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I initially built this site for myself, to record plant varieties and planting and harvest dates and anything else that might be useful for future gardens. Planting and working the garden is in itself therapeutic, and thus has a lot of value. But harvesting the crops provides healthy foods and a connection to friends and neighbors who also benefit from the abundance of my garden. So, having a way to create a longer growing season is important. Hopefully, good record keeping will help me to that end. But of course, once the data is recorded, there other thoughts and reflections that come into my mind and I have recorded those here also, because as it has been since the beginning, gardening is not only good for the body but also good for the soul. Again, my original purpose was for my own use, but if you find any of this useful or inspirational, welcome.

Early Evaluation

The garden is yielding well and the heirloom tomatoes are just peaking. Here are my first thoughts.

The cucumbers were done in early September. Likely I didn’t get enough water on them during the drought, but it could have been fungus or something else. I need taller trellises, the 4-foot ones are nowhere near enough. The lemon cucumbers did well, but you need a lot of plants to get a good yield. Goebbert’s cukes were okay, but they got big and seedy way too quick. The long “Summer Dance” cucumbers from Countryside are by far the best. I will stick with them or and English cucumbers next year. Possibly I should move the patch because of disease. Maybe I’ll do a bed along the back fence next year, or some trellises on the west side of the house.

The Roma tomatoes did well, as i indicated in one of my previous posts. I planted Roma, Roma II and Rome III plants from Countryside but really couldn’t detect any difference among the varieties. I just picked a second batch and got about 1/2 a colendar-full.

In general the heirlooms did well, the ones planted over the old compost area did extremely well and the one farthest away did worst. I don’t know if this is a coincidence and due to variety or do to the soil. Definitely need to do some enriching of the tomato bed to the west and south.

The shishitos did extremely well, twelve plants is enough, and all peppers performed somewhat okay. The jalapenos and hot hungarians were slow to get moving, and I could probably use 3 more jalapeno plants. The old beds could use some soil enrichment. Green peppers did okay, but I could use more plants.

The zucchini did okay, the cocozelles from seed were slow to come and didn’t yield very well. The Peter Pan squash wasn’t worth the effort, it’s really just repackaged zucchini. I’ll probably plant “Mashed Potato Squash” instead, next year. I probably should do a second crop of Zucchini from seed around July 1.

The eggplant did terribly, I probably didn’t water it enough and maybe it needs really fertile soil. Four plants is enough.

The okra did very well, but I’m not sure what to do with it. It is not fussy and there are no insect problems. I’ll try freezing some for soup.

I didn’t get greenbeans in and a couple short rows, succession planted would probably be good.

The container garden worked as planned. I had Jalapenos almost from day one and the first tomato on June 23. There was a daily supply of tomatoes after that. I think bigger containers would be in order for next year as some of them required almost daily watering. All of the soil in the pots needs enriching. It was good having the extra cherry tomatoes. The cucumbers in pots got me some early cukes but the quality wasn’t that great. They were bush cucumbers, likely from Goebbert’s. Two tomato pots is the right number.

Kale and Swiss chard are doing well, but I probably won’t be using them until fall. At least, I’ve been giving some of the Kale away.

Fava beans were a fail as was the arugula and spinach from seed. Spring greens from seed need absolutely perfect even weather and that rarely happens in Illinois. The new beds will need enrichment this fall and next spring since they are mostly clay. Peat moss, sand, compost and as much organic matter as I can possibly work into the soil. Hope we have a nice fall.

The new herb garden is doing well, I need to add organic mater to the area where the basil is. The parsley bolted again this year, whereas the curly parsley didn’t. Maybe I’ll buy from Countryside next year. I need to plant some basil later in the summer, because my plants were in bad shape by mid-august and the plants will need to be replaced.

I need a “mint-garden” next year for weed water. I am thinking of doing that in the area at the northwest end of the garden. Maybe I’ll plant ornamental grasses at the back of it. Three types of mint. Chocolate mint, lemon balm, and another, maybe spearmint. Some flowers along the front would be nice.

