9/16/11

September in the Vegetable Garden


My September garden looks empty compared with previous months, but it's a time of transition. I have pulled up plants which have stopped producing and I'm busy nourishing the soil with composted manure and lime for my fall plantings. The weather turned a bit cooler (highs in the low 80s) after we got about 8" of rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, and the soil was nicely loosened up by all the moisture so it's been easy to dig. Last week I stopped at my favorite fruit market to buy fresh produce (they have a ripe banana bin for 33¢/lb so I stock up and freeze them for smoothies) and I was delighted and surprised to find seedlings for many cool weather crops. Even though I'll plant seeds for many of the same crops, the 5" tall seedlings I purchased will give me a headstart. It's hard to see the small plants against the red clay soil in the photo above, but here's an update:
  1. One BUTTERNUT SQUASH plant has survived attacks from squash bugs and I am hoping there is time in its growing season for some to mature. For the past 2 years I've harvested about 25 butternut squashes from my garden, and they stored well in my basement until I used them all in about 9 months. I'll surely not get many this year, but I'd love a few!
  2. Both JALAPENOS are producing profusely (the second one is in the red Kozy Koat). The plants were so heavily laden with maturing peppers that they leaned over in the last windy storm. Now each one is in one of my largest tomato cages, anchored down with rebar. Remember, jalapeno and sweet peppers are not ripe in the green stage, even though that's how they are sold; let the jalapenos turn red/black, and bell peppers turn red (or purple, yellow, orange, depending on the variety). If you look at my Facebook page, you'll see my photo of a big bowl of red jalapenos I harvested recently. I dehydrated them and ground them into hot powder.
  3. The grasshopper raids on my SWEET POTATO bed seemed to have stopped and I am looking forward to digging lots, probably in October.
  4. I bought and planted a 4-pack of ROMAINE lettuce, planted on the edge of the garden so I can easily harvest a few leaves at a time.
  5. I pulled out the THAI LONG BEANS, since they were taking over everything. They were sold as a "bush" variety, but grew as long trailing vines for me. I got a decent harvest, and they are long and tasty when cooked, plus growing beans adds nitrogen to the soil they are in. But I am once again convinced that blue lake bush beans are my favorite green beans to grow - short plants, heavy yields, great taste, freeze well, and I like how they taste raw. In place of the long been plants, the CHRYSANTHEMUM babies, MARIGOLDS, FENNEL, and HOLY BASIL, which all were being covered over by the vines, are now happy. Every one of the 30 mum cuttings I planted last spring rooted, and the continuous pinching back now finds them loaded with flower buds, just in time for fall flowering. I need to move some into pots and other garden areas soon! I cut back the fennel plants after harvesting loads of seeds, and new young plants are growing from the root. I'm sure some of those seeds I missed will start new plants there too, and I'll be harvesting green fronds this fall.
  6. The red plastic mulch where the tomatoes had grown is now removed, up to this sprawling CANTALOUPE vine. Lots of flowers on it, but I haven't seen any fruit form, so it might have been planted too late. This plant hasn't been bothered by squash bugs … maybe it's due to the red mulch?
  7. I've planted nine seedlings of KALE here, and I'll be starting kale seeds elsewhere in the garden, as well as setting out seedlings I started indoors. Many fall (or early spring) seeds will not germinate in soil above 70 degrees, so I'm waiting for cooler temps to plant seeds directly in the garden so I won't waste seeds, as I have in the past due to my ignorance.
  8. I tried growing BRUSSELS SPROUTS unsuccessfully last spring; the weather warmed and the "sprouts" flowered right away. I knew it was a fall crop, but I tried anyway. Now I've planted 6 purchased seedlings and I will transplant the smaller seedlings which I started indoors last month when they get a bit stronger. I am looking for success this time!
  9. I've never grow COLLARDS, but I bought seedlings and planted them here. I will try them in my green smoothies as well as in many cooked recipes. The more veggies I eat, the more I like. Also in this area of the garden are small PARSLEY plants I purchased. Parsley is one of the only plants I have discovered which grows nearly year round in my garden, and it's yummy and nutritious. I love to make tabouli salad, use it in green smoothies, and use it as an herb in salads, sautes and soups.
   I have pulled out all but two TOMATO plants, after they succumbed to blight. I've already purchased two blight-resistant tomato seed varieties for next year, "Old Brooks" and "Legend". I have searched, unsuccessfully, for organic ways to rid my soil of the fungus which causes blight (the same blight which caused the Irish potato famine in the late 1800s). What's a garden without fresh tomatoes?
   The EGGPLANTS have also been under attack by grasshoppers, so I've had a lull in my harvest. Each plant has a couple of maturing fruit, so I am looking forward to making more Eggplant Parmesan with my new favorite recipe.
   One of my photos is a bit gross, but shows a TOMATO HORNWORM. When I discovered this one I was happy to see it covered with a natural parasite. The "braconid" wasp lays eggs on the hornworm and the larvae feed on the inside of the hornworm until the wasp is ready to "pupate" into a cocoon. The white, rice-shaped protrusions on the green hornworm are the cocoons. The wasps will kill the hornworms when they emerge and will seek others to parasitize, so I don't squish the hornworms when I find them in this state.
   The LEMON GRASS plant is enormous, and the lemon flavor is the strongest of any lemony herb I've grown. I hope it will survive the winter here.
   One CASABA melon plant is growing well, and I've warded off the attacking bugs with dustings of diatomaceous earth and sprayings of diluted kaolin clay. One melon has formed which is about 6" in diameter, but still green. I am hoping it will ripen to golden without being eaten by any critters except me!
   Some of my chioggia BEETS which had overwintered from last year grew flower stalks. I let them go to seed; some seedlings are starting where the plant dropped them and I have also spread some seeds which I harvested. In addition, on the south edge of the garden I've planted seeds for another variety of beets called "Bulls Blood" whose red leaves are recommended as colorful and good raw for salads.
   I've planted 100 seeds of a CARROT variety called "little fingers." I've also planted SPINACH seeds after using cold stratification to help them germinate better. I'll be planting lots more spinach - we love it, and it's one plant which grows here continuously all winter.
   I was happy to find some ONION SETS, more rarely sold in the fall than in the spring, so I'll be setting them out this weekend. It's about time to plant GARLIC also, and I have some heads left from my own harvest, which I'll divide and plant each clove about 3" deep and 5" apart.
   'Still harvesting lots of Thai BASIL to use fresh and to give to friends; there's lots of pesto in the freezer from last year, so no need to make more.
   I've transplanted the slow growing CELERIAC seedlings I started into larger pots. Only 7 plants germinated They are puny, and still in the basement window until large enough to go in the garden. My experiment with CELERY failed, due to the very hot weather, but I'll try it again under different conditions.

Don't stop gardening if you are in Zone 7 like me. The season is just beginning!