While much of the country has been struggling to stay cool in record-breaking heat, this is our second summer in a row with unseasonably cool temperatures, and so far at least, the edible garden seems to be more or less on par with where it was last year.
Unfortunately this means that yet again, the tomatoes seem to be slow. Only the last week or so have we begun to see much fruit set on the tomato plants. Although we’ve seen numerous blooms for weeks now, low overnight temperatures have resulted in a lack of fruit set.
However, things are starting to look up.
Like last year, our Black Pear variety was the first to set much fruit, but we now are starting to see some tomatoes forming on Pantano Romanesco…
…and have even tasted our first Stupice tomato of the season, which has started to ripen even before the cherry tomatoes.
The peppers are a mixed lot at the moment, with some setting fruit and others only just starting to form. Thus far our Tolli’s Sweet Italian has come roaring out of the gate and seems to be setting the most fruit.
Purple beauty is forming beautiful rich purple-colored fruits.
Of the hot peppers, the Jalapeños seems a little behind, but the Bulgarian Carrot peppers seem to be setting well.
We’re growing tomatillos for the first time here this year, and they’ve been amazing so far. The plants are over 6 feet tall, and have been producing a profusion of blossoms for weeks, which the bees simply go crazy for.
As such, they’re also setting an amazing amount of fruit! Hopefully in the next few weeks we can begin to harvest them, and I see at least a day, or two, or three, coming up in the kitchen, canning an absurd amount of roasted tomatillo salsa!
Potatoes have also done tremendously well this season. There truly is nothing like a freshly harvested new potato, with it’s sweet flavor, and buttery texture. So far we’ve harvested our favorite Rose Finn Apple fingerlings, some beautiful and flavorful German Butterballs…
…and our new favorite blue potato, Purple Majesty. Last year we grew a variety called ‘All Blue’, but the yields from Purple Majesty far surpassed All Blue, the color is stunning, and the potatoes slightly larger overall. A definite hit, and we will be growing these again!
As for the squash…oh the squash. On the upside, unlike last year, our addition of four bee hives in the gardens has meant that hand-pollinating squash is now a thing of the past!
Early each morning, while checking for vole damage, the entire squash patch is buzzing with honey bees, sometimes 4 or 5 bees are sharing a flower at a time.
Squash blossoms produce lots of nectar, which clearly entices the bees, who quickly become enveloped in pollen as they travel from flower to flower, pollinating as they go.
Not having to hand-pollinate the blooms this year has saved us a lot of time in the garden, and as a result we’ve been harvesting ample summer squash for the past few weeks. Although we’ve had some minor losses due to our vole problem this season, we’ve still had plenty of Black Beauty, Cocozelle, and Early Prolific Straight summer squash to go around. This weekend we even found a zucchini that we missed…and apparently so did the voles!!! This monster weighed 7 1/2 lbs!!!
It’s a good thing the chickens like zucchini!
Winter squashes have taken a bigger hit from the voles, but for all the plant losses, so far we do have some sizable squash that if the wretched meadow voles spare the plants, show some promise of being harvested.
The Baby Pam pumpkins are starting to turn color…
…and I’m desperately crossing my fingers that this large Boston Marrow is spared.
The voles are allowing this Red Kuri to fruit…
…and we’re finding quite a few Marina di Chioggia fruits as well.
Musquee de Provence is now gone, which is unfortunate. It had beautiful leaves, and we were excited to see the fruits, but we’ll just have to try again next year. The Jarrahdale plants seem to have met their demise too, but Galeux d’Esyines is hanging on, as is Anna Swartz Hubbard, and Gill’s Golden Pippin is busy replacing the fruits that the voles absconded with last week.
In the orchard we’re eagerly awaiting our first harvest of Satsuma plums which should be ready by the second week of August.
We also have fruit set on our Golden Delicious apple. Although it’s not an heirloom apple, it is our universal pollinator for the apples, so we’re glad to see this tree doing so well.
We’ve already had a small crop of cherries, and look forward to this young tree setting much more fruit next year.
Our new Washington Navel orange tree has surprised us with setting fruit. Although the yield this season will be light, I use a tremendous amount of citrus in the kitchen, both juice and zest, so I’m excited about being able to grow our own.
The apple scions we grafted earlier this spring are still doing tremendously well. All of the trees have been transferred to 5 gallon containers, and most are at least 4 feet tall! We’ll be busy planting these out in the orchard this winter, along with replacing our Bosc Pear and Frost Peach (thank you, again, voles).
We’re growing Scarlet Runner beans this year again, for their ornamental and pollinator value.
However, soon we hope to be harvesting an assortment of bush beans including Maxibel, Roc d’Or and Purple Queen.
The ‘Nufar’ genovese basil will also keep us busy in the kitchen making pesto. We only just used up the pesto we made last year, so we can’t wait to start making fresh with this year’s crop.
So overall, despite some setbacks with weather, and vole incursions this season, we still have a lot to look forward to this season. We’re just crossing our fingers that the tomato harvest won’t be too disappointing this summer.
As our native wildflowers wind down for the season, we’ll update on what’s still blooming in the gardens next week. In the meantime, it’s time to prep the beds for fall plantings of beets, kale, lettuce, and carrots!