Sunday, October 5, 2014

Garden Share Collective - October 2014

It is absolutely roasting outside (it hit 100ºF or 37.8ºC in the shade of the tree next to my garden), which is a great excuse for skipping gardening duties or working over a hot stove or grill. (It's been taking me 3 days to write this post and the weather has not changed, it's been roasting every day and we're in for another roaster today). Tomato canning and pepper roasting, is just going to have to wait until it is cooler. That's one of the peculiarities of the climate here, we get our warmest weather in September through October and even into November. I've sweat through many a day in November that was warmer than a typical day in June here. The ocean currents and prevailing winds conspire to sock us in with foggy nights and often days in spring and summer, then a warm current creeps up the coast and the prevailing winds change and voila, summer arrives in September. I've learned to embrace that in my garden and plan to harvest the bulk of my "summer" crops in September and October. Fortunately, I don't have to gamble on beating the first frost, the earliest we've had a killing frost since I've been gardening here is in early December and one year it didn't happen until late January.

This past September was a record breaker, I tallied 380.8 pounds of produce. Here's a summary of the September harvests per year back to 2010 which is when I started keeping track of my harvests:




Beans, snap
Beans, dry





Cabbage, etc.









Coriander Seeds










Winter Squash




You can find the details of my harvests on my weekly Harvest Monday posts.

I always find it interesting to look back and see what the garden was producing at the same time in previous years. Last year I harvested carrots and amaranth greens which I haven't managed to get going in time for a September harvest this year. I'll get a bit of amaranth in October but the carrots are far from producing yet. The melons didn't start coming in until the end of September last year because I put off starting them until July to be sure that they would mature when our warm weather finally rolled around. This year I pushed the start date back to mid-June which worked out well since the melons matured just as the weather started to warm up. I think next year I might try two sowings to extend the harvest, 35 pounds of melons in one month is a bit more than I want to indulge in again.

It's not evident on the chart, but the reason I'm having the biggest September tomato harvest in 5 years is because the tomatoes are coming in early and all at once. Last year the harvest more spread out with 52 pounds in September, 84 in October, and 59 in November. This year I'll probably have the tomato bed cleaned out by the end of October.

On the other hand, this year is shaping up to be a good year for peppers, I've got fewer plants this year but most of them are healthier and more productive than last year. But unless the plants bloom and set another round of peppers I doubt that I'll be harvesting nearly 40 pounds of peppers in November like I did last year.

So lets take a look at how the garden fared in September. (Sorry, but this is turning into my September Garden Tour post as well).

The view as you enter the garden has certainly changed, the Floriani Red flint corn that towers above all has started to dry out and I've started collecting the ears as the husks dry out. The wall of tomato plants on the right is thinning out, I've already removed two plants and the others have a lot of spindly old growth with a cap of surviving green leaves perched atop the cages or trailing down the sides. There aren't a lot of tomatoes left hanging on the vines. It isn't so easy to see in this photo, but the rampant Romanesco zucchini is on the way out and it's now possible to waltz right on down the main path without dodging the spiny zucchini leaves.

This has not been a great year in the tomato patch, the leaves on the plants have been infected with what I think is powdery mildew so they yellow and and then die, I pull them off and bag them up to throw away. A couple of plants died, Black Krim bit the dust early on and produced just a few tomatoes worth harvesting. One of the Amish Paste plants died early also, but fortunately not before producing some tomatoes that were worth canning. The cherry tomato plants are spindly and ugly but keep producing enough fruits to keep us happy.

Isis Candy cherry tomato plants
The two best plants this year have been Chianti Rose and Jaune Flamme, at least they haven't totally died, and Potiron Ecarlate has been hanging in there as well. All of the tomato varieties that I'm growing this year have done well for me in previous years (maybe not the Black Krim, I need to check on that), so there's something about the conditions this year that have been tough on tomatoes, and I'm not the only one complaining about having a bad tomato year.

Chianti Rose and Jaune Flamme tomato plants
The tomatoes aren't the only struggling solanums, my poor eggplant has been hit extremely hard by spider mites this year. I've been trying to stay on top of the infestation by treating with an organic pyrethrum based spray and insecticidal soap, but they mites are mightier than me. The plants still managed to produce a decent harvest but I'm not going to have October and November harvests like I usually enjoy.

