Summer Vegetable Garden

Real summer is here, and it is here with a vengeance. The heat wave that has scorched much of the U.S. has us firmly in its grip as well. But the garden is producing pretty well despite the heat and sweltering humidity. I am glad I gave everything in the main vegetable garden a good mulching. That has helped conserve moisture, keep the soil cooler, and keep down weeds. We have had record rainfall this year, including almost 7 inches of rain in July alone, but our last rain was 9 days ago. Our silty soil dries out fast, but the mulch helps considerably. Here’s a peek at what’s growing here in July, in no particular order.

Pingtung Long eggplant almost ready to harvest (click on any image to enlarge)

We are growing quite a few different eggplant varieties this year, many of them for the first time. Pingtung Long is an old favorite, with long light purple eggplants that have a white mild flesh. The Apple Green variety is new to us, and I’ve got it growing in a container. It has lovely little apple sized, mild tasting fruits. And I’ve got Fairy Tale growing in the ground and in containers. It’s already given us lots of those little purple and white striped goodies that we love grilled. This year we are also going to try dehydrating some of our eggplant.

Apple Green eggplant

The pole beans are finally producing, and we got our first harvest this week. The wet spring made for a late planting, but they’re coming on strong now. Helda and Marengo, both flat podded varieties, were the first to set on. Blue Lake and Fortex won’t be far behind. I like the pole beans because they give us an extended harvest season, plus they make great use of vertical space. In an intensely planted garden like ours, going vertical makes sense wherever possible.

Helda pole bean

Chinese yardlong beans are appearing at HA for the first time. I’ve grown them in the past, but it was many years ago. I’m growing a red podded type called Red Noodle (recommended by Christina at A Thinking Stomach), and a green podded variety called Akasanjaku. We should get our first taste of Red Noodle very soon. It will be interesting to incorporate them into our cooking. Botanically, they are closely related to black-eyed peas, so the flavor is different from green beans. They are good stir fried as well as lightly boiled or steamed.

Red Noodle yardlong beans

Winter squash are growing strong and setting on lots of squashes. All the moisture seems to have suited them. We have some large Gold Nuggets setting on now, along with Delicata, Acorn and Butternut types. I am also growing the striped Oriental Fairy variety for the first time.

Gold Nugget winter squash

Out of six summer squashes planted, only three are still alive. We lost one zucchini to a wind storm that snapped the vine, and two of the yellow squashes (Superpik and Enterprise) have succumbed to bacterial wilt. It’s been a terrible year at HA for striped cucumber beetles, which are a vector for the bacterial wilt disease. Squash vine borers also cause sudden wilting of a squash plant, but there was no evidence of them in the stems of the two plants. Still, we have harvested over 75 pounds of summer squash this year, so losing half the plants isn’t exactly the end of the world. And we still have the vining Tromboncino and Tatume squashes, which are used like summer squashes. So please, no one needs to start dropping off squash on our doorstep!

bacterial wilt got this squash vine

Also in the ‘uh-oh’ category, it seems I got the two rows of caged tomatoes a little too close this year. The lush growth and close planting has left me crawling on the ground between the cages to get to some of the tomatoes. Next year I will either split the rows apart and plant something else in between, or else give them a more generous spacing. It isn’t affecting the growth of the tomatoes any, only the comfort level of the harvester!

the jungle of tomatoes

We are still in the middle of blackberry season here. I often sing the praises of the Apache variety, but our Triple Crown plants aren’t too shabby themselves. The berries aren’t quite as big, but they are tasty and plentiful. We’ve harvested about 6 gallons of all varieties so far, with more to come. Last year the last harvest was on July 31. We’ve been eating them fresh and freezing the rest for use all year long. My wife has been busy lately making Blackberry Fruit Leather. We also enjoy making Blackberry Syrup with some of our berries.

