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Peak summer garden update

That's a lot of green stuff, isn't it?

Most nights, dinner includes a summer salad with cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs. Here's the bowl of tomatoes that's currently sitting on the kitchen counter.

I'm particularly pleased with the tromboncino squash, the large-leaved vine in the photo above. It's been highly productive, downright prolific. I've been harvesting the squash while they're still "small," at about 18-inches long, weighing about a pound and a half. At that size, one tromboncino squash equals about four tender zucchini, a meal unto itself. It tastes like zucchini and the vigorous vines have been trouble-free. I will definitely plant tromboncino squash again next summer and I will definitely build big trellises again to support it.

I've also been pleased with how well my collard greens have done this summer. I usually grow collards as a spring crop, under row cover to protect them from pests, and removing them in May to make space for summer vegetables. But since I planted them later this season than I normally do and since my planting design allowed enough room to continue growing them, I decided to keep the collards all summer. I've kept them uncovered, as they're planted in a bed with other veggies that require pollination to be productive, and yet they've been relatively pest-free. You can see a few holes from caterpillars, but I haven't seen any aphids or whiteflies that often affect my Brassica crops. I think what has made the difference this year has been installing a bird bath, which has attracted both greater numbers and a broader diversity of birds to the garden. I am certain that the birds have been helping themselves to some six-legged snacks.

Alas, growing Dinosaur kale uncovered has been nowhere near as successful as the collards. It has been munched down to nothing not once, but TWICE. My neighbors told me that they saw the culprit: a groundhog. Nonetheless, the kale keeps growing back and so I've still been able to harvest a few leaves at a time, enough for a small frittata.

Disappointingly, my okra seems stunted, the second year in a row that it hasn't done well. The okra should be 4 feet tall by now, but it's only half that. Last year, I overcrowded it in a densely planted bed. This year, I think it's objecting to the unusual rain pattern. Okra doesn't like to stay too wet for too long. I had difficulty getting the seeds to germinate into healthy seedlings back in May when it was really wet and rainy. While June was mostly dry, we went back to being rainy again in late July. So instead of reaching up and growing tall, my okra has been crossing its arms and making pouty faces. For next year, I think the answer is to plant okra in containers, which dry out faster than in-ground plantings and can be moved from out of the rain if needed.

Believe it or not, it's time to start thinking about fall planting. I'm still pondering my design and I'll write more on that next week. For now, I've just started a tray of leeks, which was one of the only vegetables to survive last winter's polar vortex. They're just starting to sprout, so they're too small to be photogenic yet.

#summer #vegetables #herbs