But as I mentioned earlier, the peppers are fabulous this year.  The foliage is starting to look a bit yellower now, but the plants are still loaded with peppers. I'll be getting a few more good harvests in the coming weeks. I don't see any new flowers though, so I may not get the November harvests that I've enjoyed in past years.

Looking back from the other end of the garden you can see how the zucchini is nearly gone, the melon vines are on the way out, the beans on the trellis next to the corn are also looking shabby, and the trellis next to the beans that had had cucumbers has been removed. The trellis above the melons is now somewhat covered with struggling snap bean vines and in the right foreground of the end of month photo the kale (wilting in the heat) has grown at least a foot.

I'm amazed that the Romanesco zucchini is still producing anything, all the stems have spots that look like this...

That's one resilient variety of zucchini! It will be gone soon though.

Here's a look at one of the ears of Floriani Red flint corn at the beginning and end of the month that I've been keeping an eye on. I could cut it off the stalk now, the husk is dry enough, I'm just waiting for the stalk to dry a bit more.

These are the first ears that I harvested a couple of weeks ago. Floriani Red is an Italian heirloom that is grown for polenta. I can't wait to grind my first batch, imagine how good the polenta will be when made with freshly ground corn meal.

Floriani Red flint corn.
A couple of new plantings in this bed are various varieties of carrots and radishes. I'm already harvesting some of the radishes but the carrots have a long way to go and perhaps they'll never get to be large enough to harvest before bolting next spring - or before I have to pull them out to plant my onions.

And I hope to be able to harvest some fall snap and snow peas. With some luck and a mild winter these might produce a spring crop if not a fall one.

Here's another dramatic change, the Petaluma Gold Rush beans that were so lush and rampant at the beginning of the month have died back as the beans have matured and started to dry on the vines. It's been a good year for these beans, I've harvested 6.5 pounds of dried pods and 3/4 pound of shelly beans and there's probably a couple pounds of pods left drying (quickly) on the vines. I'm still in the process of cleaning them so it will be a while before they hit the tally. My timing with this planting was pretty good this year, I sowed the seeds into paper pots on June 17 and set them out about a week later. For future reference that means that I might be able to push the planting date forward a few weeks to early July and harvest dried beans from the vines in mid to late October.

The plants in front of the beans are Amazing Taste cauliflower which did fantastically well this spring, it will be interesting to see how the do as a fall/winter crop. Elsewhere in this bed I've got Romanesco broccoli growing, the big leafed plants on the left (wilting in the heat), there's another view of the Lacinato kale on the right, and behind the kale are the gangly Di Ciccio broccoli plants that have been putting out shoots since July and don't show signs of quitting yet. What you can't see is a couple of Tronchuda Beira Portuguese cabbage plants that are growing in the back of the bed behind the broccoli. I mentioned the beans on the trellis in the right of the photo. The plan was that these should have started to produce round about now as the summer planting of Musica and Golden Gate beans finished. The plan was good, the plants are just starting to produce now and the old beans are ready to hit the compost. But, what I didn't anticipate was that a good portion of the new planting is dying from some sort of disease, the plants start to wilt, the stems start to brown, and the plants are dead within days. The trellis has two varieties, Emerite Filet and Australian Butter. The filet beans seem to be especially susceptible and there's only a couple of plants hanging in there, the Australian Butter beans are faring better but I'm not sure for how long, they aren't looking great. Too bad, this combo did great for me last fall in another part of the garden.

Other changes in the garden include a tiny patch of Amaranth that may produce a harvest or two. I got these off to a late start and then didn't protect them adequately from the birds and a lot died from a bit too much sun just after I set them out. Next year...

The second planting of cucumbers is a success. I thought that the spring planted cucumbers were going to die a quick powdery mildew and spider mite induced death so I started a few new plants. Wow, are they loving the "summer" weather. These are Green Fingers Persian cucumbers, a tender thin skinned Middle Eastern type that can be harvested as babies or allowed to get larger. The plants are putting out numerous side shoots which are covered with self pollinating flowers. I think I'll be in for a glut of cucumbers soon.

