Friday, August 5, 2016

Early August Garden Tour

I know a lot of Northern Hemisphere veggie gardeners are in the middle of their summer season, but on the cool coast of Central California things are just starting to heat up, at least in terms of the garden, the fire season is blazing away.

Here's a couple of shots of the garden from the hillside above.

Beds #1 and #4
Beds #2 and #3
Bed #1 is where all the curcurbits are growing this summer. There's the old faithful hybrid Romanesco zucchini greeting you at the entrance to the garden. Behind it (to the left in the photo) is the trellis where the cucumbers and mouse melons are climbing. I removed the Gagon plants last week and put some Tasty Treat Japanese cucumbers in their place and wouldn't you know it but the Green Fingers cucumbers have stopped blooming. It looks like I'll have a gap in the cucumber harvests for a few weeks. The mouse melons are still happy though so they will have to do.

Romanesco zucchini
Whoops, I forgot to harvest the Romanesco zucchini again!

Discus Buttercup Squash
By far the happiest winter squash in the garden right now are the bush Discus Buttercup squash. They are in full bloom, although nothing has set so far. They are growing to be about 3 feet wide, just as described.

The Candystick Dessert Delicata and Honey Nut Butternut squash plants are starting to climb their trellis (with a lot of help). The cloches in front are keeping some melon seedlings warm and protected from critters.

Here's another look at the cucumber trellis with the mouse melon vines both climbing and scrambling around. It's difficult to direct their growth so I pretty much let them do what they will.

The Tromba d'Albenga vines are slow to get going this summer. The weather has been more cool than warm and we've had too many dark days from the smoky skies. You can see that today is blissfully almost clear and the air is breathable.

Likewise the Vine Peach and Kiwano Horned Melon plants are slow to get going also, they aren't even large enough to start directing up the trellis yet .

The basil is totally out of control and blooming like crazy. I've started some new seeds so I can some fall harvests of basil. In the meantime the bees and good bugs are having a feast. The light green bushy thing to the right of the basil is a volunteer Dorato d'Asti celery plant growing from a piece of root that I left in the soil after I pulled the overwintered plants. It's actually producing some decent stalks.

Over to Bed #4 across the main path.

Two Dazzling Blue kale plants are keeping vigil at the end of the bed. One of them is mostly green and the other has blue ribs (more purple really) and a bluish cast to the leaves. One thing that I've noticed is that the green plant is much more susceptible to powdery mildew. 

To the right of the kale are the winter sown broccolis. I almost pulled them out a few weeks ago when I was losing the bunnie/rat battles and the plants were shrinking rather than growing. After I enclosed them in protective fabric and netting they started to grow again and one of the plants is producing some really nice substantial side shoots. 

Down along the interior side of the bed beyond the kales is where the Brussels Sprouts and Calabrese broccoli seedlings are growing. I'll keep them covered up until they get to be large enough to withstand Damn Rabbits and Damn Rats. I started the Brussels sprouts a month earlier than last year in hopes of a Thanksgiving harvest. I thought I had timed them for Thanksgiving last year but my records show that my first harvest was on January 7 of this year.

I'm not sure what I would be able to harvest if I didn't make extensive use of tunnels and fabric. This tunnel is protecting my lettuce and will soon be home to more fall sowings and seedlings. I added some lightweight Agribon fabric to the end of the tunnel where the lettuces are growing, I think a bit of shade helps to keep them from bolting right away and perhaps helps to keep them more tender and sweet.
Manoa Cripshead Lettuce

Little Rosebud Romaine Mix Lettuces

The DRats discovered the summer broccoli, fortunately after I harvested the 2 main heads that have formed so far, so I had to enclose these plants in fabric and netting also. The protection also works against cabbage butterflies, but that really isn't a big problem here. A bigger problem is aphids which can find their way through any fabric or netting and when they get established they are extremely difficult to get rid of. I usually uncover the plants while I'm out in the garden so that the beneficial bugs that come to visit the carrot, cilantro, and fennel blossoms that are blooming away in the garden might find their way to the broccoli and lay their eggs in/on/near any aphids.

Another of the Pink Plume celery plants that are growing in a corner of this bed is starting to bolt. 

Bed #2 is next. This is full of tomatoes and peppers.

I tried to line up the pepper plants with the tallest at this end and in the middle of the bed and have them get progressively shorter toward the other (southern) end of the bed. That's one thing that most seed catalogs don't mention, how big the plants get to be so I had to do some guessing about the new varieties.

I did pretty well with the exception of Petite Marseillaise which is popping up over its neighbors on either side. Petite Marseillaise produces somewhat petite peppers compared to a standard bell, although they are turning out to be larger than I anticipated, but the plants aren't turning out to be quite so petite either.

I'm managing to keep the tomato plants fairly under control. I've been trying to keep the vines growing on one side of the trellis so that they don't grow out over the pepper plants. I tie them up to this side of the trellis and do a fair amount of pruning and I thin out a lot of leaves, especially if they start looking unhealthy. You can see that I still have a bit of training to do there...

There's plenty of tomatoes on most of the plants, here's a look at some of the best.

