Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Vegetable garden update

The garden is coming into full summer swing. The first three Sungold cherry tomatoes are ripe. We were a little slow getting tomatoes in the garden, but between the hoop house that was erected over them for the first few months and the hot summer we've had this year, I think the timing has evened out. Being closer to the foothills of the Cascades than the warmer valleys, our cool nights can cause crops like tomatoes to ripen a bit later than gardeners at lower elevations. By the end of August, though, there will be so many Sungolds they'll be given away by the bagful.

Isis Candy, the variety I grew from seed this year, is probably a week or two behind Sungold, even though the plant itself is larger. The Sungold was larger to begin with, but it had also been treated with a growth regulator to make it more compact, so it was significantly more mature than the Isis Candy I started so late in April.
Isis Candy has grown into a robust plant, but doesn't seem as fruitful as Sungold. The fruits are slightly larger, though.
Next to the tomatoes are the peppers and globe basil. While my lemon basil never looks like anything more than scrawny basil that's been hacked back repeatedly, my globe basil, Finissimo Verde A Palla, has formed vigorous yet dense mounds of foliage. Leaf size seems to vary widely from plant to plant, with some bearing leaves up to an inch long and others having leaves less than a quarter of an inch long. In the center you can see two basil plants with fairly large leaves. In the lower left corner you can see one with very small leaves.
 

This plant probably has the smallest leaves of all of them. They're practically pre-chopped! Just remove from the stem. This plant is also flowering. If I had more time, I would save seed from the smaller-leaved plants, making sure to remove any flower buds from the larger-leaved plants before they bloomed, to see if I could get more uniformly small leaves next year. But my time is short, and I doubt my parents would manage well collecting the seeds.


The tiny leaves make the flowers stand out a little more.

The peppers, Alma Paprika and Jimmy Nardello's, have performed surprisingly well, though no ripe peppers yet. I've attempted bell peppers and miniature bell peppers a few times before and never gotten more than a handful of fruits per plant, and never any fully ripe plants. I've read that other types of sweet peppers perform better in the PNW, so I decided to try these two this year. Both are setting multitudes of fruit that are growing quickly. I'm already substantially more impressed with these two peppers than with any bell pepper I've ever grown. But the real test will be whether either of them ripen a reasonable number of peppers.

Alma Paprika was the first to set fruit, and I even think I might get one or two ripe peppers before I move. This is a paprika pepper. The fruit is sweet with a little warmth, and can be dried and ground to make the familiar paprika seasoning. They ripen from cream to orange and finally red. I'm so tempted to try one at this stage to see what it tastes like. If it tastes good enough in the cream stage, this is definitely a pepper for cooler PNW gardens. Hopefully, in this hot summer, the fruit will even manage to ripen. We've still got August and at least most of September. They've got a chance!


Jimmy Nardello's is a pepperoncini type, I believe. The description in the 2014 spring Territorial Seed Catalog has this to say about it, "An almost uncanny sweet, fruity flavor makes these peppers tempting and delightful eaten straight off the plant, but traditional Italian cuisine typically uses them for frying." It is also consistently one of the first peppers to ripen in Territorial's trials. Fingers crossed!

They are certainly productive plants. I'm impressed with the productivity of Alma Paprika, but blown away by Jimmy Nardello's. Loads of long, thin peppers dangle from these plants. Hopefully they will ripen to their full, red color and sweetness.

Another fun plant I tried this year in the vegetable garden was strawberry spinach or beetberry  (Chenopodium capitatum) The plants start out looking like spinach, but with more lobed, triangular leaves. The stems elongate and begin to form little green balls at the leaf axils. As they ripen, these balls turn into red fruit resembling strawberries. They even have a mild (bordering on bland), sweet, slightly fruity flavor. Certainly not as tasty as strawberries, but a fun addition to salads, nonetheless. A word of caution, these plants need space. They can sprawl 2-3 feet across in a tangle of stems. The leaves and fruits are attractive both in the garden and in salads and, unlike regular spinach, strawberry spinach is much more heat tolerant and, even when it bolts and begins to fruit, continues to produce leaves along the stems. They are much smaller, but still tasty. Strawberry spinach does contain oxalates, which can interfere with calcium absorption, so it should be eaten in moderation. However, one would have to eat a very large amount to experience any ill effects. Regular spinach also contains oxalates.

Corn is sending out tassels and silk, edamame soybeans are starting to produce flower buds, melons are running about, and zucchinis are doing what zucchinis do best, producing fruit that practically grows before your eyes.


I certainly won't be enjoying any of these edamame soybeans. Hopefully they produce beans and my parents will enjoy them. I've come to enjoy them in salads and just as a snack.

The unusual ribbed fruit of Latino summer squash makes for an interesting change from the typical dark green, smooth zucchini. I really should have thinned the plants. I sowed several seeds per mound and when they came up I was going to thin them to one plant each. They came up, I blinked, and suddenly I had 2 mounds of zucchinis with 3 full-grown plants each.

Unfortunately I've forgotten which zucchini this is. It's one of the classic, smooth, dark green types. Unlike Latino, with plain green leaves, this variety has beautifully silver-marked leaves. I'm probably wrong, but I think I remember this one is Patio Star.

Edible chrysanthemums have been one of my favorite salad greens this year. So odd that in my previous attempt to grow them, they struggled constantly and amounted to nothing, while this year they have thrived. The tallest plant, which was felled today to give more space to the shallots growing next door, was over 5 feet tall! The flowers are edible, but I find their flavor too strong and recommend them only as a garnish (if you are the type to garnish your food). Personally, I'm just enjoying the color they add to the vegetable garden and prefer to eat the succulent leaves, which have a mild carrot and celery-like flavor.

I'm also enjoying the edible chrysanthemums because they provided one of those surprises I love: natural variation! All the plants but one have solid yellow flowers like the one above. One plant, however, has these lovely bicolor flowers. I'm going to ask my parents to save seed from this plant for next year. Perhaps we'll develop a bicolor strain! Unlike the basil, the seed heads of edible chrysanthemum should be easy to collect and save.

And those are the highlights from the vegetable garden. I may not like this hot summer, but these plants sure have! As long as they get enough water and the wind doesn't blow everything over, that is.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, I completely missed that you were growing such an impressive veggie garden. This makes me very jealous of the space you have/had at your disposal. Our Sungold is starting to reliably produce ripe fruit but I swoon at the idea of having extra bags full, what a concept!

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    1. I haven't mentioned the viggie garden much. I'm far more interested in the ornamental garden. I do enjoy the fresh produce, though!

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  2. You've certainly produced a bountiful vegetable garden, Evan! I think I have to try raising edible flowers next year - and commit to doing a better job of feeding and watering everything on a routine basis :( .

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    1. The veggie garden gets only a yearly application ofcow or chicken manure, with an extra shot of slow-release organic fertilizer for a few things like tomatoes and peppers. I've been a bit lax with watering. I forgot how labor intensive veggies are and I've been so focused on the new ornamentals I put in this year.

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