August Comparisons

August was an interesting month for the garden. The temperatures seemed to even out to regular temperatures rather than the unprecedented weather we had been seeing in June & July. But due to all the fires blazing around our city, we had dark skies, little sunlight and falling ash. It is something of note as a few of our plants certainly stunted or stopped producing due to the stress. Though we did our best to shake the ash off the leaves, we don’t know the effect it had on the soil PH. Add that stress to less sun reaching the plants, we are bound to see some effects in our produce. That all being said, we still seemed to have a great growing month. I have to wonder though what we would have experienced had the skies been sunny and clear with no ash falling.

Our strawberries had a very distinctive stall in production. But I cannot solely blame this on what I wrote above. Our strawberry tower is chaos. We hadn’t planned to grow in it again this year, and despite a very solid weeding in the spring before some of the new plants went in, it is completely overgrown with weeds, runners and now spiders. We did our best to keep on top of the weeds, but the soil has so much growing in it that it is a blanket of small weeds on the bottom that we pull as soon as we can. Add to that the new plants just wanted to shoot runners all over the place, and some weed vines from the yard found the netting around the berry tower an ideal growing ladder, it just became a disaster. I am fairly certain that is why it has become a high-rise complex for wolf and daddy-long-leg spiders. Regardless of the stall in production, we still were able to get some berries. With the clear, sunny skies, there are more flowers and new berries, and it looks like the plants are going back into full production, so perhaps it was our ridiculous summer weather that was the cause.

We don’t usually harvest much rhubarb in the summer as we want the plant to be full and strong for the following spring, but I had some strawberries that needed to be made into a pie….or at least that is what Kurt said. A good, homemade strawberry rhubarb pie is hard to pass up, so I harvested a few stalks to make the pie. I was lucky with the ones that I chose and they were not woody or tough, softening up beautifully in the pie. The plant looks like it is faring well despite the ash and weather, so we should get a nice crop again next year.

Oh my gosh, I know I have said this before, but I am in love with our beet patch. I have always wanted golden beets in my garden, and this year solidified that I will always have to have them. Red beets are great, and I am always happy with a good crop of them, but the golden beets are just a tad bit better. Especially on salads or mixed into a roasted vegetable mix on the BBQ. I have both red and golden beets pickled for on salads as well, but a golden roasted beet that has chilled is a dream on a salad mixed with some goat cheese. MMM. Next year I want to add some red beets in as well as I have missed having a few this year. Plus, a mix of different plants is great in the garden. Variety is the spice of life right?

Our herbs are a mixed bag this year. My little herb planter and the pot by our table are doing great. They are growing like weeds and I am looking forward to drying out a bunch of them this fall to enjoy for the winter. The air conditioner herbs are sad, and not happy. I don’t think I will plant herbs in those spots again in the future and go back to having beautiful flowers there instead. Though, I think I will have to put up some trellis to make sure no plant debris falls into the top of our new air conditioner. If all goes to plan this fall, then I will have a nice space in the garden walls for a permanent herb garden. Herbs like thyme, chives, oregano, sage and hopefully rosemary will self-seed or grow like a bush, resulting in constant herbs. I will add in any that need to be planted every year, like our basil. The basil in our garden, planted between tomato plants and other areas are massive and some of the best herbs I think I have ever grown. They are beautiful and are going to make some delicious pesto this fall. I am interested to see how the purple basil goes for making a pesto. I am predicting a very muddy colour, but we will see.

I think I am going to switch up our long english cucumber variety as we got a decent amount this year but nothing compared to some of our first years. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep track of our seed varieties the first few years, so I am not sure what variety I used that produced so many we almost couldn’t keep up. I’ll have to do some research over the fall & winter and check in with the garden group I joined. We did however, have a crazy growth year with our lemon cucumbers. They are these beautiful round cucumbers that go a very bright yellow. They are delicious, but we do find they tend to have quite a bit of seeds in the middle. We just cut that section out when chopping them up for lunches or salads, so it is certainly manageable. I think I will try some new varieties next year though. Although they produced in abundance, I want to try something new.

It is a very different carrot year this year. We planted a lot less than last year, and Kurt planted them much closer together, which has resulted in an abundance of mid-size carrots. I quite like them in the size they are as they chop up nicely for lunches or to add to salads. They are also the perfect size that many can be sliced in half lengthwise and then thrown into stir-fry’s. We still have quite a few to harvest, which should take us through into the fall. We were lucky with Basil staying out of the garden bed, but she finally figured it out and Kurt found her in the carrot patch the other morning. Hopefully it was a one-time thing, but she is a hound so now that she has sniffed them out, we are likely going to have to put up some fencing around them to keep her out.