Lime Green Salad
Sweet Gold Cherry
Piccolo Dattero Cherry
Camp Joy Cherry
Chianti Rose
Jaune Flamme

There's a volunteer Red Fennel plant (actually probably a cross between red and green) growing in the path at the end of the bed that I'm allowing to bloom away. The bees and all sorts of little beneficial wasps just love it! Funny thing though is that the Anise Swallowtails haven't touched it, they seemed to prefer a scrawny green fennel plant nearby which they almost completely defoliated and ate nearly all the flowers and seeds. That's ok, the red fennel has the sweetest and most aromatic seeds and I think I'm going to be able to collect a lot of them. I harvest fennel seeds the same way I do coriander seeds - before they actually dry on the plant. They retain a lot more flavor and aroma when you harvest them fully ripe but still green and then allow them to dry.

Bed #3 is up next. This is where I'm growing mostly legumes and corn this summer. I had favas in this bed until the end of May and one corner was home to the spring shelling peas. Much of the rest of the bed was home to volunteer Monticello poppies that I allowed to grow until I could plant out some bush beans.

Here in the far corner the Blue Speckled Tepary bean plants are starting to ramble around. No sign of flowers yet but there's still plenty of time. Beyond them and off to the left is where the bush snap beans and some Black Coco bush beans have been growing. The corn plants are getting taller seemingly by the day. The shorter plants in front are Hopi Chinmark and the ones beyond are Puhwem, both flour corns. I don't grow sweet corn because I can buy great fresh sweet corn at the farmer's market but no one sells any sort of dry flour corn.

Next to the Blue Speckled Tepary beans is one trellis supporting Greek Gigante beans, a runner bean that produces huge dry white beans. The vines are in full bloom and it looks like a lot of beans are setting. I guess they have been liking our cooler than normal "summer" weather.

The Greek Gigante vines are rampant growers and have already topped the trellis and are looking for something else to grab hold of.

There's another look at the Puhwem corn and next to it the Hopi White Tepary beans are starting to climb their trellis.

Here's a better look at the bush snap beans and beyond them the Black Coco bean plants. The bush beans are finished producing. I'm just waiting for some peas that I recently sowed into paper pots to be ready to plant out before I cut the bush snap beans.

Black Coco Beans

The Black Coco bean pods are starting to dry on the plants.

There's one exception to the legume and corn lineup in this bed, this is where I slipped in a couple of Zuni tomatillo plants. They've been growing by leaps and bounds, they've only been the garden a few weeks.

So, this is what I had to do to keep the rats from eating the eggplant plants. Who would have thought that eggplant leaves and flowers could be so tasty to a rat?

Sicilian Eggplant

They didn't destroy all the early flowers though!

IPK P 852 (Italy) Pepper Plants
I took the same precautions when I planted a couple of pepper plants in a fabric pot. These are the ones I inadvertently left out of the pepper bed. It turns out that the rats found the seedlings before I could get them into the garden, all the lower leaves and shoots had already been gnawed away. I'm hoping to get just a few peppers to see what they are like. If I have to I can move the pot to a protected spot when cold wet (hopefully wet) weather sets in.

This is one more experiment. I started some sweet potato slips from a sweet potato that I bought at the farmer's market last fall and that sprouted in the cupboard. I don't think they are very happy, it probably just hasn't been warm enough for them.

The weather is actually supposed to cool off even more this weekend. I'm not really complaining though, the cooler temperatures and higher humidity will help with the ongoing battle to control the Soberanes Fire. Now 35% contained but the number of scorched acres is over close to 54,000. The good news for me is that the contained area is the area closest to where I live. Oh, and I really hate to say it, but the cause of the fire was an illegal campfire, just as I and many others supposed. Someone had hiked into an area of a park where no camping is allowed, lit a campfire, and then left without extinguishing it. I can't believe anyone can be so stupid and selfish.


  1. That is one happy zucchini plant and your peppers and tomato plants look amazing. At least the cool weather hasn't hurt them, and it seems to have helped your broccoli heads which are an astonishing sight.

    It sounds like they're making headway with the fire, it's awful to think someone had left that fire to burn.

  2. Such bounty! and it is so beautiful to look at, especially the clearer cleaner air.

  3. Your garden is so amazing. What a lot of variety. Looks like you must buy seeds fom Native Seed Search, one of my favorite companies. My little garden is producing tomatoes, green beans and avocados right now, but not a lot else. Better something than nothing.

  4. The thing that strikes me most about this tour is the amount of effort you have had to go to in order to protect your plants. This is a familiar tale for me too! Luckily I don't seem to have any rats. The local wildlife evidently sees your garden in the way that humans would see a well-stocked deli - far better than the average Walmart / Tesco, and full of nice things to eat!

  5. I need to do a better job of organizing my pepper plants by height. I have some short ones that are getting swamped by taller neighbors, but like you mention the catalogs don't always mention how tall the plants get. It is interesting to see how the Romanesco does in your garden. It tends to grow sideways in mine. It's also nice to see the Dazzling Blue kale. I just set out seedlings here. Thanks for a great tour!

  6. I love those high-up hillside shots - they really give a great perspective on your garden. And you are on the cusp of tomato season as am I - looks like we are in sync on that crop anyhow :) The side shoots on those broccoli plants do look wonderful! Wish you would send some of that cool weather our way - my broccoli is definitely not liking the heat & the side shoots are pitiful so far. And unbelievable about the campfire - I hope whoever did that feels pretty damn guilty about the devastation they have caused.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I value your insights and feedback.