July Comparisons

Well, it is comparison time! It has been an interesting month of July where we live with a heat dome bringing in record heats at the beginning of the month, quickly followed by severely smokey skies that are making it possible to look directly at the red ball sun in the sky. The fact that we can look at the sun tells you how thick the smoke is, and it has been this thick for majority of the month, so it was a little surprising for me to see our numbers for July. I figured we would be down, but we seem to be doing ok, with some plants thriving despite the smoke, lack of sun, high temperatures and in the last week. raining ash. Let’s get into it.

I feel like our strawberries have been struggling. We have had some times in the last month where there were no flowers or fruit growing. They seem to be coming in little waves this year, rather than consistently. I am guessing, it is likely due to the weird weather. It is working out though, we are on par with what we were able to harvest last year. After a quick look this morning, it looks like we will be going into another wave with lots of fruit and flowers visible. Perhaps it won’t be a wave, and will instead just continue to flower and produce. We will see.

The rhubarb count is a little difficult to actually draw any conclusions from. It was early July in 2020 that our neighbour gave us the plant, and it needed a little time before we could start harvesting it since we wanted it to establish itself. We did well this July. Lots of new shoots have been coming up where we had pulled out shoots in June. I have mostly been stewing them and adding them to my smoothies or making fruit leather with my new dehydrator. Rhubarb is a plant I am not sure if we would have thought to grow had our neighbours not gifted us the plant, but I am happy we have one. I forgot how much I enjoy rhubarb.

Ermergerd….haha, yes, that is a sound that I make when we have our beets. I was so excited to find golden beets this year and I they are producing exactly how I had hoped. I love any kind of beet, but the golden beets are my favourite. Last year, I had planted red beets and part way into the first month they all died off. I am not sure why, and we didn’t end up planting anymore. This year, we have been enjoying the beets in so many meals, and are planning on planting some more for a fall harvest to can or preserve for the winter months. Keep an eye out for a delicious beet salad recipe that I am planning on sharing. It is a super easy salad, but provides a major WOW factor if you are having guests for dinner.

I love having fresh herbs, and am looking forward to having a permanent home for them next summer. My mom has some beautiful sage and chives that come back in her front garden bed every year and are small bushes. I can’t wait until we have that going on in our garden and only have to plant a few of the herbs that don’t come back. Our Basil has been hit or miss, with quite a few of our plants succumbing to the heat wave. Other Basil plants are now small bushes, which means some delicious home made pesto soon. The rosemary that we got smells amazing and tastes delicious, but it is not taking off like the one that I had last year. This year I went with Tuscan Blue, but I am not sure if I would grow that variety again. My thyme from last year is thriving alongside the new plant of winter thyme that I added in this year. It is quickly becoming one of my favourite herbs. The tarragon was one that I kept seeing pop up in recipes so it is not only a new herb this year, but also a new flavour addition to our meals. I love it, and it will now be a staple in our garden. The oregano and sage are almost out of control in the planters we have them in. I will be drying out a lot of those to use throughout the winter months. The chives didn’t take off, but also haven’t died. I think I will start those from seed next year instead of buying a plant. Overall, lots of flavours to choose from when making meals.

Whooeee. Our cucumbers are doing amazing. For 6 years I have been trying to get my cucumbers to grow up ladders or lattice and have never had success. This year, they are happy plants and have taken off up and over the ladders that I created out of some of our old temporary trellis’s from last year. The lemon cucumber is the most voracious, taking up any space it can get. It has taken some tending to make sure it is growing up and not just out. The Long English are also doing well, though a little slower to grow over the ladders, but definitely making progress. Both are producing lots of cucumbers which we have been enjoying. It is nice to have a variety to choose from.

Our carrots this year are happy and growing, however we may have over-seeded and didn’t have a chance to thin them out due to hiding from the heat. We have lots of carrots, but they are generally smaller, which make for great additions to lunches or meals, but in weight, just can’t compare to last year. I think we are probably picking more carrots this year, but they are much smaller due to being crowded. We need to go back to a little less packed in, or doing a better job of thinning them out earlier. I think Kurt plans on planting some more for a fall harvest, so we will space those out a little more.