Finally, Tomatoes!

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The main crop of tomatoes is finally ripening.

It has been in the low 70s since Monday which seems to have encouraged the tomatoes to finally start ripening. This morning I picked two Mortgage Lifters, a Boxcar Willie, a Lemon Boy. and a Champion. Some of the Roma tomatoes are near ripe, I need to see if it is a certain variety ripening first as I have Roma I, Roma II, Roma III from Countryside.

We will soon be inundated with produce. I have lots of Shishitos and the lemon cucumbers are starting to produce very well. We haven’t had any measurable amount of rain in well over a week, so I will need to water today. I fertilized all of the pots over the weekend.

July 25th Report

Makings of a Saturday morning fritatta.

We are well into July and time for an updated status report on this year’s garden.

In this weird “Year of the coronavirus pandemic,” one of my main goals was to extend the growing season, especially on the front end. The container garden did not disappoint. We have had a small but continuous supply of tomatoes from the two large plants that I bought. I am picking one at least every other day, usually one every day. There has been an excellent supply of jalapenos from the mature nursery plant, and the bush cucumbers were our first ones. If I had gotten those cucumbers in earlier, we would have had them a lot earlier. Cherry tomatoes have been continuous, but not extremely prolific yet, but they will likely explode in the next week or so.

I picked the first two Champion tomatoes this morning, they were the first from that patch. The rest are coming along very slowly. It looks like the “Lemon Boy” will be the next one to have ripe tomatoes, but they haven’t started to turn yet. With the amount of hot weather that we have had, it is surprising that we haven’t had more tomatoes beginning to ripen. There are a couple of large tomatillos on those plants, but they went in very late, so I don’t expect a harvest until late August. The Roma Tomatoes are doing well but are likely a few weeks away from ripening.

I picked a bunch of zucchini this past week, including one huge one. We’ve had zucchini for a couple of weeks, but there was nothing today. I haven’t had any cocozelle zucchini yet. I picked my second pattypan squash this morning, and half of that went into our frittata. I should probably plant another hill of zucchini for fall since I have space.

The cucumbers are going crazy, and I’ve had enough to give away. I got my first couple of lemon cucumbers this week, and they were as delicious as usual. The plants are loaded with blossoms, and I planted a bunch, so we will be over-supplied with those. The small jalapeno plants have started to yield very well, but just tiny peppers on the hot Hungarian pepper plant.

The shishitos are bearing prolifically, and the Lady Bells exploded, and I have many large peppers on those plants. I tied up all of the peppers last weekend. I picked a large banana pepper this morning, and there are a few melrose and other peppers out there. The small sweet red peppers are about the right size but haven’t started to turn red yet. The okra is bearing well, and I roasted some last weekend and had to throw a few away this week because they got too big, about 4 inches is ideal. The kale is looking very good, and the fennel is tall, but the bulbs are still small, I need to look up the culture of that. Swiss chard is growing okay, also.

I will probably pull up the fava beans. There are a couple of large pods and a few small ones, but they didn’t do well. I was way too hot for them, and they did not germinate well. That will give the Chinese cabbage some more room.

I think i’ll plant some green beans in the front of the cucumber patch, and save teh space in the first bed for fall greens.

The new herb garden is doing amazingly well. We’ve been using a lot of basil and that has kept the blooms off. I probably should throw some basil seed in. The oregano by the deck is dying, both the old and the new. Not sure why.

4th of July Evaluation

Early July Pickings

It’s the 4th of July and time for an early season evaluation of the garden. Overall I am happy with the way the garden went together this year. Almost everything got in on schedule, despite the early sell-out of plants at most of the nurseries.

The only real failure was that none of the Cucamelons germinated. The other germination issue was with the Fava Beans, where the germination was somewhat erratic. The plants that are just starting to bear are widely different in size. Pak Choi and the Arugula immediately bolted even though they went in on April 7. I guess that was too late. The lettuce from seed went in on March 8, including spinach, but the growth was stunted. The lettuce did well, but the spinach bolted early. I planted lettuce plants from Goebbert’s on April 18, and we got our first lettuce from plants and the seeds on May 17. The lettuce is bolting now, but we are still picking edible lettuce. I will probably pull it in the next couple of days as it is starting to get bitter. A cover over the spring greens bed next year might help.

We’ve been getting tomatoes for over a week from the couple of large potted tomato plants that I bought. The large cherry tomato plant I bought has had tomatoes for about a week. The other cherry and grape tomatoes are at various stages. There are a couple of plants with ripe tomatoes. The first garden tomato might be ready tomorrow and that is an Early Girl II. There are two or three tomatoes on that plant, but after I pick them there might not be any more until August. I bought larger Champion and Early GIrl plants but the other plants have caught up. The other plants were all small because of the plant shortage this year. Here are the Heirloom tomatoes that have set fruit already – Mortgage LIfter, Lemon Boy, Cherokee Purple, Early GIrl II, and the Two Champion Plants. I have three variations of Roma Tomatoes, Roma, Roma II, and Roma III, all from Countryside. They were all small plants that went in on June 8. All of the plants have set fruit.

The eggplants look stunted, but one has an eggplant on it. They probably should have been watered more.

The hot peppers are slow, and the Jalapeno plants have some tiny peppers. Of course the large Jalapeno plant I bought has been bearing well. We have had Shishitos for over a week and I’ve picked a couple of the Gypsy peppers. There are some small banana peppers but nothing on the Lady Bell plants yet. There are some nice sized Sweet Cherry Peppers, but I need to wait until those are red.

The okra have small fruits and we might have a few of those in a week or so. The kale really took off and the fennel and Swiss Chard are doing okay. They will likely take off once I clear ou the lettuce and give them more room. The Chinese Cabbage look okay also.

We will soon be inundated with cucumbers. I picked the first summer dance and a couple of bush cucumbers today and the summer dance has a lot more. There is no fruit on the Goebbert’s plants yet. The vines for the Lemon cucumbers are vigorous and just starting to flower.

The Zucchini are slow and probably could have used more water. I’ll probably have zucchini in a few days, and there are some small Peter Pan fruits on those plants. They will get watered today.

The tomatillos are still leggy, but one has a large fruit on it already. Those sat in the tray for a long time before they got planted.

I fertilized all of the potted plants and the herb garden today. The new herb garden is doing extremely well. I’ll hit most of the rest of the garden with fertilizer tomorrow and do some weeding. I’ll also need to tie up the Roma tomatoes before the fruit gets too heavy.

First Tomato!

First tomato from the container garden! Red Husky form Goebbert’s.

I picked the first tomato today from the container garden, this is at least a week earlier than last year. There are a couple of Early Girl II tomatoes in the Heirloom patch that might ripen by the 4th of July. This was from a large Red Husky plant that I got from Goebbert’s. We’ve had Jalapenos from another Goebbert’s plant for a couple of weeks and have been picking spring greens since May 17, so it’s been a successful spring.

I used the above tomato and some fresh basil from the garden to make a Bruschetta appetizer for dinner this evening.

Bruschetta with tomato and basil from the garden. Celebrating the beginning of summer.

Container Garden

One of my main goals is to extend the gardening season to provide food over a longer period of time. The spring greens yielded well this year and there is still usable lettuce, although most of it is starting to bolt. I made up my mind last year after a very wet spring and early summer and the Groundhog problem to have a container garden that I could get in early and easily protect from animals if necessary.

So I expanded my cherry tomato plantings this spring with 6 plants in three containers, two large patio tomato plants, a large Jalapeno plant which I’ve been harvesting for a couple of weeks, and a pot with two bush cucumbers. I am hoping this adds another month (July) to the harvesting season.

