This is a critical time of the year in the garden. Summer crops are growing fast, developing the root systems, vascular structure and foliage that enables them to capture sunlight and turn that energy into things that we can eat. It's inevitable that microbes and insects will attack the plants, although that isn't much of a problem yet. Plants that have established themselves well, and are healthy, are better able to fend off disease pressure with their own chemical response, or by simply outgrowing the damage caused by the pathogen.
Getting the plants off to a good start this year means regular watering. After the sustained rains of late May, this area has gone through nearly two weeks of dry, nearly cloudless weather, and the last few days have been hot, drying the soil even more. Last week I began watering every second morning, using an electric pump to pull water from the pond. Everything, including the flower beds and dry areas of the lawn, gets a soaking. Some plants are looking great and others, not so great, but I'm hoping that by the end of the month that most everything will be growing well. There will always be some failures, that's a given, but I'll make my best effort to give the plants a chance at success. So here's the early summer tour:
The brassica bed is nearly finished. There's some cabbages and broccoli yet to be picked. This bed got 3 successive sets of seedlings, spaced 2 weeks apart. It's funny how they all end up maturing in the space of a few weeks. In a few days I'll plant another summer squash at one end of the bed, as a backup to the first plant, just in case it is felled by the borer. I may plant a few rows of bush beans, too, since the pole beans always seem to have a production lag in late summer.
Speaking of summer squash, this one, the only squash in the garden, finally started to grow, and by that I mean squash growth, doubling in size every few days. The Millionaire okra plants in the foreground are showing some growth now but are still behind the pace. As seedlings the leaves were yellow, which may be the cursed potting mix again. Okra has always grown like a weed in these beds, but these okra just seemed to sit there. It got to the point where I planted okra seeds between each plant, just in case these would not grow. Some plants will never do well if they do not get a good start.
Then there's cucumbers, in this case Vertina pickling cucumbers, a new one for me. The 4 plants look very vigourous, but I don't know if they can support as many cukes as their flowers will make. Until a week ago I was picking off all the flowers to get the plants established. Now they are covered in flowers and small cukes. I expect the first picklers in a little over a week.
While the pickllng cucumbers are doing great, the lone Diva slicer hasn't fared as well. None of the seeds planted indoors germinated. Then I direct seeded a plant outdoors. It was doing well, although behind it's Vertina neighbors, until a windy day last week broke it's stem. I seeded more in it's place but so far nothing. I only need one plant for slicing but less than one is unacceptable.
The Pontiac onions in the same bed got off to a rocky start after transplanting but have hit their stride. They look like they will size up nicely. I let dill grow in the spaces where the seedlings did not survive. I always worry about not having enough dill to make pickles.
This bed got a hodgepodge of plants. It got the last set of cole crops. For some reason they are doing better in this bed than in the main brassica bed. The broccoli and cauliflower are ready to harvest. At the other end are 2 rows of Provider bush beans, to give me beans until the pole beans produce, and in the center some Javelin parsnips.
Then there's the main course, the top of the billing so to speak. I'm speaking about tomatoes and peppers of course. The last 2 years the tomatoes have been decimated by early blight, septoria leaf spot, or something else. It always started at the bottom and worked its way to the top of the plant.
So far the tomato plants are looking fantastic, growing fast with no sign of any disease. I've sprayed them twice with Mancozeb fungicide, and I'm growing them differently this year, using 5 foot tall cages made from remesh. The cages are a smaller diameter, only 19 inches, than the old 2 foot diameter cages, and get one plant per cage. With taller thinner cages the plants should get more airflow around the foliage. The hot dry weather may be a benefit for the tomatoes. When I water them I try to avoid wetting the foliage.
From left to right are 2 Mountain Magic plants, supposed to be blight resistant. In the center, and the tallest plant for now, a Black Plum, then a Better Boy, and a Pink Girl. I've already suckered them several times. I want plenty of air space around the lower part of the plant. I expect they will be to the top of their cages in July.
The other (north) side of the bed has peppers, and they are also doing fantastic (knock on wood). There is an eggplant at each end. I planted the peppers much closer this year. Remarkably, the eggplants were initially hit by flea beetles but they seem to have gone away.
This is a shot of the big bed. In the foreground are 3 cages of determinate sauce tomatoes (the old, 2 foot cages). On the trellis, the Musica beans are way ahead of the Fortex beans, and are already to the top of the trellis. In the center of the bed is a patch of sweet corn, with winter squash growing at various points around the bed.
This is my first time growing determinate tomatoes. I've read that you don't need to sucker them, but I've found it necessary to do some careful removal of suckers. The plants just get too full at the base otherwise. There are 2 plants in each cage, 2 cages of Plum Regal, a blight resistant hybrid, and a cage of Roma VF. Determinate tomatoes are supposed to produce most of their crop over a period of a few weeks, which is great for canning. I'm hoping for lots and lots of paste tomatoes this year.
I planted an eggplant between 2 of the cages. Seeing how vigorous the plants are now, I'm not sure that was such a good idea, but there's no way I'm taking it out now.
Happy gardening, all!