Morning Rounds in the Garden, July

The July edition of Morning Rounds should begin with a feature photo of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes piled high on a platter, the raison d’être of the Italian summer garden. But, there are no tomatoes this year. They have all been devoured by four-legged creatures with long tails. Instead of peaceful, meditative walkabouts in my vegetable gardens each morning, I begin my day with a quick check of catch and release traps. It’s like setting out baited hooks at dusk when we jugfish for catfish and checking them with bated breath the next morning. Only we eat the catfish.

That’s an opossum’s tail!

In past years, this photo of a squirrel eating a green tomato on the railing of the front garden was an anomaly; now it’s the norm. I considered it quaint; now it makes me growl.

This is a telltale sign that a squirrel is eating your garden produce.

The rabbits have a different modus operandi. They eat the leaves and leave the stems. Currently, they are loving on my peanut plants.

On a much happier note, I do welcome this type of wildlife in my garden. It equals POLLINATION which equals fruits and vegetables in the garden.

I’m very thankful for the bees. If it weren’t for their hind legs collecting and depositing yellow pollen grains as they fly from flower to flower looking for nectar, we would not have zucchini, or Patty Pan squashes, or pumpkins, all gourds in the cucurbit family. Vegetables in the cucurbit family have distinct male and female flowers growing on the same plant. The flower on the right is the male and the one on the left is the female. The bees unwittingly connect them.

Beneath the female flower of this Patty Pan squash is an immature fruit. If pollinated, the fruit will grow to maturity. If not, it will wither and die. I call that failure to launch. Blessed be the pollinators, for they will have honey in heaven.

One morning I shot this short video after I saw a bumblebee fly into a pumpkin flower poking through the fence surrounding the compost pile. Wait for it. Oh, the things you can observe in the garden.

 

 

The Front Garden: The Italian Vegetable Garden

Moving onto other vegetables growing in the front garden, there are the swoon-worthy Tri-Color string beans and Fairy Tale eggplants,.

and the sweet peppers.

In the photos below, you’ll see buds, flowers, and small fruit growing on the single stems of eggplants, string beans, and sweet peppers. While bees visit these plants, their male and female reproduction parts are within the same flower and gravity and wind often does the job of spreading the pollen.


Other News

I harvested the soft-neck garlic bulbs at the end of June. The bulb heads are small because they had a short growing season. I planted them in the spring. If they are planted in the fall and allowed to winter over, they should grow much larger bulbs.

Sadly, by mid-July, my raised bed of squash and cucumbers plants became so unruly, due to overcrowding, that I pulled all the plants. Plants need air circulation. They need room to grow. My problem is I have a hard time thinning plants. Lesson learned. I felt so relieved when I finally pulled them. I knew from the beginning I should have thinned the seedlings.

In other good news, the Brown Turkey fig tree is loaded with almost-ripe figs.

The fig tree is at at least twenty feet tall. I planted it in front of a southern-facing brick wall, and it has survived in this spot for over ten years. Every few years, I have to cut it back after we have a super cold winter. While I don’t have an irrigation system, the tree is watered by the steady drip of condensate from our air-conditioner. It remains lush all summer long.

The Muscadine grapes are looking great. I gave them lots of room to grow along a fence.

The Back Garden: Commercial Crops and their Flowers

I am growing a variety of commercial crops for the sheer joy of seeing how they grow.

Cotton

Sugar Cane

Peanuts

Corn

Tobacco (hasn’t flowered, yet)

Indigo (hasn’t flowered, yet)

Soybeans (missed a flowering photo)

Rice (this crop failed)

A morning haul of food. I look at this assortment of vegetables and wait for them to tell me what I should cook for dinner. I love the entire process of growing and cooking vegetables.

For ideas about how to prepare summer vegetables check out vegetable sides and pasta dishes on the blog Menu.

I’ll close with a video of my backyard composters eating their favorite food.

 

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Related Stories
Morning Rounds in the Garden, June
Morning Rounds in the Garden, May
Morning Rounds in the Garden, April
Tomatoes: The Crown Jewels of the Summer Kitchen Garden
Fall Planting Guide for Your Kitchen Garden
Family Dirt

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Morning Rounds in the Garden, June

A lot can happen in a month.

