Mid Harvest Yard Update

As ever, the garden looks great – majestic, even – from a distance. My birthday has come and gone, however, and I regard my birthday as a seasonal turning point. Summer is not over, but it has rounded the corner towards autumn.

Unlike last year, we are getting an absolutely bumper crop of blackberries. I’ve made some (thin and amazingly sour) jam and we’ve been eating them by the bowlful. Soon I will be obliged to add them to the freezer, where we already have more frozen fruit than we need for the next 5 years. Oh, did I say? Mr. Ferdzy is going through the Whiffletree catalogue and wants to buy a bunch more fruit trees/shrubs/canes. Yoikes.

Also in the fruit line, we’ve been eating watermelons for almost a month now. I’m a little disappointed in the quality this year, but we are getting enough good individuals that the project is fine.

And there are still more coming for trial and assessment.

Peppers are finally ripening. We ended up for various reasons not planting a very good selection in terms of how we use them; there are too many drying and hot peppers and a skimpy amount for the ones that go into sauce. Also doubt we will have many to roast and freeze which is too bad; that’s a nice veg to have on hand in the winter.

Eggplants were a cross between Aydin Siyahi (Turkish) and Ping Tung, and they are producing like crazy (f1 hybrid) but we don’t think they have quite the good flavour of either and they mostly have the smaller size (but not the melting tenderness) of Ping Tung. Oh well. Back to basics next year. And in the mean time, they are certainly good enough to eat, and we are eating them. 

Looks look excellent. Usual appearance of leek moth, but Mr. Ferdzy got right on them with the diatomaceous earth and they are consequently barely toubhed. Surviving cabbages are heading up. Looks like we will have celeriac. Peanut tops look good; it remains to be seen if there are any peanuts under them.

Those front beds are replantings since the first one of shelling peas. Lettuce and spinach are in the first bed, with beans in the second bed. The beans have had ongoing problems with deer getting in and munching them. It’s interesting to note, though, that they only seem interested in phaseolus vulgaris – the cow peas and Lima beans are untouched. A good reason to be happy that we have diversified our bean plantings.

The barley has been harvested, and I have to say while it was interesting to grow it and I look forward to eating it, it is the world’s most expensive barley. It may be one of the easier grains to clean by hand that doesn’t make it actually easy. It immediately had the attention of the critters and had to be picked immediately on ripening. We’ll grow it again next year, but I’m not sure beyond that unless we can resolve some of the issues.

Beans have been one of the things we’ve been assessing this year. We planted a lot of crossed beans along the outside of the pole pea bed in the hopes that we could keep track of them and assess them individually as plants. Only semi successful; instead of getting indistinguishably lost amongst each other, they got lost amongst the pas until quite recently when the peas have finally died down enough to let the beans take over. Still, we will be able to make some judgements and decide which plants we will save seeds from for further testing.

This one was a new hybrid that showed up for the first time this year – an f1 that I believe is ((Octarora x Cherokee Trail of Tears) x (Blue Lake x Cherokee Trail of Tears)). It looks almost exactly like a Blue Lake plant, and it produced like a Blue Lake plant – that is to say, HUGE numbers of beans – that looked like Blue Lake beans but while extremely tasty were a little milder. How do I know it was not a stray Blue Lake? Because it had pink flowers like the Octarora it came from, and the black seeds of Cherokee Trail of Tears. It also has apparently impressive anthracnose resistance, so we’ll be saving seed from this one and growing it next year with great interest. Black seeds are not my first choice but this is otherwise pretty much my ideal bean plant. I hope the offspring continue to be as good.

A view down “bean alley”. The visible beans are from the original Blue Lake x Cherokee Trail of Tears cross, which are continuing to be assessed for anthracnose resistance and productivity. In general, they are starting to produce a little later than Blue Lake, which is vexing, but it also looks like they continue producing much longer too, in the face of the advancing anthracnose that really gets going in late August. Our Blue Lake our pretty much finished by it at this point and there is not much left to do but let them dry down and select the cleanest pods for seed.

I think some good beans will come out of this project. They show surprising variation in shape and size, but they have been consistently tasty, stringless and productive, with generally improved anthracnose resistance.

And finally, Lima beans are coming. It is too early to say much about them as I harvested the very first ripe pod yesterday. We planted quite a few new varieties this year, so as they ripen and get harvested I’ll be assessing them We’ve already noted one particular plant that looks like it is going to outstrip every other plant by a factor of at least 5 in terms of quantity, and by several weeks in terms of earliness.

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