Happy Summer Solstice! It is officially summer at last. And it feels it! Hot-lanta is living up to its name this week. Finally starting to see some 90 degree weather and severe pop-up afternoon thunder showers…yuck. Seriously, no one needs that. And yet the garden is persevering anyhow. Most of the spring stuff is starting to meet its demise, but not before we get a taste of its deliciousness. And the summer plants are really growing with a fervor right now. Looking forward to seeing more of their goodness. Here’s what’s been happening:
The word of the day is monoecious. This means having separate male and female organs (in our case, flowers) on the same plant. As I’ve mentioned before some flowers have a visible fruit (or ovaries) behind the flower while others on the same plant are male and are just on a stem. On a monoecious plant, it take boy flowers and girl flowers to make food for your tummy. Just the birds and the bees people. In my garden, cucumbers, summer squash and zucchini, as well as the ones I talk about in this section below, are all monoecious. And that is your biology lesson of the day. Now to some pretty pictures.
- Butternut squash put up 2 female flowers and they were HUGE. No joke, they were 8 inches across. Talk about a lovely good morning surprise! I was blown away. Unfortunately, they were only female flowers so they won’t come to fruition. But that is okay cause the butterbush butternut is only suppose to make 5-6 fruits total. So more will come.
- Watermelon also bloomed, but so far only male flowers. They are teenie, roughly 1 inch across. I don’t even see a female flower yet.
- Corn finally got 1 female flower, but I fear it may be for not. With the afternoon showers we have had, I’m concerned there really isn’t pollen left on the male flowers. In truth, my corn is struggling…like a lot! The variety was supposidely capable of being grown in a pot, but it is looking really rough. I’m going to try more corn in my garden bed to see if this helps remove some operator error (Mommy loves you no matter where you grow little corn!). This picture is just the female flower or the silk of the corn cob. The male flower (which I showed in pic 5 of the flowering section in this post) is at the top of the plant, whereas the female flower is in a joint between the stalk and a leaf further down. Each of those little silks is connected to a single kernel of potential corn housed further down on the cob and will only grow into corn if the silk receives pollen. When you get an ear of corn with a few missing kernels on it, it might be because those silks didn’t get pollen.
Sugar snap peas are starting to slow down, but that was to be expected as they are a cool weather crop and Atlanta is anything but cool these days. Strawberries have almost entirely stopped. Mine were June-bearing so this makes sense. Carrots and radishes are getting bigger by the day. We actually have harvested 3 radishes that were close to tennis ball size. Squash and zucchini are sneaking a fruit every few days while cucumbers have a new fruit growing daily. I should mention that I’m seeing a distinct lack of bees in our area (can mosquito treatments for your yard harm bees cause I’ve seen a few people in our area doing that?). So I have been hand pollinating the cucumber, summer squash and zucchini (read monoecious veggies). Though, I will likely have to do this for the watermelon and butternut squash as well. I’ve documented one of my hand pollination methods below. And it seems to be helping because the cucumbers, squash and zucchini are all now making fruit instead of me watching them shrivel and fall off the plant. Good stuff! The green beans have tons of small beans growing. All 4 tomato plants have fruit now and the 2 heirloom tomatoes are getting so tall I’m about to run out of stake for them. Gotta make a cross bar or something ASAP to keep supporting them. I even have one Roma and one Amelia tomato that are starting to ripen on the vine. Yahoo, goodness is coming our way soon! Also, all 5 bell peppers also have multiple peppers growing on them. The lime tree has dropped its additional buds leaving behind at least 5 limes that are growing well so far.
Gardening always has set back, many of which are out of your control. I try not to look at them as failures, but lessons and me learning to work with Mother Nature as opposed to always fighting her.
