I was going to name this post "Tomato Madness," but then I thought, well, there are other things going on in the garden, too. So instead I went with the boring "July Garden".
Weather: 75 ish and the sun has come out again after a few brief rain showers. I believe it has rained almost every single day this month -- at least a few sprinkles. We have spent more than a few soccer games huddling in sweatshirts. I made Italian sausage and onions Friday night. It was raining again, as usual -- a steady cold rain -- and as Andy sat down he said, "Boy, this is a good dinner to warm you up..." And I finished for him, "... on a cold July night."
Black-eyed Susans at the edge of the comfrey bed...
Katydid's miniature wildflower meadow...
A closer-up view of Katydid's flowers...
The roses, which are a bit past their prime. The old growth is already spent, and now only the new growth is blooming. I'm not deadheading the flowers because I want to try to collect rosehips in the fall.
The milkweed smells wonderful and has been buzzing with bees all week. I haven't seen any monarch caterpillars, but...
Katydid found this Mourning Cloak caterpillar on the driveway and brought it inside to see if she could watch it form a chrysalis and turn into a butterfly. We see a lot of Tiger Swallowtails around here, but we've never seen a Mourning Cloak, so it should be interesting. The caterpillars feed on birch and wild roses, so it's strange we've never seen one before (as we have both in abundance). Katydid has been taking pictures every day to chronicle the caterpillar's progress. She reports that it has formed a complete chrysalis already.
Another insect related to blooms...
In the Barnyard:
Actually, they're in the orchard with the elderberries. The elderberries were teeming with Japanese beetles, and the turkeys love to eat Japanese beetles, so it seemed like a good match. We have them enclosed with electric poultry netting, which does absolutely nothing to stop them from getting out. Heritage turkeys are exceptional flyers. And they don't seem to care about getting shocked by the netting either, which I find strange. Their favorite place to go after they get out of the netting is the chicken coop, where they eat the chickens' food, then fly up to the roof to roost. They have good personalities, though. They're very inquisitive and people-friendly. The Bourbon Reds and Blue Slates are not very smart. The Naragansetts (the ones that look like wild turkeys) seem to be far hardier and more intelligent as well. Oddly, of the 8 turkeys that survived out of our original 15, only one is a tom. He's the big Naragansett with the red neck. I like the turkeys far better than the meat chickens, who will not only peck but bite you when you try to change their food and water. (We ordered a straight run of White Rock and Delewares for meat birds, so I'm talking about the young cockerels here... Katydid has actually already decided which one she wants to eat first, which is something.)
In the Garden:
This is why I wanted to call this post "Tomato Madness":
We thought these tomato plants were going to die. The night after we planted them, we had a light frost here and there. Some of their leaves curled up and turned yellow and black. Andy went out and bought more tomatoes to replace most of these, which looked pretty bad. Now they have formed their own tomato jungle. These are not the only tomato plants I have. In fact, this is just half of one bed. I have another bed this size full of more jungley tomato plants.
I am really scratching my head about this. Usually in a cold, rainy year, the tomatoes do not do well. The plants don't blossom, the blossoms don't set, and the tomatoes take forever to ripen. Or, they are ruined by slugs.
Can you see all the tomatoes in there? They're pulling the branches so close to the ground the branches are developing roots. (All those little hairs on a tomato plant have the potential to turn into roots, which is why when you plant tomatoes, you're supposed to stick them in the ground right up to the bottom of the first set of true leaves.) It's been raining so much (or we've been at soccer so much) that we haven't had time to attend to the garden. So now we have super-sprawly tomatoes and weeds run wild among the eggplants and cabbages. Anyway, these are Early Girls (I think), a hybrid variety, but even my heirlooms (Brandywine, Striped German... and oh, I can't remember the others) are doing well for the most part. I had to toss a big half-ripe Striped German to the chickens this morning because of slug-damage and rot (which made me gnash my teeth a bit) but most of the tomatoes don't look that bad, even though they're growing so close to the ground.
I did pick this one before it could get any worse, though:
First tomato. Not pretty, but my expectations have been low in the garden this year. Deer ate every.single.pea plant. Rabbits ate all (all) my lettuce and spinach. Something is decimating the brussel sprouts. The squash and cucumber seeds rotted in the ground it was so cold and wet in June. And crows stole all our corn twice.
See the corn plants here and there? (If you squint?) We planted that whole space to corn. The only corn that actually managed to escape the crows are two rows on the right, which happened to be under netting.
I'm not feeling very charitable toward the crows lately. They run the hawks off, but I don't think that makes up for stealing the corn.
A few more garden pictures (because I like to look back from year to year to compare):
This is the first year we've grown cabbages, and they're doing well in this wet, cool weather.
My few remaining squash plants are starting to bear.
The peppers are not doing too badly.
The onions are getting rather large. They like the steady supply of water.
The blackberry bush is still my favorite. It's loaded with fruit and will need to be wrapped with bird netting before too long.
Harvest this week:
2 yellow squash, one sweet pepper, a handful of purple and yellow beans (not pictured), 1 zucchini, 1 cippolini onion that Chipmunk stepped on and knocked out of the ground, 5 giant Walla Walla onions (not pictured), 10 Yukon Gold potatoes, 5 stalks of rhubarb, roughly a half-pint of raspberries, eaten off the bushes, 1 cherry tomato, and 1 nearly ripe Early Girl tomato.
I made a strawberry-rhubarb crumble that everyone pronounced one of the top 10 best desserts ever... and a 3 bean salad (with squash and zucchini added) that I am going to have to eat all of myself. (Ahem.)
And now I had better go tie up some more out-of-control tomato plants. Before it starts raining again.