I've been cleaning out the tunnel where I was growing cutting greens for most of the year. I think the chard will be much happier to be free of the cover, it was getting hit by powdery mildew (everything is being hit by powdery mildew this year) and I think the better air circulation will help. I hope that it will produce through the fall and winter when it will be a very welcome harvest. The other tunnel in this bed is nearly empty as well. I had to harvest all the butterhead lettuce that was in there because it was not happy in the heat. There were beets in there at the beginning of the month but those were all harvested a few weeks ago. The only things remaining are a struggling planting of gai lan (Chinese broccoli) which produce on good harvest and a very nice stand of Sweetie Baby romaine lettuce which is close to being ready for salad time.

The Romanesco zucchini is on the way out but the Tromba D'Albenga squash is still happy and I'm happy that it is still mostly confined to its trellis.  I have allowed it to grow into the space that was recently occupied by the butternut squash. (You can see that harvest on my most recent Harvest Monday post).

That's it for the tour.

Plans for the coming month:

-- get a patch of spinach going, I've got some paper pots sown with a couple of varieties which really need to be planted out but I just can't deal with the heat at the moment.
-- get some radicchio going. I've got a few paper pots started, I don't know if it's too late or not, but I've got plenty of space available in the garden right now so it's worth a try.
-- Sow another succession of lettuce.
-- Sow another succession of radishes.
-- Sow some baby turnips.
-- Sow another succession of arugula.
-- Plant garlic, which means I have to clean out the Romanesco zucchini and the Musica and Golden Gate beans.
-- Try sowing some parsnip, it's really pushing the limits but with luck it might work.
-- Perhaps start some fava beans.  If the tomatoes are well and truly done by the end of the month I may be able to sow the fava beans early.
-- Order seeds for varieties that I need to start in the fall, including favas and perhaps onions and shallots.
-- Start planning the 2015 garden so I can figure out seed orders.
-- Continue refining my planting plans, what successions to use in the beds next year.
-- Work on the compost, one bin needs to be sifted, a couple of others need to be consolidated.

The Garden Share Collective is a group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills. Creating a monthly community to navigate through any garden troubles and to rival in the success of a good harvest we will nurture any beginner gardener to flourish. Each month we set ourselves a few tasks to complete by the next month, this gives us a little push to getting closer to picking and harvesting. The long-term goal of the Garden Share Collective is to get more and more people gardening and growing clean food organically and sustainably.

The Collective is hosted by Lizzie on her blog Strayed from the Table, there you will find links to gardeners in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Europe, and United States. There's lots of garden inspiration waiting for you there!


  1. I'm looking forward to the gardening break that winter gives, but then I see what is going on in your garden and I'm jealous of all the fresh produce you will be harvesting while my garden is under a blanket of snow. I always thought that indeterminate tomatoes continued to grow & produce until they were hit by frost - or maybe that's just how it is in short season areas.

  2. I drool over that corn every time I see it. It is just so pretty. It ought to make very beautiful polenta.

  3. To use the American term in its true sense, that post is "Awesome"! A really comprehensive coverage of a great set of crops, giving such a full insight into the workings of your garden. I like the number of times the word "succession" appear in your post, because it indicates your forethought and planning for the future. It's something I've been working hard on myself!

  4. I like this summary. It's very illuminating.

    Yes, peppers have been fabulous this year producing since June. My favorite is Nu Mex 6-4, a Hatch-type chile. I have them for breakfast with eggs as often as possible. If you saute them softly the skins become tender and the flesh plump. Yum-yum.

    Oh, the poor tomatoes. They got almost ready to pick and then the leaves turned all brown and the plants died even while the fruit was maturing. The eggplants are stunted. All the squashes succumbed to the cucurbit form of downy mildew.

    The early planting of cucumbers, Soo Yoo and Tsuyataro, was very productive, the middle plantings of Armenian and Green Fingers died and the third and present planting of Baby Persian seems to be doing well.

    Two plantings of chard, different varieties, failed. But Freckles lettuce produced quality leaves right through our first 95 degree heat spell in April.

    Asian pears too many to pick as usual; the off-year for persimmons, just a few, just the right number; an off year for all other deciduous fruit trees as well except Fuji apple, did not break dormancy; grape vines good crop, the animals loved them!


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