Vegetable garden in July

Vegetable garden in July.

Vegetable garden in early July
Vegetable garden in early July

The vegetables are growing by leaps and bounds. Some harvesting is going on. Spring lettuce is tasty. Bunching onions have been harvested and are keeping well in the fridge ready for both salads and sautéing. The first carrots have been harvested and eaten in salads and risotto primavera. Spring spinach was a disappointment. It didn’t germinate well, and then quickly bolted. Kale under a bed cover is doing well. The first batch of chard was tasty. Several plantings of radishes have spiced up salads. Arugula and cilantro are also welcome additions to the salads.

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I just now picked the first batch of little peppers, as seen above. Frying pepper, bell pepper, 2 jalapenos, and 2 yellow Havasus. Pole beans are blooming and should produce soon. Tomatoes are also blooming, but the first red ripe tomato may still be a week or 2 away. Cucumbers and summer squash are growing like crazy. The vegetable garden is looking a little jungle-like. It must be July.

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Vegetable garden in late July

Later. How quickly a month goes by. Above is a photo of the vegetable garden on July 28. The tomato plants and the pole beans are even more jungle-like. The cucumbers want to invade the beds next door to them. The squash plants are encroaching on the kale bed. The new strawberry beds are so crowded they aren’t producing. It’s a jungle.

We’re in the midst of a heat wave and need rain badly. Got the quarterly water bill this week. It’s the highest I’ve ever known it to be. Oh well. Have to remember all the intangibles of gardening. Peace of mind. Good health. Priceless.

So. A summing up of the vegetable garden in July. First, the harvests.

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The garlic was harvested, producing my best garlic crop in 20 years. I’m not just boasting. Well, maybe a little. 65 of the largest garlic heads ever. They are still in the drying process, but soon the stalks will be cut shorter, and the heads will be put into paper bags, labeled, and stored in the coolest, darkest corner of the basement for the winter. They are beautiful, are they not. I wrote some more specific posts about the garlic harvest. Please see Garlic harvest and Garlic harvest wrap-up for garlic particulars.

The leeks were likewise harvested. Please see the post Leek harvest for details. These leeks are a King Richard variety, which were bought as plants from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. They have a summer harvest window. 3 of the leek plants bloomed, and 3 leeks that were harvested had a hard stalk in the middle, which relegated them to the compost pile. Hmm. The rest were white and lovely. Quite long, as leeks should be. Some were even fat. They were cleaned, prepped, and frozen in Mason jars. Ready for winter stews. I’m rich in leeks. Although next year I would like to plant varieties of leeks with fall and early winter harvest windows, as well as the summer ones. Remember if you freeze glass jars to leave the lids loose.

Although the snap peas did not germinate well, the few plants that grew produced nicely. Good for garden snacking. Some were added raw to garden salads. Very yummy. The pea plants are dried up now and gone to the compost pile.

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The Fortex green pole beans are producing abundantly. Something is eating the leaves, but that doesn’t seem to slow down bean production. We could eat beans every day if we were so inclined.

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I made a jar of dilly beans. The dill heads in the vegetable garden are delicious as well as beautiful. I tried dehydrating some green beans in my new dehydrator. More about the dehydrator in other posts. Mostly I just snap the beans into the right lengths outside at my work table, bring them into the kitchen for a quick rinse, boil them for 12 minutes or less, drain, add a touch of butter, and enjoy. I love beans.

The peppers are booming. Sweet peppers. Hot peppers. See the post Peppers in July for all the particulars.

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Last year, the Havasu harvest was a bust. This year. Look at them in photo above. Beautiful yellow peppers.

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Lots of jalapenos already, as seen above. With a good promise of continued production. Jalapenos are the main reason I decided to invest in the dehydrator. Just think of the treasure laid up in dried jalapenos for the winter.

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The Intruder bells may be my pick of the bells for next year. The one above got itself wedged in between stalks and metal cages, but its lovely shape, more pointed at bottom than the traditional bells, is evident. I’m still doing taste tests, since taste should be the determining factor for choosing between varieties. But I’m leaning toward the Intruder bells.

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Even the little habanero pepper plant is showing some promise, as can be seen above. At least it looks healthy now. July heat is good for peppers.

The Yankee bell pepper plant, the cayenne plants, and the ancho/poblano plants are still iffy. We’ll see what they do in August.

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The first ripe Matt’s wild cherry tomatoes were picked today. Red letter day for tomatoes. I wish I had a photo of them, but they got eaten so fast there was no time to grab a camera. They are so sweet that they are convincing evidence of tomatoes being a fruit not a vegetable. Some green Matt’s wild cherry tomatoes can be seen in the photo above with their distinctive pattern of 6 little tomatoes with 3 on each side.

2 Celebrity tomato plants are thriving with the promise of red ripe slicers just the right size for sandwiches. I thought earlier in the season that the determinant Celebrity tomato plants would not need supports. Wrong. The poor plants were falling over and threatening to pull their roots out. I quickly came to their rescue with tomato cages. Remember that for next year.

