By Roger Erpelding
The crops are beginning to mature. On the south side of the house, while checking the water level in the five clay pots, I thought that some of the tomatoes in the second pot, the Fantastico, felt a little soft. They have been well watered, so I figured this was not the problem. The next day it was confirmed that my suspicions were right—they were soft, because they were red. These are small grape-shaped tomatoes. We picked 3 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday. The rest of the fruit is hard, so I’ll check again in a few days.
I have also been watching the cucumbers in the new large bed on the south side of the house. We determined that they were big enough, so we picked two of them on Saturday morning. My guess was good, as they were not hollow in the middle, bitter, or full of seeds. They were tasty chopped up on lettuce salads. Both tomatoes and cucumbers reminded us that you just can’t beat the flavor of fresh fruits and vegetables. I used shape and size to determine when I wanted to pick them. This is a Patio Snackers cultivar, so I really wasn’t sure when they would be at their prime. They were probably 4-5 inches long, plump, and fairly smooth. Younger cucumbers will have more spines on them, and feel rougher.
Upon moving to the garden, I asked our son Rob to monitor a few apricots he had observed growing in the garden. I touched one, and it fell off in my hand. Although not ripe, if it fell off that easily, it wouldn’t be long until it would be ready to eat. It was bumpy and hard, but the next night we cut it in half—perfect!!! Rob harvested a few more the next day. Some had been damaged, but two of them were fit enough to eat. Three tasty apricots is a small crop, but we had bushels of them last year, so we’ll hope for another crop next year. Experience tells me to begin to watch them around June 20. We have picked most crops in late June-early July. If they are in my reach, size and feel are my best indicators of ripeness. When they are ripe, they are still firm, but a bit soft. Others use color as well, another good indicator.
We had an inch of rain on Thursday, and 1.7 inches on Friday. I knew the ground would be muddy, and soil compaction would reign supreme. Despite this fact, it was time to pick the second crop of lettuce. My old garden shoes surely got muddy and my sack of lettuce got full. This made for mighty tasty lettuce salads—fresh, flavorful, and not bitter. I’m glad I got out there, as we had another 0.8 inches of rain later on Saturday, and 0.4 on Sunday. As I write this, we are in the midst of another heavy thunderstorm.
Rob and Beth both love fresh raspberries, and they have been scouting the plants for the past few days. Just before dinner Rob and I picked a small bowl of them for Beth. This will be a small crop from a few bushes, but their taste will be worth it. We’ll continue to monitor the plants. I have picked raspberries for years, and I use size to determine when they are getting ready. When they pull off the plant easily, they are ready.
One of our next jobs will be to pick cherries. The worms and the birds have already had their share, so it is our turn. The rainy weather is supposed to move on after today, so our plan is to complete this task tomorrow night. The ripe cherries will be plump, firm, and just a bit soft. They will easily leave their stem on the tree when I gently tug on them.
We have had lots of rain lately, but I won’t complain. For every problem rain creates, it solves 24,666,829,418 more. The garden and potted plants are doing well, and natural water is better than any hose can deliver. The rain barrel is full; the containers are full as well. So, if we have just a tiny dry spell, we are ready for it. We have battled drought for the past few years, so the rain is a welcome change. I LOVE RAIN!
The varmints better eat well, because on the first dry day, we’re going to treat the peppers, hollyhocks, and any other vulnerable plants with the hot pepper spray. I still have plenty of blood meal and Repels-All in the cabinet and I’ll be buying more soon.