Four of my five biggest cucumbers, as of this morning!
I'm trying really hard to not bore everyone with my garden. Believe me, I want to post a photo of every new vegetable and every little harvest, but I've been reining in my enthusiasm. However, it's been more than three weeks since my last garden post, and I'm just too excited to not share that we have cucumbers at last!
There's my fifth large cucumber, and a newly formed baby one above it.
I knew they wouldn't start to appear until late August or early September. While most all of our other crops in past years ripened during August, we never plucked a cucumber from the vine until September. I was more concerned that my rabbit-assaulted vines would be too damaged to bear fruit. They really do not look healthy and are even a bit stunted despite my Herculean efforts to save them from the beasts. And, due to being stunted, they haven't been climbing the trellis like they should be. Even so, they have been blooming wildly and there are many cucumbers developing, including five that will be ready for harvest in no time.
September 3rd: Tomatoes galore!
It cracks me up to remember that a month ago I was worried that all my green tomatoes would never ripen, due to my ongoing battle against the blight, which has cleared up since the daily heavy rains finally eased up a week or so ago. Now they are ripening at a rate of one or two per day, which is far more tomatoes than Mark and I can keep up with eating. I've been offering them to my kids (except Dylan, whose list of edible vegetables is short: french fries, mashed potatoes, and pizza sauce). Luckily, Chris, Sarah, and Jake like them.
Today, five days later, the basket is full again!
And today there are still five more ready to harvest, plus one almost there.
I've been using them in every way I can think of, and so far none have gone to waste. They are so much more delicious in different salads and on sandwiches and burgers than the store-bought variety. It will be hard to go back to the relatively flavorless tomatoes from the produce section when the fresh ones are used up over the next couple of months.
A favorite from my childhood: tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches.
Besides, our growing season will be cut short due to leaving for our vacation on Sept. 29. We usually start getting freezes in early- to mid-October, and everything must be harvested then, ready or not. But we'll be losing a week or two this year. Two days before we leave, I'll pull every green tomato off the bush and put them in brown paper bags (single layers). There, they will ripen nicely at varying rates, keeping us in garden tomatoes for a month or more. And we'll take the almost-ripe tomatoes on the road with us!
The green beans and tomatoes harvested two days ago, September 6th.
The green beans are still producing at an unbelievable rate. I can pull a full quart bag's worth of beans off the vine every three to four days. Thankfully, unlike tomatoes, the beans can be frozen whole to be cooked months later, still firm and plump and delicious.
I have five quarts of beans in the freezer now (Sept. 3rd bag not pictured).
We've already cooked and eaten three quarts from earlier in August.
The trickiest thing about plucking green beans is that they're so dang hard to see! If only they weren't the exact same color as the leaves and vines. For instance, I'll see a group ready to harvest on the other side where I can't reach, but when I move around to grab them, I often can't find them again! Or I'll just miss them one day, and by the time I see them a day or two later, they've grown too big. That's the thing about green beans. You can't just ignore them and leave them on the vine until you're ready. If they get too large, they're pretty much inedible. Tough and woody and yucky.
The pepper plant at center back has gone barren, although it's still alive.
The plant at left has only the one bell pepper on it.
I've given up hope for a large crop of bell peppers. The damage done by whatever insect was attacking them was too much for one of the plants, which never put out a single pepper. It has a few healthy leaves left, but everything else was snipped off. The plant that produced the sole bell pepper I've harvested thus far has again grown one single pepper, which is almost ready to be picked. There are a couple of blossoms left on the plant, but they don't appear to be in a hurry to transform themselves in peppers.
This is the only pepper plant doing well, with five healthy bell peppers.
The third plant, though, is hanging in there. In fact, it has five decent bell peppers growing on it right now, with a few others just starting to form. I'm going to call this effort a success...just not a HUGE success. Like the cucumbers, these plants seem slightly less than healthy, likely due to the early damage from dastardly intruders. Next year, I'll do better at protecting them in their early stages.
The strawberry plants have grown huge, and two are making berries again.
As for my strawberries, the new little plants from the runners have pretty much taken over that garden plot. (I also need to do some weeding.) Again, next year I'll be wiser, having learned that you need to limit each plant to three runners in order to keep them producing berries. Meanwhile, I have a bunch of young strawberry plants that I'm willing to share with anyone local who'd like to come get them! I hear they transplant well. Really. Not kidding.
Today's harvest. I've had seven or eight ripe berries so far this week.
Meanwhile, two of my strawberry plants have started putting out berries again, and the critters seem to be ignoring them this time. (Hear me knocking wood?) I'm glad I got to enjoy a few final, late-season strawberries. They are almost excruciatingly delicious! And I've learned this, as well: pick strawberries in the morning while they're still cool, and don't wash them until just before you eat them. That keeps them fresh about a day longer.
August 29, 2017: Gardening is glamorous...not!
The photo above isn't exactly flattering, but it's a great example of the toll taken on gardeners by the hardships of growing green things. It was supposed to be sunny all day on that Tuesday in late August, so I went out to water the garden toward evening. I was halfway done when I heard thunder rolling in the distance, dark clouds came scudding in, and I was trapped in a torrential rainstorm. Fighting insects and critters and weather and blight; having dirt under your nails and bugs crawling up your legs and mud splatters on your clothes...it isn't always pretty. The question is, is it worth it? Hmmm...