July 22, 2011 - The Good & Bad in the July Garden

Before I begin my whining and crying over the lousy gardening year, I want to wish our granddaughter, Alicia, a happy 17th. birthday. I can't believe how quickly she is growing up! No matter how old she gets, she'll always be our "baby". She was the one grandchild that spent a lot of time with us when she was small, as both of her parents worked. If anyone wants a little taste of what it was like to have her around, I kept a journal of some of the funnier things that happened with a little one in our midst....A Year (and More) in the Life of Alicia.

Now, on the the lousy July garden.

One would think the garden would do well. Maybe better than ever, what with the mild summer we've had so far. Yes, the spring was cold, cold, cold.....many of the seeds rotted, many of the seedlings froze, but there was still plenty of time to plant once the temperatures came up to optimum. Alas, even with a bit of warmth, much of the garden did not flourish. Yes, the onions did great, the lettuce did great, and surprisingly, the bush beans are doing great. That's about it. The early planted carrots are ugly, hairy, stubby warty little things. The later planted carrots look like they will be beauties, though. I've only pulled one to check, and it was long and straight and sweet.

A year ago, I was harvesting big bowls of big, beautiful strawberries. This week I got enough small, deformed berries for two small shortcakes.

Last year I was picking baskets full of tomatoes nearly every day. This year, if it weren't for the bloody Butchers that have given me a dozen or so small salad tomatoes, I wouldn't have any to harvest at all. This year I only planted three Brandywines, as they have always been heavy croppers for me in the past. So far only one has set any fruit at all, the other two have just dropped their blossoms. Even the plants themselves are stunted, compared to previous years. They should be ten feet tall by now, and they are barely half that. In fact, it's the smallest, sickliest plant that is bearing the fruit. My in-ground planted Rutgers tomatoes began to show some disease, and one has been so heavily pruned of diseased leaves it may not survive. The other two don't look too bad after removing the bottom leaves, but like the Brandywines, only the sickly one has fruited. Luckily, all the other tomato plants are looking healthy, and the Cherokee Purples should be ripening soon.

The healthiest looking Brandywines have not set a single tomato. The small one on the left has fruited, even given two ripe but very small (4 ounce) tomatoes. Last year the Brandywines were over ten feet tall and loaded by the end of July.

The Cherokee Purples have several large tomatoes forming.

The Cherokee Purple plants are sturdy and healthy.

Matt's Wild Cherry is taking over the entire east side of the patio. I've strung twine to try to train some of the vine horizontally, so that I can reach the tomatoes. I've had a handful of tiny fruits from this plant. Are Matt's WC supposed to be so tiny? These are about the size of a pea!

Last year I was picking bell peppers nearly every day. This year they are just finally beginning to blossom. A few haven't even reached that stage.

The warmer weather has been beneficial to the peppers. They are finally growing and blossoming.

Even the ones I thought were goners have begun to bush out and blossom.

A year ago I was picking so many zucchini and yellow crookneck squash I had to give a lot of it away. This year....not even a blossom yet.

The zucchini has yet to blossom, the yellow crookneck squash plants are smaller yet.

Last year I was making refrigerator pickles from all the cucumbers I brought in. This year....one plant has blossoms, none of the picklers have even begun to climb the fence.

The bush slicing cucumber has blossoms, and one tiny deformed cucumber so far.

The pickling cucumbers are way behind, and haven't even attached themselves to the fence yet.

Last year the Fortex pole beans were the stars of the bean world. This year, although the bush beans have performed well, the Fortex are just putting forth three or four beans at a time.

Fortex pole beans looking healthy, but not yet producing much.

Last year I was digging lovely new potatoes. It's my fault I don't have any this year. If you don't plant potatoes, you can't harvest potatoes. Who knew? LOL

OK, I'm finished with my whining.

Yesterday I had grandson Kevin help me bucket some composted manure into the cleaned out brassica bed, so it's now ready to plant for fall. I'll be planting it right away with beets, then with spinach in a couple of weeks. I have some lettuce seedlings that are getting really leggy on the windowsill, so I'll likely set them in that bed this evening. It's supposed to turn hot for a few days, before dropping back down into the eighties, so I'm not going to hold my breath that they will even survive the transplanting. I have to immediately get the cover over that bed once the lettuce is in, as the sparrows have voracious appetites for young greens again.

