Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Surprises after two weeks away

We had two delightful weeks visiting friends and relatives and enjoying MathFest in Lexington, KY. Last evening we returned home, and I quickly surveyed the surprises awaiting me in the garden. There are always surprises, but what they are is always a surprise.

Perhaps the nicest this time was the size of the eggplants. I raised them from seed, radichio from FEDCO. The first I saw and picked was 10" long and 4" in diameter! We had a couple of eggplant parmesan dinners before we left, but those eggplants were nothing like this. Today I saw some that were even larger in the thicket. They freeze well after I dip them in an egg-milk mixture and then flavored bread crumbs and pan-fry them in preparation for eggplant parmesan; that promises to take lots of time in the next week.

The most unhappy discovery was the lack of small ripe tomatoes on thriving bushes. My neighbor who I gave permission to harvest them while I was gone said there were many a few days after I left, and then none. My daughter-in-law said she saw chipmunks climbing up their supporters and eating them. Does anyone know how to control chipmunks? I never worried about them before. Today another friend in Montclair said she saw birds eating her small tomatoes from the tops of bushes. I remembered the tape that presumably keeps birds from my peas by its vibrations, and put some on the tomato cages this afternoon. Then it occurred to me I might think
of something similar to protect raspberries from birds. Hmm.. Lots of work in prospect.

That there was no lettuce was hardly a surprise. The woodchuck(s) had invaded the inner garden and done its thing. The arugula and turnips I sowed three weeks ago are doing fine, but the beets are not visible, and there is only one 1" lettuce plant from that sowing. The beans I sowed between the apple and peach trees grew nicely but are mostly nibbled to the stem.

One of you wrote that she read that pinwheels discourage woodchucks. Have any of you experience with this? Does anyone know where pinwheels can be purchased locally?

Our basil is proliferating more than ever. We had pesto last evening and will many more times in the next nine months, as my time permits. It appears there is an endless amount of basil, but that appearance is deceiving, of course. I know I don't have an endless amount of time.

I discovered that this year's peppers when red enough fall off the vine and rot on the ground. This didn't happen before, probably because I have picked all peppers as soon as they turned red. I picked both red and green yesterday and today, so our salads are not bad, despite the lack of lettuce and tomatoes. We have some cucumbers, and lots of carrots.

Carrots? Early in the evening before we left a neighbor brought us a barrel of excellent grass clippings. I mulched carefully the young beets, turnips, and arugula, and then painstakingly mulched and thinned the carrot patch. This requires GOOD grass clippings. I had about a 9" diameter bundle of carrot "thinnings" when I was finished. Carrots substitute for fresh tomatoes in the winter, and I guess they can in August.

Oh! Another surprise was six small yellow tomatoes on the vine that volunteered in the compost heap, to which I had magnanimously given a cage. Hardly any sun, but very good soil seems to produce tomatoes. Actually, the good soil isn't really needed either, judging by the vines in front of my house. Maybe I will be Harvesting tomatoes again from the main source if I can figure out how to deter my competition.

One more surprise: I harvested my first supersteak tomato today and it was 6" across. It is now cooking down for sauce in this evening's eggplant parmesan.

It's a wildly growing year. I hope your growth compensates for the thievery in your garden. I think mine almost does, but still I would be glad for less thievery!


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