick last week was suddenly hole-ridden and disappearing. Sunday morning I set out to figure out what was wrong. Caterpillars. You know those pretty little white butterflies that fly around the garden? Well their spawn love the cabbage family. And while they haven't found my cabbage patch, they did find the kale. And they went to town: hundreds of little white-striped caterpillars feasting on the undersides of my kale leaves. I pulled them off and squished them. (They popped in quite a satisfactory way.) By the time I was done, my hands were stained green with their chlorophyll-rich blood. I have made a couple of quick return trips and killed a few more, but I am now hopeful the kale will live to see the frost. It reminded me that gardening isn't just growing plants, it is picking which plants (& creatures) live that defines gardening. 

The pictures below: 1) The kale patch Sunday morning, pre-massacre. 2) One of the larger caterpillars. 3) Most leaves had three, five, or even ten caterpillars of varying size (whole families I killed) feasting. 

So I close with a chorus of tree frogs through the open windows. It really is a lovely evening, even if none of my tomatoes are ripening...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

So This Is Summer

I spent much of today working in the garden. Weeded the eggplants and some of the tomato rows. Trellised a few more rows of tomatoes with wire and old mesh screens I have. Watered over half the garden. Picked two cherry tomatoes. 

This has been a very cool summer so far. We haven't had temperatures above about 85 degrees since June. I have row after row of tomato plants with big and little green tomatoes. I have harvested only one yellow Taxi tomato and five cherry tomatoes. I harvested several meals' worth of Royal Burgundy Beans and Greasy Beans. We have eaten a lot of lettuce and cilantro and mustard and that is about it. Otherwise, nothing to harvest yet... and it is August 3rd! It has been this cool and rather moist summer that has slowed the garden to a glacier's pace. 

Rich noted this afternoon that once the tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos ripen, we are going to be buried beneath an avalanche of fruit. And that will hopefully be true! I joked the other night that I will be scrambling to get every blanket from everyone of my friends to ensure a harvest after an early frost. It just seems like that kind of season. 

But I am not complaining. Working in the garden has been a rather pleasant task. Despite the tenacity of the grasses growing everywhere, weeding has not been so much of a chore as it was last year. And it has been beautiful, with all the flowers and the slower pace of growth, I feel I have had time to really enjoy the beauty present in the garden, rather than lurching from one emergency task to another. 

The pictures below: 1) Amish Cockscomb blooming in the center of the garden. 2) The row of lovely orange Cosmos as you enter the garden from the yard. 3) Our first eggplant of the season. 4) The first tomato. 5) The Greasy Beans are doing great! 6) A freshly-trellised row of tomatoes get comfortable.