Dry Garden Harvest

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

Despite the fact that the garden is pretty well burned out, and all that is in the forecast is more hot and dry weather, there really is a harvest going on.

I have been gardening for 35 years, all of it as a blind guy, and I’ve never had a worse crop of green beans. The plants are stunted, and their pods are limited. I have picked twice now, and have had enough beans in both pickings combined, to have a small meal. Experience has taught me when the pods are ready. I pick them, near the main bean plant stem. When the pods are about 6 inches long, and feel plump to the touch, then they are ready to go. Many of the pods this year are soft, and have very few beans in them; this is another sign of too hot and too dry. Since the plants are alive, there is still hope if the weather in August and September turns more moderate and wet. 

On July 8, I planted another wide row of green bean seeds where the lettuce, spinach and radishes were planted this spring. I haven’t had the nerve to see if the plants have even sprouted. We did get some rain last Friday morning, July 13, so it is possible they are up. Even if they are germinated, unless I water them extensively and frequently, they won’t amount to much. I did not use sticks and a string in this effort. The west edge was bordered by the old perennial bed, and the east edge was the fence that separates the garden from the rocks, bench, and footstool. 

The cherry tomato in the large pot is dying, but it is nothing to worry about. It still has some tomatoes on it, and I estimate that we have picked over 100 fruits from it. It has paid its dues, and if it chooses to die, I choose to quit watering it. It could be a blight, it could be the weather, it could be old age; I simply don’t care. The new growth at the ends of the vines is still green, so again, if the weather turns moderate, it may produce more flowers and fruit. I have given up trying to stake and tie up the vines. It did well in its rampant state, and if it isn’t broken why fix it? 

I got tired of waiting for it to rain appreciably, so I dug up the elephant garlic. The foliage was dead, and I could tell this by touch. I found a trowel that was long and pointed, and went to work. The trick here is to dig the bulbs without damaging them. I gently dug a couple inches from the base of the plant, and did so slowly. When I had enough soil removed to find the bulb, I stuck the trowel underneath it, and pushed up. I damaged no bulbs this year, but split a couple into cloves as a result of this process. I will use the cloves first, and save the whole garlic until later. The bulbs were a little smaller this year, but definitely satisfactory. I let them dry in the sun for a day, then took clippers and cut off the tops about six inches above the bulb. Again, this is an easy task for a blind person, as it is all done by touch. 

Even the six garden tomatoes have yielded a few fruit. I went to the garden and found the obvious ones that were ripe, close to the bottom of the plant. A friend came by last night and picked those that were just starting to turn. I placed them on the back of a kitchen cabinet, and they will be eaten last.  Even though the crop is subpar, it is better than last year. 

My peppers are all in pots, and despite the rabbit damage, continue to produce. I raised some jabaneros for my son Jack, and when I meet him for lunch tomorrow, I’ll be able to give him the first harvest–perhaps six peppers or so. The sweet peppers continue to do well. I pick them early to avoid sunburn. Again, I judge by size, and a handy pair of small scissors is with me to snip them off near the main plant stem. I have already frozen two bags, and each time I make a salad, I stroll out to the garden to harvest an additional pepper or two for fresh eating. It is my hope to get an additional bag frozen this week. These pots are on the edge of the garden, and get watered frequently. The cherry tomato and pepper pots have done well; I’ll try eggplant in a couple of pots next year. There is an area of the garden that seems to not grow things well. My goal is to have about 30 large pots in produce next year, and place a bunch of them in that part of the garden. 

The basil in the herb garden continues to struggle, even though it gets frequent drinks. However, the basil in the pot just east of the bench area is doing fantastic. The fennel in the herb garden is taller than I am, with lots of seed heads now coming to maturity. Generally, most herbs like dry weather; it would have been a great year to plant rosemary in the herb garden for this reason. 

The potatoes are dead, but since I have a couple of pounds of them in the storage cabinet, I have not attempted to dig them. I look for a small and poor crop, but the small ones are always good for boiling, or browning in the oven; they won’t go to waste. I enjoy digging them, but will wait until it rains to make this task a bit easier.

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