Here in mid-June in Tennessee, the peas, lettuces, radishes, turnips, spring onions, and spinach have given way to tomatoes, cukes, zucchini, summer squash, peppers, eggplants, beans, basil, and garlic.

Here’s what’s growing in my Italian kitchen garden this month.

Tomato Plants

Tomatoes are the stars of the summer garden. I planted twelve heirloom Cherokee Purples and an assortment of twelve other heirloom varieties.

I use the Florida Weave system of support for growing tomatoes. It requires 6-foot posts and a few layers of string woven in and around the posts; new layers of string are added as the plants grow taller.

A few years ago, I wrote a post on my favorite tomato plants where I described many varieties. Last year, I had a brilliant idea and decided to grow only Cherokee Purples because they were my favorites. So uniform in color, right?

With a single variety, the art part of my heart wasn’t as enthralled as it had been in seasons past.

That’s why this year, I mixed it up and planted an assortment of tomatoes. I’m going for a variety of color and shapes once again.

Zucchini, Summer Squash, and Patty Pans

Every summer, I try to figure out a new way to keep squash vines off the ground so they won’t rot or be devoured by vine borers. This year, I tried using new short cages I found at Home Depot. So far, they are doing the trick. Each cage has 5-6 seedlings planted in it. I meant to thin them out, but I have a hard time thinning because I hate to discard the rejects. Now, the cages are tightly packed with foliage, flowers, and some fruit. It’s a jungle in there. I plan to sow more seeds in the back garden, this time with three plants to a hill, as is recommended on the package.

The plants are just starting to produce.

Cucumbers

I’m afraid I overplanted here, as well.

Eating cucumbers in a salad, making cucumber soup, and making pickles, are my favorite ways to enjoy cucumbers.

I did want to show the little supports I bought online to help attach viney vegetables to a chicken-wire fence. Note the dark green clips. I use them to support peas and beans, too.

Sweet Bell Peppers

I use the same Florida Weave system of support for peppers and eggplants as I do for tomatoes.

Eggplants

My large Black Beauty eggplants went in the ground late and have a ways to go before they flower.

The smaller style of eggplants, Fairy Tale, Hansel, Gretel, and Ichiban, are already producing and will provide eggplants for cooking while I await the larger Black Beauty.

String Beans (Bush Beans)

I planted these in between the lettuce plants and in front of the peas in early May. When I pulled the lettuce and peas, the string beans seedlings took off.

Rainbow Swiss Chard

Truth be told, I enjoy photographing chard more than eating it.

 

Basil

It wouldn’t be an Italian garden without basil. I throw it in almost every pasta dish I cook. There’s plenty to share.

The Back Garden

I’ve pulled the lettuce, radishes, spring onions, and beets.

The last of the spring onions.

We’re still harvesting garlic, kale, potatoes, carrots, and asparagus. Asparagus shoots turn into tall ferns if you don’t harvest them. This is year three for these Jersey Knights.

Commercial or Agricultural Crops

Every year, I plant a few new crops (mostly agricultural) to see how they grow.  I have quite a few stories about commercial farming that I’ve written over the years. You can find them by browsing the Menu. In this next photo, I’ve planted sugar cane and rice (inspired by our trip to India), and peanuts and cotton (inspired by our trip to Como and the Delta in Mississippi).

In another raised bed, inspired by frequent trips to Kentucky, I’m growing: corn, tobacco, and soybeans. Some plants were grown from seed, and some are “roadsydia.”

Finally, there is a fairly robust crop of indigo growing from volunteers from last year’s indigo plants that I picked up at a Farmers Market. I’ve allowed the seedlings to mature so I can try my hand at making indigo dye.

I was playing with an indigo dye purchased at Eastertime, and I’ve been thinking about making a natural indigo dye ever since …

My first blackberry ripened today!

Can’t forget the chickens this morning.

That’s it for this episode of Morning Rounds!

Check out Morning Rounds from April and May.

What do I do with all of these gorgeous vegetables?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Remember to always check this website for updated versions of a recipe.  

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.