It’s been strange to listen to the evening news week after week, with the “local” (that is Indianapolis, which is NOT local to us) weatherman bemoaning how wet the summer has been. Lakes in southern Indiana are at record levels for July because of heavy rains across central Indiana. The dams cannot be opened because the land in southern Indiana is super saturated and flooding would occur. A friend from my “old” neighborhood had 16″ of rain last month. However, my little spot of heaven on earth north of Indy has been DRY all summer. I’ve been dragging hoses and watering some part of the gardens or other almost daily. D will come home from exercise and report “It was pouring in Upland!” or back from a haircut with, “Raining cats and dogs in Muncie!” And I’m still dragging hoses. Just goes to show how even a slightly different location can have differing conditions. Happily, we recently received two small showers, which didn’t last long but did at least put something in the rain gauge…not quite half an inch altogether, but it’s amazing what a REAL rain can do compared to watering from the well.
Science can explain how it happens, but to me it will always be magic. Plants that have been languishing in the extreme heat, relieved only by small doses of cold well water, suddenly explode with green color and rampant growth after a REAL rain. Immature cucumbers and squashes that have been hanging on the vine are suddenly ready to pick. It’s as if all the plants had vitamin booster shakes and a day at the spa, and are totally revitalized! The vines of melons, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes have been slowly climbing the trellises, but after that rain, I spent an entire morning adding twine lines and tying supports. Some of the vines grew 3′ in the two days following that rain! The rain also brought some slightly cooler temperatures, which allowed the tomatoes to begin to ripen fully and peppers looked like the fairies used an air compressor to inflate them overnight.
We’d had a few cherry tomatoes, but now the big “Polbig” tomatoes are coming on in abundance. The photo is of the first two, which aren’t as big as the ones ripening now. One became a very delicious balsamic bruschetta.
I totally forgot in the “June monthly review” to mention the new obelisks, which are working out extremely well. One has two plants of “Tasty Green” cucumbers on it, and these have to be the most productive cucumbers I’ve ever planted. Yesterday one went into a big bowl of panzanella.
The melons are spread around all over the potager. Some climb on the metal trellises, two are on the second obelisk, and there are three succession plantings of “Minnesota Midget” cantaloupes growing on tomato cages. It’s one of my very favorite varieties, so sweet and productive and adorable. Some are baseball sized, and some are softball sized, and they mature in about 60 days from set-out plants.
I began growing these “personal-sized” melons on tomato cages last year and it worked super well. Three plants that were started in the greenhouse were planted around the bottom and slowly trained and tied to the tomato cage support as soon as the ground was warm and danger of frost had passed. When the vines reached the top of the cage, they were pinched off to encourage the plant to begin ripening fruit. At the same time those plants went in, three seeds were planted around a second cage, and when those began to set fruit, a third set of three seeds were planted around yet another cage. That third planting happened just last week, and with the rain, the 3 baby seedlings have now emerged. Right now there are 10 melons ripening on the first cage, and the first one should be ready by the coming week’s end. That’s later than usual, but well water is cold, and our spring was a bit later than normal.
Before the rains came, all of the shallots and most of the onions were harvested. Here’s some of the larger “Parma” storage onions, all braided and hanging on the Lady Cottage wall. There are nine braids, with more to come.
Loyal readers know how I love to grow cipollini, and this year’s crop was good, even though I had to grow “Gold Coin” rather than “Bianca” due to seed shortage. There was more variation in size. Some are 1″ in diameter, and some are 3″ across, but all have that flattened bulb and very sweet flavor. We love to par-boil them until they are almost tender, and then grill them. or I marinate them and can them for winter. This year, I’ve already braided some of the earliest crop to use over the winter as well.
As soon as the onions and cipollini were out, compost was added and new rows of beets, carrots, parsnips, and spinach were seeded. The fall planting of “Wando” (heat tolerant) peas also went into former allium space, just as the very last spring-planted “Green Arrow”pea plants came out. That pea fence was planted with “Orange Magic” winter squash. Other fences formerly holding peas have also been moved into allium space and French Horticultural beans were planted. With the rain, they are already twining around the fence!
The space where the “Green Arrow” peas were is now home to baby brussel sprout plants, so the potager is transitioning quite nicely. Soon the earliest “Royal Burgundy” beans will come out, and turnips will go into their place. The schedule goes on, crops in; crops out and we are enjoying each meal the potager provides and the variety of produce that changes almost weekly. I hope your garden has been blessed with rain as well. Happy growing!
We have had our hare of rain and you are right…nothing compares to real water from the sky My granddad always said Beverly…Don’t start watering until you have too because you then have to keep it up. .Only thing here growing is figs and there are a lot of them.
Your grandfather was a wise, wise man!
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Fabulous post again Carol. You have inspired me to try the cantaloupes (we call them rockmelons in Aus). We are entering our last month of winter here, so it is time to start the tomato and capcicum (peppers) seeds indoors on heat mats. Do you think the cantaloupe seeds would need this sort of start too? Your person sized fruit sound ideal, I’m struggling to find such seeds here. Warmly Lee
The melons would love to start on a heat mat. I hope you can find the seeds, or I could send you some if you send your address. Tasty Bites is similar in size, etc. but is about three weeks slower to ripen, and doesn’t set quite as many fruit (at least in the five years I’ve been growing both) and I’d rate Sugar Cube as the next one for a small cantaloupe. Green Nutmeg is a small green fleshed melon, which has a fantastic flavor, but seems lots more finicky to grow and get fruit. Best of luck…envious that you are just starting spring!!!
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I have finally had rain too – not enough to fill the biggest tanks but the outdoor stuff has perked up like yours has. I envy you your melons – John tried and failed to grow some but maybe I will have another go. I can buy locally grown potatoes carrots etc but the exotic fruits are expensive, imported and usually go from rock hard to rotten without bothering with ripe!
Southern Indiana is actually famous for growing melons of all kinds, so we can actually get wonderful fruit in season, but a full-sized melon often is just too much for us to get through before it spoils. I have frozen cut up cantaloupe in orange juice for the winter, and that tastes better than out of season melons, but this year my freezer is already full!!! Small melons work so much better for us, and for most of our elderly friends who receive them, too.
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Everything in our garden is doing so much better this year- and I chalk it up to having had a ton of rain as opposed to using the hose and sprinkler- and we’re on city water!
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Rain is definitely better than most city water! Glad your garden is doing well. Adequate rain certainly makes a huge difference.
Interesting post about growing small melons in tomato cages! I may try that next spring in my potager (Eastern Washington state) if we survive these triple-digit weeks.
And do you have the smoke from the fires as well? I find the tomato cages work much better for small melons than they do for most tomatoes!!!
Our summer is much cooler than yours – there’s no point trying to grow melons in north Northumberland – but your wait for a good rain shower sounds very familiar. We had next to no rain in June and had to wait to the end of July for a welcome downpour. Gardeners everywhere know the value of rain!
Do you not have 60 days of above frost? Or a greenhouse type setting you can grow them in? I once just covered an old children’s swing set in plastic and planted melons and cukes inside that…worked great!
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No lack of above frost days here as we’re by the sea but the summer is cool so pumpkins and squash are slow to get going. We have a good warm porch for propagating seedlings but no greenhouse yet. That’s next year’s project!
Always fun to have a project in the works!
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