August 27, 2010

August Garden Tour

August has been an odd month. It's usually one of our hottest, along with July. June is usually mild, sort of easing us in to summer. This year, it's as though August and June switched places. This year, June presented itself with a long, uncomfortably hot heat wave. July was more of the same and even though there was adequate rain in the area, it always seemed to skirt around our place, leaving my garden dry and thirsty. August has been amazingly cooler and wetter than I remember past Augusts to be. Cool, of course is a relative term, and is often offset by our humidity.  Still, highs in the mid 80s to 90s is welcome, compared to  flirting with 100 like we did during June and July.

Other things seem uncharacteristic too.  Even though the thermometer says "hot," the breezes blow cooler. Their sound in the leaves of the trees is reminiscent of September, not August. Something else that's strange,  has been the occasional sound of crickets during the day. That's a sound thats usually reserved for autumn. Considering that last winter was longer and colder than usual, I'm hoping we aren't in for an early winter this year.

Because of all the rain, August has been a green month. Everything is happy with the moisture and it shows. In fact, some things in my garden have made a comeback. Like the Swiss chard...

... and my bush beans ...

I had long since given up on these as being done for the year. In fact I neglected them terribly when I watered.  The variety is State 1/2 Runner, which had already given me 24 quarts of canned green beans. I now have high hopes for another batch or two.

My Kentucky Wonder pole beans are doing well too...

... though these have been slow to start producing. These are the ones I planted with the popcorn, in hopes of having ready made bean poles.

I have learned that popcorn isn't the best corn to do this with. It doesn't grow tall enough!  At least it's true of this Japanese Hulless, which was the only OP variety I could find.

The most striking plant in my garden is the giant golden amaranth...

At eight to ten feet tall, it's a traffic stopper.  Well, maybe just a traffic slower-downer.

The seed heads are supposed to produce up to a pound of seed each. I planted them for chicken feed.

One thing we've learned about it is that the seeds don't all ripen at the same time. They ripen over a period of time, so that harvesting needs to be done on an ongoing basis. This has proven to be something of a challenge. Not only because the heads are  larger than any container I have (I've been spreading out a sheet to shake them into), but because the stalks are so stout. It's nearly impossible to bend the plants over to shake out the seeds.Harvesting a two person job.

There are other types of amaranth. I chose this one for it's advertised output. