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I’ve been a vegetable gardener since we bought our first house in 1972. Record keeping is important to me as I evaluate varieties of plants, planting times, and what works in this climate and terroir and what doesn’t. So, I initially built this site for myself, to record plant varieties, planting and harvest dates, and anything else that might be useful for future gardens. I find web entries easier than notebooks and it’s hard to put pictures in written notes. With my smartphone, I can access this information anywhere, which is not the case with written data.

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. Here in the midwest, 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. My original purpose was an online notebook for my own use, but if you find any of this useful or inspirational, welcome.

Mid-Season Evaluation

I am seeing an explosion in produce this week as the tomatoes are coming into their own. I picked the first of the heirlooms a couple of days age netting a couple of large, delicious Cherokee Carbon tomatoes and a large Lemon Boy. There will be more today and a lot this week. Zucchini are coming in at a reasonable rate and Natalie made stuffed zucchini last night. The cherry tomatoes are producing in abundance. I needed to run a rope from the top of the large cherry tomato cage to the crossbeam of the hanging basket support on the deck. The plants are almost 8 feet tall. I picked the first chocolate cherry tomato yesterday. I tied up the San Marzano tomatoes, but the tomatoes are still small.

The Champion and Early girl plants stopped ripening over a week ago, but now are starting to produce. It is strange how they will produce some fruit right away and then stop for a while.

First Broccoli

We had the first head of brocolli last week and I will cut two or three more today. I am ready to pull up the second batch of beets. Peppers are producing well, the Shishito plants are loaded and there are 3 or 4 large green peppers ready to pick. The rabbits (or squirrels) have been attacking the Jalapeno plants. There are some small eggplants and at least one should be ready in about a week.

I pulled up the peas which were a total bust and planted “Lazy Housewife” pole beans. I learned how to massage Kale with salt and oil and we used some on Bacon, Kale, and Tomato sandwiches and it was quite good.

I’ve been munching on blackberries when I am out in the garden and probably will pick some today.

Tomatillo plants are growing well and have lots of fruit, but ripe fruit is still a couple of weeks off.

All in all, it’s been a good gardening year so far except for the Alaskan Peas and the fact that I couldn’t find any Okra plants. I’ll plant it from seed next year. I’ve been able to keep up with the weeding – I am hitting the tomato patch with the string trimmer which seems to work well if I pull the weeds close to the plants by hand. The rest of the garden is either my hand or with the hula hoe.

More Garden Photography

This is a night shot of the mint garden with all of the lighting installed. LED solar lighting is relatively inexpensive, and the installation cost is almost zero in time and money. Material cost here was between $150. and $200.
Overhead shot of the garden with my Mavic Air 2S taken on its first flight.
The whole garden from another angle.

Catching Up on the Garden

Other than harvesting and watering, the garden has been somewhat neglected as I’ve been consumed with getting the mint garden done. The mint garden is done just in time, as the daily harvest is increasing and I need to make sure that the garden is picked and that I use the vegetables or give them away.

Mint Garden Progress

Making good progress, almost all of the plants are in, roots are removed and garden graded. Started the walkway on July 4, 2021, hope to finish tomorrow.
The garden is done except for the finishing touches and more planting. Finally finished it this afternoon on July 11th.
Here is the front view of the finished garden. I started it a little over three weeks ago. Not bad.

What’s in the mint garden? A lot of different mints for openers! My yard has been invaded by escaped lemon balm for a number of years and I’ve had a pot of chocolate mint growing on my deck for a number of years. But a couple of years ago, my good friend, Danielle, got me into drinking mint tea, or “weed water” as it is called in her blog post. <https://www.makeaheadofmonday.com/blog/weed-water> So, it has become our summer drink of choice, as opposed to regular iced tea. I am also working mint into different recipes.

I wanted to experiment with the different types of mint, and bought the varieties that were available at local nurseries. Here are the mints in the garden: Chocolate Mint, Sweet Mint, Spearmint, Mojito Mint, Apple Mint, and Pineapple Mint. I didn’t plant any lemon balm as it is already everywhere. The mint is planted in the steel rings that are buried 1 foot in the ground to help control unwanted spreading. I also have Lemon Verbena, Pesto Perpetua Basil, regular Basil, Mexican Tarragon, Bronze Fennel, and Pineapple Sage, as well as a few ornamentals for some color. Cucumbers are planted along the trellis at the back of the garden.

This area was overgrown with invasive plants and neglected for a lot of years so I am happy to finally have it beautiful and productive.

Beet Harvest

I pulled up the larger beets today, which was about half of them. We made a beet salad with goat cheese and arugula from an Ina Garten Recipe. It was not bad, but I’ve had better beet salads. We saved the leaves for future salads.

Beginnings of the Mint Garden

This was the beginning. I cut down all of the weeds, buckthorn, etc., and rototilled the best I could and got the cucumber trellises in and the cukes planted 0n June 21st.
This is after the installation of the first ring on June 24th. There are lots and lots of roots in the middle of the garden.
Semi-completed mint garden front view. June 25th.
Mint garden in progress, from the side.

I got started on the “Mint Garden” a couple of days ago. I bought four galvanized steel fire-rings from Tractor Supply on Wednesday to contain the mint. It required two trips, as I could only haul two at a time.

On Thursday, I got the first ring installed which was a real pain as I ran into a stump and roots from a maple tree that we removed about 4 years ago. I was able to cut through them with my trusty Ryobi reciprocating saw, but it was a lot of work. I planted it with sweet mint and planted the three clumps of ornamental grass to the east of the ring.

We had a lot of rain Thursday night and Friday morning, but I went out in the mud on Friday afternoon and got the second ring installed and planted two pots with trailing petunias that were 1/2 price at Goebbert’s. There were some roots, but they were old and I was able to cut through them with my shovel. I needed to add more soil to the ring but ran out of time and energy.

I am designing as I go. I’ll have a path through the garden and in front of the cucumbers with 16 X 16 pavers. Hauling those is going to be a pain. I am guessing it will take at least 3 or 4 trips to Home Depot to get them all. But I have two more rings to install first and rain in the forecast every day for the next week.

Finally, Rain!

We had a series of thunderstorms move through last night. I sat on the front porch and watched the first one roll through about 9:30 last night. The lightning bugs were also out in abundance and they didn’t seem to mind the rain.

I heard another heavy rain roll through as I was falling asleep later. I went out to check my rain gauge first thing this morning and noted that we had received 2.5 inches of rain overnight. We really needed it. There was a small tornado around Naperville and possibly others. We missed the winds as there were no branches down this morning.

First Tomato & Peppers

I picked the first tomato today, three days earlier than last year, and this was a Countryside Champion tomato from a garden plant rather than a container plant, like last year. The pepper was a Bounty banana pepper. There are also a couple of Gypsy peppers ready to pick. These were from the larger Countryside plants.

We also had a salad from garden lettuce. Goebbert’s Red Romaine and Bonnie plants Oak Leaf. They are all bolting in this heat, but the flavor is still good.

Cucumber Trellises Installed & Cucumbers Planted

I got up early on this Father’s Day morning and was out in the garden by 6:30. I installed the reinforcing fence posts behind the trellis and planted (from left to right) 1 trellis length of “Crystal Apple Cucumbers”, another trellis length of “True Lemon Cucumbers”, from Terroir Seeds, 5 “Burpless” plants from Goebbert’s on the 3rd Trellis and finally 3 “Summer Dance” plants from Countryside on the last trellis. I also cut up the elderberry, buckthorn and other invasive trees that I had removed on Saturday, and filled up the garden recycling bin. I had cleared and rototilled on Saturday.