Triple Crown blackberries

And even though we’re sweltering in the heat of summer, it’s time to start planting a few things for the fall garden. I planted one bed last week with some greens, including some Red Belgian Endive I got from a seed swap with Mr H. over at Subsistence Pattern. Also in the bed is some Fun Jen, and a miniature Chinese Cabbage called Soloist.

bed with endive, Fun Jen and Chinese Cabbage

I’ve never grown Belgian Endive before. We will be able to harvest the leaves this year, but what we’re really trying to grow is some big and healthy roots. We will dig those up before winter, cut off the tops, then pot the roots up and take them somewhere like the basement where it’s cool. Then we can force new growth in the form of the fancy chicons that are prized by chefs and foodies alike. I found an article here that describes the whole procedure pretty well. The young plants are really pretty, with the green leaves streaked with red. I am pretty excited about growing this one. I am happy that Mike was willing to share some seeds with me.

closeup view of a young Red Belgian endive plant

Not everything we grow is edible. I’ve got some luffa gourds growing up in some remesh cages, and the little hedgehog gourd growing next to it. The Hedgehog is already setting on some of the little prickly gourds. Both have uses in soap making and crafts.


tiny young hedgehog gourd

I’ll end this update with a few more photos from the garden and harvests. The captions should speak for themselves. I hope you enjoyed the tour!

salad box planted with pac choy and other Asian greens

heirloom White Wonder cucumber

Dasher II cucumber

Hedgehog gourd vine

harvest bucket with pole beans and squash

Cherokee Purple and Jetsetter tomatoes

rainbow of eggplants

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12 Responses to Summer Vegetable Garden

  1. Daphne says:

    I wish I were growing more than one type of eggplant this year. I love the look of the long Asian eggplants and all I have is an Italian type. Everything is so beautiful. And I love how you use your shredded paper for mulch.

    • Villager says:

      The shredded paper really comes in handy. We shred junk mail as well as documents, newspaper and such. It’s free and organic!

  2. Robin says:

    Your garden is doing very well despite this weather! I’m amazed at how much rain you have had this month. We have had only a drop or two.

    I’m just getting my fall plantings started. There is no way they can go into the ground for some time though.

    Keep up the good work and stay cool!!

  3. 75 pounds of squash! Whoa! That is pretty amazing. Even with having lost 3 of the plants you’re still hauling it in!

    I’m very excited to hear more about the Belgian endive and how that works out for you. I’ve never grown it either and I’m intrigued…we love endive!

    Those Cherokee and JetSetter tomatoes look fantastic! I’ll take a plate, please, with some of my grandma’s corn fritters stacked along side. 🙂

  4. Mike says:

    Look at that garden, packed full of wonderful veggies….and the eggplants, boy do I have my fingers crossed that we get some this year. For the last few years we have grown the Apple Green variety and while it does not produce as well for us as the long purple types do it is one of our favorites. You will have to try growing Thai Long Green sometime as well if you have not already…it is one of the most tender (skin) types we have grown and they can get quite large.

    Your garden appears to be flourishing…very nice.:)

    • Villager says:

      We are trying the Thai Long Green here this year, still waiting for them to set on. I sure hope you get eggplants too! I know how much we enjoy them. Our container grown plants are always the first to yield fruit. I’ve got five containers with eggplant this year, two with peppers and two with tomatoes.

  5. While you’re melting, we’re freezing! It was so cold and foggy this morning that it’s practically raining! Your garden looks very happy for the heat though. I hope your Belgian Endive does well for you next season. I love it, especially grilled, but I actually haven’t grown it. Your bacterial wilt on your squash vine sent shudders down my spine, the plant looks a lot like ours do the day after the voles sever the stems from the roots! I think I’d rather have wilt… 😉

  6. Mike R says:

    It sounds like cucurbits getting bacterial wilt is a real problem this year. I’ve lost a cucumber plant and an acorn squash plant to the wilt so far. It looks like the summer squash escaped the vine borer only to succumb to the wilt now. Only the butternut is doing OK, knock on wood. I’ve got a healthy looking Fairytale that is thick with little eggplants. This is the third attempt after two years of losing this variety. Can’t wait to try it on the grill.

  7. Nice looking harvests and winter squashes! Is that shredded paper that you’re using for mulch?

    We feel your pain with the cucumber beetles. They’re been out of control for us this year as well and I’m certain they were the main reason most of our summer squash plants succumbed early this year.

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