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July 26th, 2012

Summer Update from Wisconsin

kathy_tnIn Wisconsin we’ve been sweating in above-average heat, and watering due to below-average rainfall, to say the least. I do have to say that the melon vines are more vigorous than any we’ve ever grown so I’m hoping we get a good crop.

yellow Romano-type bush bean 'Capitano'

yellow Romano-type bush bean 'Capitano'

We harvested the first ‘Capitano’ beans (left) and the flavor is better than I expected since bush varieties usually fall short in the flavor comparison to our pole beans.

The ‘Cherry Stuffer’ pepper has come in second place for earliest pepper, and we actually picked it red! The first in were ‘Garden Sunshine’ peppers, which we picked in the yellow phase. I can’t wait for them to turn color before picking them. We’re still waiting on the other peppers as well as the tomato varieties.

zukeAnd also the zucchinis, believe it or not. They got ignored and made it through blisteringly hot temperatures with no watering only because they were mulched. They’re starting to look like real zucchini plants again (right) and we should have zukes shortly.


speckled and streaked flowers of zinnia 'Pop Art Red & Yellow'

speckled and streaked flowers of zinnia 'Pop Art Red & Yellow'

I should also tell you that the zinnias (left) and salvias are blooming their heads off.

Well, back to eating salads, cucumber salsa, gazpacho, and grilled summer veggies (I love this time of year!) while keeping cool.  —Kathy Shaw, Neenah, Wisconsin

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July 16th, 2012

Summer Vegetables in a Short Growing Season

Now it’s July and time to take a breath …. Since February it has been drier and warmer than average here in Colorado (if there are such things as climate averages in this state). I was a bit late getting my spring crops in, so the pea and lettuce season was short. I fell in love with ‘Mayan Jaguar’ lettuce from Fedco Seeds; it’s pretty with bite-size leaves. Because of the early heat and dry I had to be super-diligent with watering to avoid bitterness. Most growers here cover greens with row cloth but I find it makes lettuces rather tasteless and pale.

The tomatoes are growing well. ‘Pilcer Vesy’ is huge and loaded with fruit. It’s even dwarfing my usually vigorous ‘Pineapple’ and Aussie varieties. My early-season tomatoes are only just now ripening (even with a month head start in Wallo’Waters). The test cherries are also just starting to color. I’ve gone crazy with tomatoes this year and am growing 30+ varieties, so I’ll have plenty to compare the trial varieties to.

Summer squash have just started producing this last week. The summer squash ‘Golden Egg’, from Burpee, is very vigorous but I haven’t tried it yet. All the winter squash are doing well and I am holding out hope for the watermelons and melons. They are growing vigorously and flowering but need to get done by early September. I’m situated in a frost hollow so I seldom have success with melons.

The Brussels sprouts are growing vigorously. I am growing the test variety along with another three varieties. The cauliflower is great but maybe another 2 to 3 weeks off. I’m a cauliflower fan and have some great preserve recipes so I have planted six or so varieties this year. I’ve grown the ‘Purple Peacock’ broccoli before and was unimpressed. It isn’t exciting me much this year either but I’ll keep an open mind for another 2 or 3 weeks.  —Tracey Parrish, Boulder, Colorado

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July 6th, 2012

Heat Waves and Hail: Summer in Dallas

leslie_h_tnFor all the weather punishment we’ve been taking down here in Texas for the last 5 years—especially last year—we’re actually getting a much deserved break this year! We had a mild to non-existent winter (which does make the bugs quite happy) and a very, very wet and long spring. Yes, we’ve had a stretch at 106°F already, but it didn’t hit 100° until July 1 here, which is great! Last year we hit 100° by June 1. We don’t know what to think about this kind of mild weather, but after last year we’ll take it!

You may have heard we had a pretty hefty hail storm here in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. Luckily there was little damage at my home. Unfortunately, almost all the plants I put in our display and testing gardens up here at the garden center were completely destroyed by almost softball-sized hail. Who knows what the rest of July and August will hold, but the mild temps and rainfall have so far made for a pretty easy gardening year, all things considered. Not easy to say in Dallas!

Side note: Dallas is under permanent watering restrictions. Twice per week via automated system, but we are allowed to use drip irrigation or hand-water as needed within specific time parameters.

 'Faerie' is a compact hybrid watermelon with a ghostly skin. It's an All-America Selections winner for 2012.

'Faerie' is a compact hybrid watermelon with a ghostly skin. It's an All-America Selections winner for 2012.

I’m particularly in love with this ‘Faerie’ watermelon so far. It’s probably my favorite variety on the trial list right now. Of course, we’ve had such a mild June that who knows what they’ll do in a normal summer. So far, they’ve been very prolific (but I do have beehives and the bees are helping quite a bit). The compact size of the vines is fantastic. I have them growing in my front yard where they are quite the fascination for the neighbors.  And no powdery mildew. I should be harvesting soon—I hope the flavor is just as good as all the other characteristics!  —Leslie Halleck, Dallas, Texas

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July 5th, 2012

Summer Beauty: ‘Indigo Rose’ Tomato

IndigoRoseThese are the first of my test varieties that I’ve begun to harvest: ‘Indigo Rose’ tomato (left) and ‘Clara’ eggplant (below). Both photograph well—but beauty is only skin deep. ‘Indigo Rose’ is a tasty tomato but ordinary. Its real asset is its color; I think this is a splendid-looking dish of tomatoes. It reminds of the gaudy and outrageous jewelry I love to wear. These make a statement.

‘Clara’ eggplant is a real beauty, too—perfect shape, perfectly white. I think it must be sinful to cut it up and eat it. I will probably burn in hell. —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada

Clara

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