This is a HUGE winner for us this year. We will be following our steps from this year again next year. We have never had much success with our sweet bell peppers, but this year we have had so much success. Large peppers with nice thick flesh, and an abundance of them on each plant. We even had a few that managed to turn red! In the past the peppers have never survived long enough to turn red, so it is a huge achievement this year. I still have so many on the plants, and am looking forward to enjoying them over the rest of this month. As soon as we start getting cooler temperatures I will harvest what remains, but until those temperatures hit, I will let them keep growing.

The Hot peppers have been fantastic. Though only one of the three are actually hot. Our banana peppers have been eaten like our sweet peppers, as have the anaheim peppers. The cayenne peppers are the ones with a kick and we love them. They have a good hit of heat but dissipate quickly and have a beautiful flavour. I don’t usually eat hot peppers, and this year I have enjoyed putting a few slices of the cayenne’s in soups and salsas. Plus the plant grows so many of them. Cayenne is now a must-have in our garden. I also like the banana peppers but may switch them and the anaheim’s up for something else next year. We will see. Likely it will just be the Anaheim that I replace.

We had a great crop of onions this year. I was unprepared and only ended up planting one variety instead of the 3 I had wanted to plant. It was ok though, we were able to harvest them all summer and ended up pulling the remaining bulbs late in July for storing. All the tops had dried and flopped, so it was time to get them out of the ground. I had considered doing another batch of fall-harvest onions, but didn’t find the time to get the bulbs. For now I have 3 bunches braided and hanging in the basement ready when I need them. In the past, I haven’t had the chance to store them, so it has been interesting getting them to this point and then braiding their tops for hanging. So far all the onions I have grabbed from the bundles have been delicious and juicy still. I imagine I will run out of them by the end of October, if not sooner.

We have been doing great with our Romas this year. They started producing earlier and were ripe much earlier in their new location. The extra time in the sun has been a noticeable difference. Right now the plants are huge and overflowing with tomatoes. Unfortunately, we have been very busy in July and Kurt wasn’t able to prune them as much as he had been. We noticed that the tomatoes are not going ripe as quickly as they were in July, despite similar temperatures. He finally found some time the other day to prune the plants back, so hopefully we will see some of the tomatoes on the plant start to ripen faster. There are so many, so we should have a good stock for the winter. Looks like I will be doing more canning, processing and freezing in the coming weeks.

Our cherry and pear tomatoes are out of control. The plants are massive and there are tomatoes everywhere! The lack of pruning hasn’t seemed to slow them down, so now that Kurt has pruned, it will be interesting to see how much faster we start harvesting. It is perfect though, they make excellent sun-dried tomatoes in the dehydrator. I foresee a few more batches to be done in the next few weeks. Mixed with the basil, it should make some delicious fall pesto. Plus, we will be able to enjoy it throughout the winter as well.

First year making cabbage, so this is a slightly deceiving comparison, since I don’t actually have anything to compare to last year. But I had to share. We got 4 beautiful heads of cabbage, which has been made into some delicious rotkohl for winter enjoyment. We will definitely be doing some red cabbage every year. We will see how fast we go through the rotkohl this winter, which will determine how many heads I grow next year.

As you know from reading all my recipe posts, August was the month of zucchini. I did manage to give a few away, but for the most part, I had to get creative with using it and processing it for future use. Every recipe I tried was excellent and now I have a great stock of recipes to use in future years. We have been enjoying the salsa, and I will be opening a jar of the relish next time we grill some hot dogs. The 12 loaves of zucchini breads that I have in the freezer will be great to have when company comes through the fall, or if I need some last minute additions for lunch. It was a lot to process, but worth every minute for not having to waste any zucchini’s and having so many great results. I also have a bag cubed in the freezer, waiting for another batch of the zucchini and corn garden chowder. With the cooler weather, I imagine I will be making another batch of that soon.

Celery will certainly be a staple in the garden now. Although we don’t eat it on it’s own often, we do cook with it a lot and it has been great to have it in the garden. I will grow the Tango celery again, but will skip the peppermint variety next year. The Tango had a better consistency and taste. The plants are still producing new shoots, so I will have some that I need to freeze for the winter, which is great. It is part of almost every soup base plus we love stir-fry’s, so it will all get used.

Last, but not least, was our corn harvest. We ended up with a decent haul, but were expecting a little more than what we managed to grow. For the first year though, it was a good harvest and we were definitely happy. We also learned a lot. We had a good distance on all the corn, however next year, I may consider putting them a little closer together to assist with pollination. We may also try a different variety next year to see if that also changes the amount of cobs we are able to produce.

Overall, August is always a good harvest month. A few of our regular plants had some changes this year, but it was a weird growing year with the smoke, heat and ash. Good to note as I doubt it will be our last year growing in these type of conditions. Now we have a baseline for this type of year to compare to.

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