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Friday PhotoEssay – July 28, 2017

We have hit the main harvest season for summer vegetables, even though the spider mites are a severe trial to most of our plants. This seems to be a horrendous year for spider mites, and in a lot of respects, the best we can do is to just wait for cooler weather.

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From the surface, everything looks green and healthy yet, which is nice. You can also see that the Grocery Garden is half empty currently – after harvesting the remaining root vegetables, it is awaiting fall plantings, soon to come!

36087784501_3079efe80bI harvested about 35 tomatoes today, in large part because so many are cracking that we are trying to harvest before they get very ripe. These are nine different Cherokee Purple tomatoes at a range of stages of ripeness. The lower left tomato had fallen off the plant and is hopefully at mature green – meaning it will ripen off the vine eventually. I prefer to wait for color. The other two bottom tomatoes had also fallen off, but have just a tinge of pink. It’s hard to see in the picture due to the light, but they do have small pink streaks at the blossom end. The rest you can see the color change more easily.

36182041256_b9a1c3784dThe ‘Legend’ tomatoes had the most fruit today (17) off of only 3 plants (one plant has a weird virus or mutation and isn’t productive). They are mostly cracked, so still not great from that standpoint.

36182044166_ffe1e27624We are still seeing some rotting tomatoes too. This one is really frustrating, because one tomato started rotting, but we didn’t catch it and remove it. It then infected two more not-yet-ripe tomatoes that might have otherwise been okay. Ugh! Rotting tomatoes are the worst!

36010911962_a73f42f6c1We also harvested our ‘Himrod’ grapes this week. For the second year in a row, our vine has yielded very well, and the grapes taste great, even if they are much smaller than we are used to seeing in the grocery store.

35788277090_9c5c29a090Our melons are also starting to reach ripe stages too. When I checked the tendrils for browning on Tuesday, there were several that looked ready. We tried the ‘New Queen’ (orange), ‘Mini Love’ (red), and ‘Musketeer’ honeydew (white in the background). The orange melon was a tiny bit over-ripe. The red was perfect. The honeydew wasn’t very close to ready. I will say it was a bit of a shock to the system to have a seeded melon for a change! Yesterday I came across a ‘Maverick’ cantaloupe and one of the ‘Gold Crown’ watermelons (yellow rind, red flesh) that was ripe. We tried them too. The cantaloupe was okay but not spectacular. The watermelon was very good.

Have a great weekend! If you don’t have your own, go find some seasonal, local produce!

Final Garlic & Shallot Harvest

We harvested the last of our garlic and shallots from the garden this week. On Friday we will be moving on and starting some seeds for fall vegetables, although it still seems too early.

We didn’t have very many plants of the Elephant Garlic, but at least a couple of the bulbs were huge! The others were good sized, but not nearly as big.

The ‘Purple Glazer’ garlic had really nice sized bulbs that seem very consistent. We also had good germination, so there were lots of plants to harvest.

The ‘Killarney Red’ garlic also had some nice large bulbs, although they weren’t as consistent. There were a few smallish bulbs. I think either we didn’t plant as many or the germination wasn’t quite as good on these.

One of our farmers’ market vendors grows ‘Music’ garlic and loves it. I’ll say that the plants were vigorous and most of the bulbs also look large and well formed. There are a couple of smaller bulbs, but I suspect those were along the edge of the bed away from the drip lines.

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Harvesting Eggplant

It looks as though the season of eggplant bounty is nearly upon us, even before the tomatoes are ripe! We have eggplant set on all of the different plants right now, and it looks like it will be a bumper crop.

If you’ve never grown eggplant before, it can be a little tricky to determine the right time to harvest. (Or it can be extremely easy, depending on your viewpoint and what you plan to do with your eggplant.) The reason is that you can eat eggplant at almost any stage from very small to the mature size. The trick comes in 1) knowing the “mature” size of the variety of eggplant you are growing and 2) if you harvest at the mature size, knowing when it has gone past into the really seedy stage.

This ‘Traviata’ eggplant is your classic purple/black Italian type that can get pretty huge. However, you can certainly harvest it at this size if you want and cook them whole or halved.

As the eggplant starts to reach its “mature” size, which you have to research for each variety, you want to watch for two things: glossiness and firmness. This ‘Orient Charm’ eggplant is still nice and glossy, as it should be. If you could reach through the screen and feel the eggplant, it would be firm but with a slight, sponge-y give to it. That’s good!

Where you want to start getting cautious is when the skin gets a very dull color and the fruit becomes hard, almost like an apple. This ‘Millionaire’ eggplant isn’t to that stage yet, but it’s as close as I could find. It isn’t that you can’t eat an overripe eggplant, it’s that it becomes more challenging and less enjoyable. You see, what we consider “ripe” for eggplant is a stage that is botanically immature. A botanically mature eggplant has seeds that are viable, fully developed, and ready to reproduce. Hence, a botanically mature eggplant is usually so full of big, tough seeds that most of us are less interested in eating the seedy thing. (If we were interested in eating it anyway!)

If (or when) we have an eggplant that is overripe in the garden, I’ll be sure to show you a picture. Hopefully we won’t miss picking very many though!

Junior Master Gardener Day Camp

Today we are hosting some kids from McConnell Air Force Base for a day-long Junior Master Gardener camp. The Master Gardeners work hard every year to plan a fun day of gardening activities for the kids. I will be leading the “Garden Time” part of the camp, and we have lots of things to harvest with the kids today!

The first planting of beans from late April are ready to be picked. We have ‘Rocdor’ wax beans and ‘Tavera’ green filet beans. Rocdor Bean Of course, we also have the orange cauliflower to harvest. I think the kids will enjoy that! We also have lots of lettuce around the garden, especially in the salad garden. We could harvest some arugula and beet greens, but that probably would be less to their taste.

We also Banana Pepperhave a few banana peppers that are rapidly reaching the harvestable stage in the heat we’ve had this week. They were planted in containers early this spring for display at one of our garden tour gardens. Now they are in the Demo Garden!

After harvesting, the kids will have the chance to do some planting. We have some cucumber seeds that will be planted in the Salad Garden. (We were planning to keep planting more lettuce, but I think the cucumbers will be more fun for the kids to plant.)