We have done it. We have finally figured out how to grow bell peppers! We have always had some success, but very limited and always resulting in small peppers with thinner skin. This year, our peppers are as big as you would buy in the stores and they are thick and extremely tasty. Plus the plants are growing them so fast and so many being produced. It is amazing. I haven’t had to buy peppers for the last month. The plants have also continued to grow, which we have never had happen before, so it is a banner year for figuring out these beauties. We will be following our process from this year in the future.

We have always had moderate success with our hot pepper plants. Whether it is banana peppers, hot Hungarian, or Thai chillies, we always have a decent haul. This year though, is going to be the best yet. Like our sweet peppers, our hot pepper plants have continued to grow while producing large amounts of peppers. Our cayenne has been pumping out peppers, as has the banana pepper plant. The Anaheim really started going about mid-way through the month and are just about ready to start harvesting. I am looking forward to some tasty stuffed pepper dinners on the BBQ. They cayenne will be dried and ground to a powder for use this winter. The bananas will be used in meals, on pizza and if there are any left, pickled for use on charcuterie boards in the fall.

Don’t let this number deceive you. I would argue that we have as many onions as last year, we just have a different variety and haven’t been harvesting as many yet. Last year we had spring onions, which are ready much earlier in the season, as well as yellow onions. This year, I only have the sweet onions, which I am waiting on to finish getting their thick outer layer so that I can braid the tops for use over the next few months, and perhaps through part of the winter. Now that we have seen how full the garden is, I know I have space for some other varieties to go in, so we will have a few more options next year.

We have definitely taken advantage of the green tops on our onions more-so than last year. As mentioned above, we had more onions to use last year, so we didn’t harvest as much from our onion tops. This year I have been adding green onions to stir-fry’s, roasted veggie mixes and salads. Although we have been enjoying them, I am trying to ensure I leave a good amount on each onion so that I can try preserving them this year by braiding the green tops, which will dry out and allow me to hang the onions, which apparently will help keep them longer in to the winter to enjoy.

The new tomato location is paying off, though I also know that Kurt’s pruning skills are also playing into our roma tomato success this summer. Usually, we have lots of romas this time of year, but they don’t ripen until August. We are a few weeks ahead this year, and I think a big part of that is that they get a lot more sunlight during the day in their new home. Plus, Kurt has been making sure to keep them well pruned so that the plant is focussing on growing tomatoes and the leaves aren’t getting too much in the way of the tomatoes basking in the sun. Our plants as usual have reached the 8′ height, with at least a few blowing past that and are looking like they may be over 9′ now. Very happy and reaching for that sun.

Our two cherry tomato varieties are pumping out tomatoes, and like the romas, are a few weeks ahead of previous years due to how much sun per day they get. This year we have the standard red cherry tomato, but we also grew some yellow pear tomatoes. They are a little larger than the cherry tomato and they go a beautiful golden colour. They also have a nice thick flesh and add a pop of colour to salads or other dishes. We have been getting so many that I have done a batch of them both in my dehydrator for some sun-dried (or dehydrator dried) tomatoes to keep on hand for pesto or adding to salads or pizza. I will be packing them in some oil and they should last for the winter. I am also going to try making some tomato powder, which has also come up in some recipes that I have been looking at. It is always nice to add to the spice drawer!

So this one is a cheater, since I didn’t have anything to compare it to for last year, but when I am looking for numbers next year, it is easiest to look back on the blog, so I am putting it in for easy reference next year. Good excuse right? I am so happy with the red cabbage that we got this year. So happy, that I am going to try and do a few more heads of it for a fall harvest. Apparently, in our zone, as long as I have them in by the second week of August, then I can have mature cabbage before the frost. I figure I might as well try, it just means more delicious cabbage for us this winter.

So again, I don’t have much to compare to. We did try broccoli in the past, which was not successful, but we were also trying it on a slope and the irrigation wasn’t right. Anyways, it was a recipe for disaster. We definitely had our issues this year with the cauliflower, but I was successful in getting 1 head, so I am putting it in here. Next year, we will have better success now that I know what not to do. Also, if I can find the right plant at one of the local nurseries, then I could potentially grow a fall harvest cauliflower this year. It would be interesting to compare how they grow compared to the cheddar cabbage this spring/summer.

