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
I’ve never gone much for pumpkins solely for decoration—no surprise to those who know I haven’t much patience for flowers. But I do appreciate FOOD that is pretty, and the ‘Kumi Kumi’ squash we trialed this year (below) fits my criteria. It’s a beautiful ribbed flattish pumpkin. I suppose I’ll eventually eat it, but for now it’s lovely to look at. I do like to use seasonal produce as table or outdoor decorations. I just like to make sure I eat them before they go bad.
Our average first frost date is nominally November 4. We were about two weeks later than that this year. Still haven’t made it below 30F as far as I know, although the east side of the valley probably has. We had a series of storms right about the time we hit freezing that brought 1″ of rain, depending on exact location. Then some beautiful end-of-November days that had me out in the garden in a T-shirt. About 1/2″ of rain last week kept me from having to water anything and the winter veggies are all happy as can be.
My season for lettuce is just ramping up right now. I’ve been harvesting one bed of cutting lettuce for a few weeks. There are tried-and-true varieties ‘Red Salad Bowl’ and ‘Tango’. Plus ‘Kweik’, which I haven’t decided if I will harvest for a salad mix or allow to grow for heads (or both). The bed of Organic Gardening test varieties is a bit behind, and I’ve just started cutting them this week.
This has been our week to say good-bye to the 2010 garden as we had low temperatures in the 20’s last night and have been having sporadic frosts for about a month. The autumn weather has been in the 60’s and 70’s during the day, which has been a real treat.
Last weekend we heaped composted manure on 80% of the garden beds after harvesting all but the hardiest: Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes, horseradish, leeks, broccoli, and the remaining lettuces. The ‘Sea of Red’ lettuce is excellent in the fall bed and sized up nicely from a mid-August planting. The two Romaines did not really head up but we’ve been harvesting the outer leaves of both ‘Tin Tin’ and ‘Sweetie Baby Romaine’ from each plant. The ‘Tin Tin’ leaf thickness and taste is amazing. ‘Midnight Ruffles’ is beautiful but didn’t get large enough to harvest more than 5-6 leaves from each plant.
On Tuesday we made a recipe that is truly a transition from summer to fall/winter cooking. Roasted Ratatouille is made like the typical roasted “root vegetable” recipes but made with summer veggies. We used the last of our peppers, eggplants, and zucchini and I thought I’d share the recipe as well as “before and after” pictures—it was so pretty. It’s too bad the pictures aren’t scratch & sniff as the kitchen smelled like an Italian bistro. Make sure the whole family tries it as the garlic really shines in this recipe and you’ll have to live with them the rest of the day!
4 oriental eggplants, 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp. salt
2 medium zucchini, 1/2-inch cubes
2 yellow peppers, 1/2-inch pieces
2 red peppers, 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, finely minced
1 tbsp. fresh oregano, finely minced
1 tbsp. fresh basil, finely minced
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 roma tomatoes, sliced thinly
Combine chopped eggplant with 1 tsp. salt and let drain at least 30 minutes. Combine drained eggplant with remaining ingredients except tomatoes and toss like a salad. Spread on a cookie sheet and place the sliced tomatoes on top. Roast at 475 degrees for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway through. We use parchment paper when we roast vegetables for easy clean-up and served the ratatouille with couscous.
On the Test Garden front, everything is growing extremely well. The All-America marigold and zinnias are outstanding, absolutely covered in blooms. The 4 lettuces I am trialing are wonderful, with special praise going to ‘Sea of Red’, which nearly looks black-blood red. Love the colour. But I think with the huge heatwave we had last week, it didn’t stay as perky as the green lettuces. Dark colour, I guess.
‘Shiny Boy’ watermelon, another All-America Selections winner, is spreading out nicely. No fruit yet. The peppers are starting to colour up—’Gusto Purple’ and ‘Pinot Noir’. And the tomatoes are covered in fruit, but nothing ripe yet. Beans should be ready in a week.
‘Apollo’, a broccolette-style broccoli, was early. I have harvested all the main heads. They are smaller and more loosely beaded than traditional broccoli. I like the heads on my ‘Green Goliath’ better, but this sure beat it in terms of earliness.
It finally got hot in this corner of our country, up into the 90s. We’ll probably continue in the 70’s/80’s for a bit. The lettuces have been great. I sowed ‘Sweetie Baby Romaine’ indoors in early March and the ones I haven’t harvested yet are still holding their own. Two additional plantings are growing nicely.
‘Sea of Red’ leaf lettuce was planted with the ‘Sweetie Baby Romaine’ in early spring and is beautiful—very red where the sun penetrates, but green inside the head. It’s starting to bolt now. That’s the two of them in the photo at left. ‘Midnight Ruffles’ was sown in early May and June to test its purported bitterfree-ness in heat. It isn’t big enough yet to sample, but is quite beautiful.
I must have gotten the zucchinis mixed up, but good thing! I thought the ‘Cavilli’ zuke died and I had no more seeds to replant. I sowed more ‘Midnight Lightning’ so I’d have plenty of zukes to harvest LOL. But the early zuke plant that survived got big quickly and started producing really early, like by a couple weeks even in this year’s cool early summer (due to it being parthenocarpic?), and was a creamy light green color. Must be ‘Cavilli’! Tastes good, too, nice and creamy.
I think I’ve discovered the secret to gardening side-by-side with wild bunnies. For years, I’d brag that they weren’t a nuisance for me—until now. Why were my test bean leaves chewed to nubbins, and the test marigold leaves, also the zinnias, spinach, chard, and some of the lettuces? I found a few slugs, but not many and none where some of the damage was. Then it dawned on me: bunnies! I’d been negligent on keeping the grasses mowed, some getting really tall and thick, providing good bunny hiding places. No one has been spending hours every day in the garden and my dog has aged to the point of no longer being a threat. The secret? Eliminate hiding places and putter in the garden a lot!