Father’s Day Gallery

The first day of Summer and Father’s Day coincided this year, and it also marks the completion of my plantings. We were somewhat back to a normal spring schedule this year. Most of the nurseries sold out early, but I was still able to find almost all of the varieties I wanted. So here is a gallery of where the garden is at this point.

Herb Garden off the deck and Cherry Tomatoes and Grape tomatoes in containers.
New Herb Garden complete and growing. The herbs are Basil, Thai Basil, Multi color Sage, Purple Veined Sorrel, French Tarragon, Mexican Tarragon, Spicy Mexican Oregano, Greek Oregano, Lemon Thyme, and Chocolate Mint.
These are the three new raised beds with Sweet Peppers, Fava Beans, Chinese Cabbage. Spring Greens, Okra, Swiss Chard, Kale, and Fennel.
The cucumbers are fenced in and growing well. Summer Dance Cucumbers from Countryside, generic slicing cumbers from Goebbert’s and Lemon cucumbers from Terroir Seeds. The cucamelons never came up.

Sixteen tomato plants, four rows of four, mostly heirloom. New stepping stones between the rows.

Fifteen Roma plants fenced in to thwart the Groundhog who ate almost all of then last year. There are for drying and freezing. The othe half of this bed contains hot peppers and eggplants.
The last bed is Zucchini and Peter Pan squash.

Finishing Up the Garden

I put the finishing touches on the garden the past couple of days. I finished fencing in the Roma tomatoes and added a removable piece of fence for a gate and did the same thing for the cucumbers.

I harvested some more lettuce as it is bolting and probably will be done this week with the hot weather. This gave me room for the Swiss Chard and Fennel. I fitted in six Chinese Cabbage plants between the Fava Beans since their germination was so erratic. The beans are starting to produce, so they will be out of there by the time the cabbage gets going. I also planted the three tomatillo plants behind the barn they are leggy and flowering, but I hope they will be OK.

I planted some flowers in front of the first bed and put a couple of stepping stones along the bed. Hidden among those flowers, I found three French Tarragon plants which I planted next to the Mexican Tarragon in the herb garden. I replaced the Pansies on the porch with new flowers and transplanted the pansies into a couple of large pots that I used to spice up the corners of the container garden.

At the end of the day I was exhausted because in addition to all the work mentioned above, I filled the yard waste container with invasive trees, grapevines and other stuff that shouldn’t be there that I removed from the blackberry patch. Major work still need to be done in there and it will take a couple of days to clean it out.

Tomorrow is Father’s day and the first day of summer, so I’ll do a status report and a bit of a gallery. All in all, I’m happy with the progress, and for the first time, there are no unplanted plants sitting on the deck.

Summer Has Arrived!

In my mind, the official start of summer is the emergence of lightning bugs. I’ve been watching for several days but nothing, likely because the temperatures at dusk had fallen into the 60s. But we were in the 80s today and shortly after dusk the air was filled with a myriad of the little flashing creatures welcoming the beginning of summer. That’s five days earlier than last year when they arrived on June 22.

Always a joy when the Lightning Bugs (Fireflies) arrive.

Unfortunately, the mosquitoes also marked the arrival of summer, but it has been relatively dry for the past week, so it’s likely that they will taper off soon. Also, with our new drainage system, there should be a lot less standing water available for them to breed in.

Garden Landscaping

I took my Ryobi hedge trimmer to the Blackberry Patch and removed as much overgrowth as I could and restored the paths through the patch. It will need a lot of hand work with the pruning shears and saw to finish, but it is a start.

A little bit of landscaping along the garden path

Then I worked on the pile of dirt on the north side of the garden path and broke it up with the rototiller and raked it even with the wood walkway. Then I planter the Black-eyed Susans in that area and plant a Coral Bells plant at the head of the walk. Some of the Black-eyed Susans had little soil on the roots and were dried out, but I’m guessing most of them will survive as they get rooted in the new soil. I’ll fill in the area with some Hosta and Sedum transplants when I have time.