Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
A magnificent swallowtail butterfly greeted me as I entered my backyard for watering today. This was such a nice gift from nature on what might be the hottest day of the month. Each year is different in my little veggie patch out back. As the summer heat fades, some plants in my garden are refreshed and sport new growth while other plants wither and die.
This year, an addition to my gardening routine was the arrival of Sophie, a 9-week-old German shepherd pup on July 9th. I placed a tie-down close to my garden so I could watch her while I watered, weeded, and harvested. As time went on, I let Sophie in the fenced-in part of the garden with me. She would stay out of my raised beds most of the time, and we had fun weeding together. I’d pull the weeds and toss them to her for inspection. It was big fun for both of us.
Now that we are into the month of September, much is changing in the veggie patch. Most of my cucumbers are done and browned leaves show where they thrived for July and August. Several times, I would find very large cucumbers that hid from view. These were perfect for Chilled Cucumber Soup.
I also had a good run of green beans of the bush variety. They are now long gone and the pole beans have just started producing well this week. Whenever I pick the green beans, I toss one to Sophie who loves chewing on them and it keeps her occupied for 5 minutes or so. If you have never tried giving your dog green beans, it’s worth a try. A friend of mine who is a holistic veterinarian told me they are good for dogs.
'Juliet' Tomatoes for Late-Summer Harvest
Most of my tomatoes did great this year. My favorites were the 'Cherokee Purple', 'Brandywine', and 'Juliet'. The only ones still producing are the 'Goliath Cluster' and 'Juliet'.
Strange but good, the 'Juliet' has come alive in my along-the-driveway plot and is as healthy-looking as a tomato plant can be. This plant did almost nothing all summer and now looks poised to enter the State Fair best tomato contest. I pick a few each day but see dozens growing rapidly. These late bloomers are bigger and tastier than previous 'Juliets' in July and August.
A large Juliet tomato plant.
Sophie loves the 'Juliets' and it’s a good thing that tomatoes are safe to give a dog. Tomato leaves are not good for dogs and reported to be toxic. When I’m not looking, she will quickly sniff out, grab, and eat any 'Juliet' tomatoes within her reach. I don’t mind her getting one per day, but the rest are mine!
Speaking of tomatoes, I’m watching a hornworm that has a host of parasitic wasps eggs growing daily on the back of the hapless hornworm, aka tomato destroyer. I learned two years ago from the plant and garden hotline folks to let these hornworms live so the wasp eggs can hatch.
I have watched a few of these afflicted hornworms over the last two years hoping to see the emergence of the baby wasps, but to no avail. Maybe they hatch at night. I’ll keep watching as these eggs develop and I might get lucky and see what the eggs look like when hatched?
The dreaded hornworm.
Bring On the Heat
Another star of the late summer has been a jalapeño in one of my Earth Boxes®. This and its neighbor, a 'shishito' pepper, have been putting out more peppers than I can eat. My Earth Boxes usually out-perform the other two plots and I’d use more of them if I didn’t have the raised beds.
I’ve been putting excess jalapeños in salsa and stir fry dishes for a blast of good heat. This makes me feel cooler on days like today when the heat index will hit 100 degrees or so. Just bite a hot pepper and the ambient temperature goes down!
A small but tasty harvest.
At the end of my garden rounds, I scored several green beans, one tiny watermelon — it was supposed to be big, a couple of cluster tomatoes, a yellow squash, two cukes, and several 'Juliets'. Sophie got a green bean and two 'Juliets' for her contributions. With a little luck and cooler weather, I hope to be picking good stuff for another two months, but you never know with weather and puppies. Wish me luck.
Kurt Jacobson has been a chef for 40 years and, after being schooled in the U.S. Coast Guard, he trained in many restaurants under both kind and maniac chefs. Kurt is starting his fourth year of container and raised-bed organic gardening and is volunteering at Wilbur’s Farm in Kingsville, Maryland, to learn real organic gardening. For this and other recipes using garden greens, and more fresh veggies check out his food blog. For tasty travel ideas check out Kurt's travel blog, TasteofTravel2.com. Read all of Kurt's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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