The former brassica bed, amended with compost and ready for installing hoops. Fall crops will be planted here.

The raspberries are all but finished now. A small handful once in a while, just enough to nibble on in the garden, but not enough to bother bringing in to weigh. I'll be working on removing the spent canes in the next few days. Or weeks. I guess there is no real hurry, other than wanting the bed cleaned out so it looks neater.

The raspberries are ready for their summer pruning out of all of this year's fruit bearing canes.

The summer lettuce bed is performing beyond my expectations. I'm harvesting big, lovely outer leaves for our salads now, and it's growing faster than we can eat it. I noticed the leaves at the edges of the bed have been nibbled by the sparrows, back as far as their little beaks will reach through the openings in the netting. New plants wouldn't have a chance if not covered.

I've pulled the Royal Burgundy bush beans and replanted with Gourmet Green Baby Filet bush beans. The Royal Burgundy, while really good flavored, weren't giving me much of a crop for the space they took. The Gourmet Green Baby Filets are real bean machines! I can't believe how many beans I get from those plants. Unlike some of the other bush beans, these bear over quite a long period. I've been bringing in big bowls full nearly every day, and there are still medium and small beans, as well as a lot of blossoms on the plants. I actually picked 49 beans from one plant in one picking! The beans are small, but the sheer amount of them makes up for their size. I have but one complaint. They squeak when I eat them. I cannot eat squeaky beans, but Mr. Granny and the dogs don't mind them at all. I've actually frozen so many bush beans I'm out of room in the freezer now. I think we're going to look at buying another small freezer today.

I also planted more Topcrop bush beans where the beets came out last week. I think I have quite enough beans planted now.

About the only other thing happening in the garden is that the winter squash plants are finally beginning to blossom. Only males so far, so I hope it's not too late to get a crop from them. This is my first year for bush butternut, I've always had great luck with the vining type.

Bush winter squash are blossoming.

Sunflowers should be blooming soon.

I was very happy with the spring planted shallots. They were every bit as large as those usually planted in October. I have another large bunch of them drying in the shed. They are smaller, and will be used as seed for next year.


  1. Granny, it's been a tough year for all of us. My tomatoe plants are stunted from the heat and the tomatoes are cracking and not ripening correctly. Hopefully, when our heat wave breaks you will get one!

  2. I'm sorry. I must be on the wrong blog. Because, the AG I KNOW AND LOVE has week after week of gorgeous photos of the best looking produce. You're not her????

    Seriously, though, stuff IS weird this year. I'm only getting 1/10 the kohlrabi I had last year. The radishes-Ppphhhtt-I don't want to talk about them. The peas--what a joke. I didn't yank the vines last year until August. I pulled them yesterday--they were as crispy as a good batch of fritters.
    Maybe next year will be better. Say it will, AG, say it will!

  3. It is so strange for you to be behind me. I'm zone 6 for goodness sake in a maritime climate. I wish I could give you 10F of temperature because we are breaking records all over the place. I checked the weather channel and it said we didn't have one day in July with a record of 100 or over. Today's record was 92F. lol I mean we just don't get this kind of heat. We got to 103F today. Tomatoes always set fruit over our summer, but I'm guessing they aren't setting any this week. I swear I don't live in Texas. Or did someone pick up my house and move me.

  4. How strange the difference a year makes! Mine is the opposite, last year my tomatoes took forever, this year I've already been canning. I hope yours kicks into gear soon!

  5. It seems to me nothing is as good as last years harvest.
    Guess that's what they mean by making hay while the Sun shines (or something like that). I don't expect every year to be the same..I thought I'd be rolling in tomato's, but that's not happening..I had to let them ripen on the window sill other wise the slugs and worms would get them :o(...I'm getting a few but not what I expected...Take the bitter with the sweet.

  6. Robin, it's probably lucky that I'm not getting 500 pounds of tomatoes. I still have so much left from last year. I am out of salsa, and I'd like a few jars of diced tomatoes.

