Another month came to a close recently, but it seems barely noticed. That ritual of tearing off, or turning the calendar page to a new picture has been replaced by just a glance at the date on my phone that doesn’t seem to really register a change in months. Regardless, July has ended so it is time to look back on those 31 days in terms of the gardens. As you can see, the potager looks a bit dry despite my constant watering. We had no measurable rain except for 1/2″ on July 8. Drying winds and hot temperatures made it seem as though it never happened. We’ve had some impressive thunder, and black clouds that brought rain to neighboring areas, not here. Mother’s gardens, a bit over an hour away, have had plenty of rain!
A closer look at the photo shows what looks like lots of bare ground, but I assure the potager is fully planted. As soon as one crop comes out, another goes in. However, germination has been very slow and poor in some cases. It could be the heat, or cold well water but I assume fault, as some old seeds were intentionally planted just to use them up and also, a seed box was left in the Lady Cottage where temperatures rose much higher than is good for their health. Replanting has taken place and there are tiny, tiny babies too small to see in the photo in many beds. In all, twenty varieties were planted in July (lettuces, pumpkin, various beans, brussel sprouts, Wando peas, spinach and carrots.)
Some of the heat-loving crops are thriving in this weather, as long as I provide enough water. These “Parisian” cucumbers have been thrilled with all this warmth, and have not only reached the top of the trellis as they usually do, but have grown an additional 4 feet and are now going across the top of trellis! They show no signs of slowing down, have not taken a break in production, and remain healthy (knock wood!)
Likewise, the “Juliet” grape tomatoes have climbed to the top of the Lady Cottage shed. This is their first year in this location. The past two years, they were in ceramic pots on either side of the potager’s front gate. This year, resin pots of a slightly larger size were used but as you can see, the tomato plants are already wilting despite a morning watering (photo taken about 11:30 a.m) and are requiring twice a day, or sometimes 3 times a day watering! And before you quick-minded gardeners ask…it’s the same brand of soil as always. Back to ceramic pots or big plastic pots next year!
As soon as the garlic came out early in the month and an empty pea fence was available to move into that row, the French Horticultural beans went in. If you look closely, you’ll see three wooden posts added to extend the height of the pea fence. French Horticultural beans grow 5-6′ tall so they need that support. I use twine to create lines for climbing. The beans will grow until frost threatens, and then all the pods will be harvested at one picking. During shelling, they are sorted into “dried,” almost dried, or “green.” The dried ones go into jars. The others are measured into bags and frozen. They are similar to cannellini or borlotti beans and one of my most favorite, carefree crops to grow.
July brought a little more borer damage, but not as much as some years. This was the latest casualty, a “Sweet Reba” acorn squash. Fortunately the squashes were fully mature and ready to harvest anyway. Unfortunately, when I dissected the stems to destroy the borers, there were none! I need to research the life cycle of the squash borer, because if they have already left the plant, where are they now? Are they in the ground? Are they in a cocoon? Have they already changed and flown away? Good gardeners need to know these things. I didn’t wait on the other two plants that were already just beginning to wilt, and found 9 borers in one and 6 in the other. The squashes from those two plants will need to be used soon, because I don’t think they are mature enough to store well.
Despite the lack of rain, the potager is producing record amounts. On the final day of July, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, summer squashes, blackberries, purple beans, beets, a 5 lb. honeydew melon and two Minnesota Midget cantaloupes were harvested. The total harvest for the month was 261.5 pounds, most of which was given away, although we feasted on fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal!
Only 34 jars/packages were preserved because there is still an overflow on the shelves from last year, and the freezers are full. This month sauerkraut, peas, snow peas, pickles and beets were canned or frozen. That pretty well covers the potager, so we’ll take a quick look at some other gardens.
The Front Garden is not too happy, and neither am I. We live in the country and have a well, which is a wonderful thing except when there is so little rain. The potager gets priority, and the other gardens just have to wait their turn. The Front Garden is a hot location because of all the brick and the sidewalk. Once the daylilies finished, it began to look a little bleak. Obviously, some tweaking and replacement of plants (both in position of some “old” and addition of some “new”) needs to take place soon. Definitely, many of the daylilies need to be lifted and divided as a starting point, and more perennials will be added so I don’t have to grow so many annuals as I age.
The Deck Garden seems to be faring a bit better than the Front Garden even though it faces south. It does get some shade from the old, old cottonwood trees part of the day. I’m really happy with the “Blue Bedder” salvia on the right, and will add a large planting to the left, in front of the gazebo for next year. The “Tiger Eye” sumac always brings a bright spot of color and makes me smile. Still too many Black-eyed Susans despite major editing, but at least they fill in the space until the roses get larger.
The highlight of the PEB in July is always the “Blue River II” hibiscus with its dinner-plate sized flowers. Usually they are riddled with holes from the Japanese beetles, but I’ve found very few this year. After collecting buckets of them last year, that’s quite a welcome change. I like the echoing of the “Cupcake White” cosmos this year, and think that will happen again next year. Also very pleased with the “Inca” zinnias and “Durango” marigolds. And lastly for this post…
The Lavender Slope looks very different now at month’s end. The lavenders finished in June and the lavandins were gorgeous all of July, but are done blooming now and are ready to be sheared. Those baby lavenders planted earlier have doubled in size and have a lovely dark, dark bloom. Hopefully, they will make it through the winter! More posts are in the works that touch on the gardens not shown in this monthly review.
All in all, the numbers don’t lie….it was a good month for the potager and we’ve had some lovely evenings. The haze from western wildfires continues, and our hearts and prayers are with all those in harm’s way or are affected.