By Roger Erpelding
Here I am, experiencing garden harvests, and still planting.
By the Fourth of July, the garden was dry enough and I figured the green beans were mature enough for their first picking. It was an unusually cool day for July. I am used to picking green beans in hot weather when the air is so thick with humidity that you have to push it out of the way; not so this year.
I started on the west end of the north row, proceeded east to the end, then went to the south row and picked westward to the end. I have several rows of green beans, but I can reach and pick several rows at once.
The north end has two new kinds I am trying this year—Derby and Jade. My favorite is still Blue Lake 274 bush beans. If I plant a second planting, I will use more Blue Lake seeds, along with a new cultivar called Easy Pick.
Size and firmness are my two criteria for determining if the beans are ready. If the pods are too far along, the bean seeds inside them will be prominent. The perfect pod is long, firm, and almost smooth. Due to rains and moderate weather, I was very pleased with the first picking. More small pods are setting, so I’ll pick again on July 9. When it rained Saturday morning I was elated as that inch of rain should guarantee a third picking. Experience tells me that the second picking will be the best. If rains and moderate weather continue, barring hailstorm or a severe infestation of Japanese bean beetles, I could be picking beans into the autumn; and that doesn’t include the possibility of a second planting.
Around the yard, other harvests continue. We have had a few ground cherries. They are ripe when their papery husks become dry and they fall onto the ground. Since mine are in a raised bed, the cherries are easy to find. One more cucumber was picked from that bed on the 6th. The cherry tomatoes in the garden and in the large clay pot are ripening gradually. We have picked 17 so far. And the same goes for the raspberries. I judge their ripeness by size, firmness, and their willingness to easily fall off the vine and into my hand. The cherry crop is picked. Again, I use the same criteria as when picking raspberries.
The spinach is harvested and pulled out. While I was at it, I picked another bag of lettuce. It is past its prime, but still tasty. Again, credit the rain and moderate weather. There is a short row of buttercrunch lettuce close to the potatoes that I will pick one more time this weekend.
I am firmly addicted to planting plants. With this in mind, Beth and I went to Earl May on Saturday morning. We had accumulated quite a bit of “fun money” from our purchases there this spring, and it was time to take advantage of this. In addition to garden supplies—blood meal, Repels-All, hot pepper spray, labels, and potting soil, I had to fill a few vacancies in garden and flower beds. Near the curb, in the mailbox bed, I had pulled lots of “weeds (?)” on Friday morning. People described them as “pretty” but they were taking over some of the perennials and zinnia plants. They are viny in nature, so this created a large gap in the North West corner of the bed. I asked for marigolds, but they were out of them. However, I did get my hands on some nice geraniums, so, after Saturday’s rain, late in the evening, I set them out.
As mentioned earlier, I pulled spinach, and while at it, some of the lettuce in the east end of the garden. This is a very shady area, and fortunately a very narrow area. I will mulch most of it, and try to improve the clay soil. In the meantime, I found two large pots of sweet potatoes (Georgia Jet) which really looked healthy. I potted them out in the sunniest part of this area of the garden, just east of the row of carrots. After they were placed in the ground I mounded them up with potting soil. I once complained to my father that I love growing sweet potatoes, but hated digging them. He recommended mounding them several times during the season. This keeps the soil loose, and the tubers closer to the surface; it works!
And what would a summer planting frenzy be without peppers and tomatoes? I found two “patio” tomatoes called Container Choice, a new cultivar for me. They are in two large pots just west of the perennial garden, just north of the kohlrabi plants. And while I was at it, I bought 8 Hungarian hot wax peppers. I put one each in four medium-sized pots, and 2 each in two large pots. They are by the tomatoes.
I once heard it said that you can‘t water a transplant too much. This advice has stood me in good stead all of these years. So, last night the geraniums, peppers and tomatoes got a good watering. I didn’t water the sweet potatoes, as they are more amenable to hotter and dryer weather. However, if it does not rain in a week, I’ll thoroughly water them as well.