    Sue, it did look like a lot at first, but now I'm finished with the heavy stuff. Next year will be better, I'll plant potatoes. They weigh a lot ;-)

    Daphne, yesterday and last night we were 15 degrees below our average temperature. Today it's even a bit larger difference, in the high 70s when it should be 95. We got awfully near the 40s last night!

    Erin, I hope so to. It seems our weather has just flip flopped this year. I can't say I don't enjoy this cooler summer, I would just have to learn to garden a bit differently.

    Ginny, 2009 was my best year ever, so I tend to compare other years to that one. I shouldn't expect so much, 'cause I have to give most of it away anyway! No way can two of us eat it all. Heck, I had to go out and buy another freezer today!

  7. Our weather here in Las Vegas has been cooler this year also. I thought that the cooler weather this spring was great until I realized the tomatoes weren't setting, ugh. We tend to have extremes here, it goes from cold to hot quickly. July has been crazy also, it was in the 90's 2 weeks ago and we are usually between 105 and 110. CRAZY!!!!!

  8. Everything you have looks very healthy even if you don't have much yet! It will come, except potatoes. Can't help ya there! Ha! Your cucumber plants look gorgeous, I can't keep mine alive, darn cucumber beetles! Alot of my stuff is right there with you, blossoms on the squash and on the peppers, but nothing yet. Either way, you still have plentiful and beautiful harvests every week!

  9. Peggi, I think it was the ups and downs in temperatures...the warm days but cold nights, hot one day and cold the next, that caused the blossoms to drop on the tomatoes. I'm sure going to miss those Brandywines this year!

    Shawn Ann, I guess we shouldn't complain, at least something is growing! Hopefully next year will be better.

  10. Granny I feel your pain. It has been the same for me here in the Bay Area. If it wasn't for the bush and pole beans I would have no reason to visit the garden every day after work. It's also the reason I have not been blogging... just nothing to share at this point. I have stopped babying everything in the garden in hopes the plants will feel some urgency to set fruit and go to seed just to get more harvest. It seems to be working for the cucumbers as they are in full bloom. Well there is always next year :-)

  11. Liisa, I wondered where you were! I haven't had a lot of garden posts lately, either. I mean, the garden looks just like it did a month ago, only a bit barer from pulling out spent plants. Thank heaven for those beans!

  12. Your veggies are looking better than mine. This is my worse garden year ever. Maybe next year we'll have more cooperative weather:) ... one can only dream.

  13. Mel, it looks like we're all in the same boat. I do hope next year is better!

  14. I can sympathasize with you, but our roles are reversed. I have tomatoes and peppers that are loaded with fruit, now joined by eggplant. But- my cabbages are stunted, I've harvested one handful of bush beans and root crops were a complete bust. The funny thing is that sll my bush toantoes are loaded, but my vining look like they are starting to die.

  15. It has indeed been a rough year for gardening, it will be interesting to see how everything turns out. They say we could experience a very warm dry September so that would help...so glad we didn't try growing corn this year.

    Little Kimberly has three green tomatoes on her now...most of our plants, including the ones from you, have one or two so we shall see. I'm shocked to say that I think we will have ripe zucchini before you this year...trade you for one of those ripe Bloody Butcher tomatoes.:)

    Interesting what you said to Ginny, 2009 was one of our best years ever as well.

  16. Ed, how odd. My vining tomatoes are thriving, my bush tomatoes are trying to die!

    Mr. H., I hope we have a long, warm fall. I'm going to keep planting, just in case. Every time a spot is cleared out, I'm filling it up again!

  17. I read the Alicia series and laughed so hard. I think "My Strange World" should be made in to a childrens book, it is amazing.

  18. Peggi, her mother was a talented artist and writer. In grade school she won the Young Author's Award for the entire Eastern WA district. They didn't get their talents from me :-)

  19. Same experiences here too. My cucumbers are just now starting to climb and flower which is not too far off schedule but the zucchini has yet to flower and the butternut has yet to flower and set fruit. The pumpkins are at least running and setting some fruit but they are TINY for this time of year so I only hope they have adequate time to size up and mature before the fall rains and shortened days arrive.