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The only New Girl indeterminate tomato plant is showing its stuff, as can be seen in the photo above. Does a small garden need two slicer tomatoes. Should I choose between Celebrity and New Girl. Again, taste tests are in order. Both are F1 hybrids. By what other means, other than taste, should I choose between them.

On to the plum tomatoes. Speckled Roman and Amish Paste. What is it about these names that makes me love them both. Both are heirloom. So that means they are indeterminate and not hybrid. Which plants are healthier. Which produce more fruit. Which taste better. Which cook up into the thickest sauce. Now we’re getting to the crux of the matter. As they say. I’m happy to be posting about tomatoes. Doing so focuses my attention on the attributes of plum tomatoes.

A gardener friend out west prides himself on red ripe tomatoes by the Fourth of July. Here it is almost August and I have 6 little Matt’s wild cherry tomatoes to brag about, in terms of ripeness. What can I do next year to get red ripe tomatoes by, say, July 15. Now that’s a goal to consider.

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Back to this year’s July garden. Spring lettuce has come and gone, but I’m pleased to say that there has been a continuous garden salad in the fridge for several weeks now. Above is a photo of the new Helvius lettuce. It is growing in the shade of the pole beans and is looking good. The earlier crops of Crispino, Bambi, and Concept, at least that’s what I think they were, have either bolted or grown such long stalks as to become unwieldy. Still, I’m happy with the cut-and-come-again technique of harvesting lettuce. I think it prolongs the lettuce harvest.

Lettuce, arugula, radishes, snap peas, peppers both sweet and hot, cucumbers, and onions make up the daily garden salad in the fridge. We recently discovered Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena in a cute little jar that is excellent. So, fresh stuff as mentioned above with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, maybe a little meat or cheese on the side. That’s summer eating at its best.

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Speaking of arugula, look at the photo above of arugula blooming and being very untidy. This is Sylvetta, wild arugula, or wild rocket, and Wasabi, an excellent hot arugula. I already know I want both of these arugula varieties back this year and next year and the next. These arugula plants are ready to be pulled out, but I haven’t as yet planted their replacements, and I still find tasty leaves to harvest for the daily garden salads. How long can this keep going on.

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What’s left. Cucumbers. The vines are taking over their corner of the vegetable garden. I’ve harvested several cucumbers. It’s frustrating how they hide out in the vines until they become a little larger than I like them to be. But, they are good even when a little large when cold and crisp in the garden salad.

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Onions. Last year twice as many onions were planted but many were quite small.

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This year I opted to plant fewer with the hope they would grow bigger and still last through the winter.

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As can be seen in these photos, the onions are close to harvest. The good thing about onions is that they last in the ground and are much more forgiving in that respect than garlic or leeks. I’ll write a post on the onion harvest when it happens. Hope there are enough onions to last through the winter.

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Summer squash. Outside of red ripe tomatoes, nothing says summer to me like lovely yellow summer squash. I like the yellow ones so much better than the green zucchini that I didn’t even plant zucchini this season. Watch out. Yellow squash can grown too large about as fast as cucumbers do. Pick them small, and more will follow quickly.

Serving Up the Harvest, a recipe book by Andrea Chesman, has a great summer squash and chicken dish that calls for marinating chicken breasts in lime juice and chipotle chile en adobo before sautéing first the chicken, then the squash. Peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and cilantro are other vegetables and herbs called for in the recipe in addition to the summer squash. I say use any and all that are available from the garden. Delicious.

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Eggplants. Do I need to grow eggplants. Trader Joe’s has good eggplants in season. Still, these garden eggplants, seen above, look promising. I will keep an open mind about planting them in future. And study some good recipes to make the most of the ones that may surprise me this summer.

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Fennel. Seen above. Total experiment. Can’t even remember why.

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Every day, something is ready for harvesting in the vegetable garden. Here is today’s bounty. Lettuce. Green beans. Summer squash. Sweet peppers. Havasu peppers. Radishes. Red onions. Yellow onions.

My major concerns for the vegetable garden going forward are, first, preserving as well as enjoying the harvest. Freezing vegetables. Learning to use my new dehydrator to preserve the harvest. Finding recipes to match the harvest, as well as experimenting on my own.

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My other concern is to replant the bare raised beds, like those in the photo above, in order to enjoy a fall harvest, maybe even an early winter harvest. Right now, at the end of July, many of the raised beds are bare. Garlic, leeks, peas, and soon onions, have been harvested and space is left for replanting a fall crop. The ground will need to be replenished with compost and worked with the broadfork. Bed covers probably should be used as protection from the sun and heat. In other years, I was tired of the vegetable garden by now. This year, thanks to more leisure time and also to this blog, I’m rather excited about a fall and maybe even a winter garden. I also like to sit in the shade and read novels, so who knows.

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