Our zucchini in 2020 didn’t do very well overall. A big part of that was that I just plunked it into the hillside by the tomatoes, and I don’t think the soil was very good for growing. I was pretty unsuccessful with all the plants we stuck in that area. Next spring, the walls in that same area will be done and we will add 6″ – 12″ of nice black garden soil so that we have more success with the things we are growing over there. This year, I ended up with 2 zucchini plants, which was a mistake. I thought the first seed wasn’t going to grow, but I had just put it in too early and it hadn’t had time to warm up in the soil yet, so I now have 2 plants that are growing like crazy. Luckily, it seemed to stop flowering for a few weeks, and only just started flowering again, so I was able to catch up with actually using the zucchini that we were getting. When they start producing again, it is going to be out of control. There are sooooo many flowers.

Ok, ok, last one that wasn’t in the garden last year to compare to. This year, we have two types of celery, and I want to make note of it on the blog for reference next year. The Tango celery, which was the earlier to mature, has been delicious. We have been pulling stalks off it as needed, rather than taking the whole plant out. So far it seems to work well, ensuring nice crisp celery that hasn’t gone limp in the fridge. The Peppermint celery was in behind the brussels sprouts, so I am wondering if they weren’t getting enough light. The brussels sprouts are gone now, so they should be able to catch up. They are getting bigger, and would make a good caesar garnish at the size they are now, but I would like them a little bigger for adding to our lunches of cut up veggies. I am curious to see if there is a difference in flavour, and which one we prefer the taste of.

Well, that’s it for July. August will bring more plants to the list with the corn looking to be ready in mid-august. It looks like we will have a few weeks of harvesting since the cobs have been spacing out when they started developing. I am not sure if this is normal for all corn, or if it is the variety (peaches & cream) that we planted, but I will do a little more research. I think we will have some family over for a big garden dinner when the corn is ready since everything else is in full swing.

I don’t think I will get any butternut squash as I have only had male flowers so far this summer. I was doing some reading, and apparently the heat can do that to the plant, which make sense since we had the crazy heat wave. I have seen a lot of people posting about the same issues on a local gardening facebook page, so it seems to be an issue in our area.

I am curious to see what the potatoes end up doing this year. We got them in late so we won’t have them until October, but we also have neglected them completely. I have topped them up with a bit of soil and straw, but we haven’t added any more boards to the towers since they reached the top of the level we started them with. As mentioned, the middle tower is toast with lots of fungus growing, but the two outer towers are still growing, and no fungus to be found, so I am hopeful.

I will update the blog with our fall preparation planting and what we decide to put in within the next week. We have never done a fall planting before, so it will be interesting to see how it works out. We may need to tweak it in future years, but for now will go with what we have read and watched on some YouTube tutorials about planting for a fall harvest. Beets and cabbage would be great!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. mccartyrebecca41yahoocom says:

    I love hearing about your success in the garden. I am eager to try to plant more herbs next year, and to that end I got a”greenstalk” which is a vertical planter with deep pockets where I plan to put all of my herbs. You water it from the top and it trickles down and waters all of the herbs at the same time which I think will enable me to keep them moist but not drenched. Happy gardening!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JP says:

      Thanks! I am glad you are enjoying our garden stories. The “greenstalk” sounds very cool, like a living wall of herbs. I hope it works out really well and ends up both a beautiful sight to see as well as full of delicious herbs. How many herb plants can you put in it?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. mccartyrebecca41yahoocom says:

        There are two sizes, I got the one with five levels, 5-6 planting cones on each so 25ish! Also comes with supports that hold up the plant when it grows out of the cone. I like that it’s made in Kentucky by a small company.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. JP says:

        That’s awesome! 25 plants is a good herb garden, with plenty of opportunity for variety. It’s always nice to support small businesses where possible. I actually did look up some greenstalk planters and definitely see one of those in future plans around our gazebo.

        Liked by 1 person

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