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Quite Contrary Gardens

how does your garden grow?

It seems like summer finally decided to arrive! And it’s a welcome relief for the garden after a second straight growing season of unusually cool temperatures. August is shaping up to be a ‘normal’ month with temperatures climbing into the 90’s during the day. The tomatoes are finally thriving, the eggplant is finally flowering, the chard and fennel are beautiful and the pepinos are loaded down with their little ‘melons.’ Phew! I thought I was losing my garden mojo for while there!

And since the tomatoes have decided that summer is finally here, it is time once again for my favoritest favorite meal- gazpacho! Tomatoes, cucumber, onion, maybe a carrot or sweet pepper, little bit of hot pepper, whatever’s ripe in the garden with a pinch of salt and a hefy helping of vinegar in the blender et voila! Dinner is served and I never even needed to touch the stove!


The prettiest Morning Glory in the garden


We’re in the thick of it now, the middle of summer, and I know the blog has been suffering from a bit of neglect because of it. At this time in the season, not only am I working hard to keep the weeds and the bugs at bay, but I’m beginning all over again– starting seeds for the next round, fall veggies. In the past three weeks, I’ve begun the last round of summer squash, beans and cucumbers, succession sowed the never-ending procession of Swiss Chard, and started the cole and leaf crops that love our Mid-Atlantic autumns so much more than the springs: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, collards, endive, leeks, lettuce, fennel and more. For the first year ever, I have run out of room in the main garden, started three new 100 square foot beds, run out of room in them, too, and am now plotting out even more space to set out the fall crops in. Needless to say, all this has been keeping me just a little busy.

But, even though I’m right in the thick of things at the moment and squeezing some planting and hoeing into every spare daylight hour, this is also the time of year that my mind wanders, always and without fail, to plans for next year. I saw a quote go by on Twitter the other day, something about “My garden is never as good as next year’s will be” or some similar sentiment and that describes me to a “T”. Already, I’m poring over the seed catalogs, planning where I’ll put this and that, deciding what new varieties I simply must try, mentally harvesting tons of colorful, shiny peppers, tomatoes, greens, eggplants and cucumbers from spotless, insect-free plants. I’ve made my list of veggies I never want to bother with again (Poona Kheera cucumber, for one; Coosa squash for another) and racked up a much, much, much longer list of wants: Honey Drip sorghum, black peanuts, Jamaican burr gherkins, an heirloom pink corn from the southwest, bright red celery and purple tomatillos, all big, perfect, bug and blight-free. Oh, this year’s garden could never be as fantastic as next year’s!

But, to come back to reality for a moment, there is more weeding to be done and blister beetles that need to be hunted down and squashed. There is early blight on the leaves of some tomato plants (but no sign of late blight yet, thank goodness!) and the early cucumber plants had to be ripped out because of a raging case of anthracnose. There are squash bugs hiding out there somewhere that I need to be on vigilant alert for and the flea beetles, well, I’ve just given up on them. Let them eat what they want. This year’s garden is work!

I know I should be sitting down to write a real blog post, and I promise I’ll get to it. But, in the meantime, the sunflowers are blooming and I just had to share.

No flowers in today’s photo!

These babies are my White Wonder heirloom watermelons ripening on the vine. This is a small, icebox-sized melon, 3 to 8 pounds. The flesh is snow white with a unique, fruity taste.

 White watermelons were developed from wild African strains and were popular in the 19th century. White Wonders are delicate and the rinds crack easily, so you’ll never find them in the supermarket. You have to grow these babies yourself or look for them at your local farmer’s market.

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Today is the perfect day to be outside working in the garden. Slightly cool, slightly cloudy, rain from the past two days is making the weeds easy-peasy to pull. (So why am I inside on the computer right now, you ask? To cook lunch- I’ve worked up an appetite already)

The battle of the squash bugs appears to be taking a turn in my favor. There were no bugs, nymphs or eggs spotted this morning and no wilting in the young plants. It’s not over yet, but it is gratifying to see the tide turning so quickly and without needing to resort to spraying chemicals or destroying the crop. I have noticed jillions of spiders on the stems and undersides of the zucchini and squash leaves and yesterday even spotted an assasin bug nymph (they’ve been scarce this year for some reason) so I know I’m getting a helping hand out there.

If you’ve driven by lately, you probably know that the farm stand is not quite open yet. I’ve had a couple of customers from last year ask in the past week when we’ll be opening and the answer is: soon! As I start all plants from seed without the aid of a greenhouse or indoor light setup, the spring’s cold weather and late frost set me back on summer crops by 2-4 weeks. But finally the zucchini, summer squash and cucumbers are rolling in at a steady rate, so look for the stand to open within the next week. Also, new this season, you will find seed from our heirloom and international, open-pollinated veggies at the stand. All are collected right here in the garden.