Monday, August 29, 2016

August Wrap Up: Garden Wonders

A first for my garden: the ornamental sweet potato vines are flowering

This has been quite an extraordinary growing season.  All the inevitabilities I'd planned for never happened.  We have had almost no bad bugs (there were so few they were holding singles mixers).  We have had no (zero, zilch, nada) powdery mildew.  We had very little late blight or other bacterial problems.  It has been hot and humid with little rain, sultry nights and wilting afternoons.  And the plants are loving it.  Because of this I am seeing things I wouldn't normally see in my garden.  The sweet potato vines are flowering lovely lavender flowers.  My first planting of zucchini still looks young and healthy and we have cantaloupes.  Big ones.

Not only are the vines flowering but they are rambling down the walks.
The Zucchini Jungle
A few years ago I learned to plant two zucchini seeds together.  That way one vine grows left and the other one heads right and they form an attractive, symmetrical mound instead of a one sided sprawl.  There are 6 seeds in this pile.  Two right in the center and then to the right, two more later plantings one in each corner.  I have not trimmed a single leaf out.

It was past time to renovate the strawberry bed.  It can be a lot of work, but I used the Stihl gas power trimmer with the scythe attachment.  So instead of spending 30 minutes with scissors.....

...I spent about 3 minutes with the trimmer.  After raking the leaves away I trimmed the runners by hand and began thinning.  Because of my Strawberry Problem I have learned that I do not want plants growing within a foot of the edge, and they need to be thinner in the middle.

My goal is two rows about a foot wide.  I will probably do more thinning but I was a bit thinned out.  The runners are by no means done for the year and they will send out runners again in the spring which will all need to be removed.  This is also the time to sprinkle a balanced fertilizer into the bed and mulch with compost if necessary.

Now about those cantaloupes.  Two years ago we had nice (although small) cantaloupes.  Last year I did not get a single melon as the cucumber beetles killed every single plant before the fruit could ripen.   I've reached the age and stage of gardening that when I realize I am fighting a losing battle, I pull out the plants and say "better luck next year".  There really is no point in nursing a plant along for just a few substandard fruit.  It is better to remove the food source / breeding environment for that pest and know that next year they will not be as plentiful.  If your crop is over run by the bad bugs, rip it out and burn it.  Just get it over with.

This year we've had good luck.  I've seen no more than half a dozen beetles.  The vines are healthy and productive and the melons are large.  These came from seeds I saved from cantaloupes we bought at a farmer's market last year.  And they're putting out big ol' melons.  I also planted the Burpee Sweet N' Early and they have been both early and sweet although again, single serving size.

No powdery mildew and no cucumber beetles means healthy cucumber plants.  I have pulled out four plants from nursery transplants that were yellowing and giving up (spring planted Marketmore tends to do that) but my second, third and fourth plantings are all producing.

How many times have I said I love these cucumber trellises?  You have to watch now and then and reposition some cukes or they could catch in the grid and grow funny shaped.  But having the vines up in a layer not only allows the cukes to hang straight and easy to pick, but the pollinators have access to the flowers from all angles.

The pepper and basil bed is doing well.
Plenty of Jalapenos but very few bell peppers.

The Tomato Jungle is healthy with just a few lower leaves needing to be removed.

How many cherry tomatoes can a single person eat in a day?  A quart?
Most days.  But not every day.  And because of no rain, almost none of them are splitting.
I have Sungold tomatoes coming out of my ears.
The fall lettuce babies are up.
Have you ever seen so much Vinca Vine?
Last year I bought four 4" pots of vinca vine for my combination pots.  I put them in the cold frame over the winter, and this spring I trimmed them back to nothing and re-potted them.  Now they look like a veil rambling all over the patio.

Remember the pile of frustration which used to be a functional wheelbarrow?  I buried it nose up in the landscape and planted one geranium and 4 Wave petunias in front of it.  It is hard to capture the light but the geraniums just glow against its rusty backdrop.

So those are the wonders of my garden this year,  That's one thing I like about gardening.  Every year you see something you didn't expect: sweet potato flowers, very big cantaloupes and huge veils of vinca.


  1. You're having a terrific year.
    It's my first year with Sungold tomatoes and yes-they are terrific. I'm almost dreading going by the plant now because how many can a person eat?????
    Never been a fan of hot weather, but it sure has been terrific in the garden.
    Loved your weed wacker/strawberry idea. I have a neighbor that runs over them with the lawnmower. Yikes!
    I imagine with 6 zucchini plants, the neighbors are hiding from you by now!

  2. I think we are all a little tired of zucchini. And cherry tomatoes. But they're here now.....

  3. Lovely, just so lovely! Your garden is an inspiration.

    I planted the Sungold tomato for the first time this year, too, and thought they would never produce or be ripe. But, now . . . someone come take a gallon or so, please!

    My zucchini plants stopped producing for about three weeks but now are putting out fruit again. I guess they just needed a rest. (I can relate.)