- Blossom end rot. I’ve lost 3 tomatoes on my Roma to this and 3 on my Granny Cantrell. Quick Googling will tell you that blossom end rot is a calcium deficiency in your tomato. But I know that I buried quite a nice supply of powdered egg shell when I buried my roots (and 2/3 of the stem). So I did more reading and turns out that tomatoes can suffer from this if there is a watering shortage. The stress of the “drought” causes the plant to be unable to soak up the calcium present. I won’t claim to be perfect, but for once in my life, I’ve done a decent job watering. Personally, I think this plant was stressed as a seedling cause it some drama now as well. It was WAY taller that I would have like, but the lady selling them didn’t really let me get in and get a good look. She just handed me one and I passively accepted. So I’m going to add more calcium (powdered egg shell) and keep watering better and pray. Just about all I can do.
- Ants, ants and more ANTS!!!! They were swarming my cucumber the other day. But in truth I don’t see any damage anywhere. For the most part, they just appear to be getting nectar from the flowers, which makes hand pollinating a thrill. Really, I’m not a fan of bugs … like at all. But I try to remain calm when I’m in their world. So not really a big problem, they don’t bite and they currently aren’t hurting anything. Plus, if I buy ladybugs, maybe the ants will make a nice meal for them.
- Leaf-Footed Nymphs. I don’t know why but these ones give me the heebie-jeebies. Maybe because they cluster together and seem to move with some synchronization. They are killing my sugar snap peas. I’m trying to be cool about this because my intent was to plant some baby pumpkins where these peas have been growing so I need the peas to make way. I really don’t want to spray anything because we have so enjoyed just picking our peas off the vine and enjoying them with naught but a brief rinse and a de-stringing. Also, peas really are a cooler weather crop and with each passing day the pods are getting smaller and smaller. So I was going to let these buggers take a pass. As it turns out, these bugs might move on to my tomatoes if I don’t handle them. Le Sigh … if I do something about them, I’ll make sure to let you know.
- HOLY WEED MONSTER THAT WON’T STOP SPREADING THROUGH MY LEFT GARDEN BED!!!!! See those little green shoots right next to my yellow swiss chard? Yep, that’s the monster. There is this one single weed that is a spreading with a vengeance through out the entirety of one of my flower bed. In any given week, I’m pulling hundreds of these little green leafy stalks out. I fear this this is a close friend of mint and is attempting to crush my gardening happiness. To be perfectly honest, we probably did a poor job prepping our beds (or what was under our beds) and now I’m reaping the punishment. All I know is this thing is awful and I’m not sure what to do other than pull every one the second I see it. I’ll talk soon about how we went about prepping our beds. Suffice it to say that we mixed some old soil into our beds from mint pots that sat empty for 2 years, and then we placed a layer of cardboard on top. We either made a mistake in prepping, or mint can actually live dormant in a pot for years and come back to life like a knife wielding villain in a B-rated horror movie.
To date we have harvested:
- 220 sugar snap peas, woohoo!
- 1 zucchini
- 1 yellow squash
- 1 green tomato
- 12 radishes
- 4 bowls of lettuce
- 1 small handful of swiss chard
- 4 green beans
- 3 cucumbers
- 1 carrot
- 1 small bunch of beet greens (and one tiny beet)
- strawberries that I forgot to count
Clearly it’s not all pictured here … the photo to fit 220 sugar snap peas alone would be ridiculous. But if I had taken a photo like that, it would never have truly conveyed the depth of awesomeness that is a fresh picked sugar snap pea. If you have never had a pea straight off the vine early in the morning, then seriously, your life isn’t complete. These things could be marketed as candy if you could get them into peoples mouths seconds after they were picked. I used one of my green Amelia tomatoes to make this recipe. And that rocked our world too. In fact, nothing has been a disappointment yet. But I really recommend working towards finding a space to get some garden fresh peas in your life. I promise you won’t regret it.
Lastly, did I mention we are having babies? Three of them to be exact! Baby birds that is. Right next to my veggie gardens in the boxwood hedge that is in front of my house this little mama set up shop. She’s a wren I think but I haven’t gotten a great look at her. Yay for sweet little birdies!
Okay, now get out there and start planning a fall or spring pea crop and figure out using the word monoecious in a casual sentence. Happy Summer friends!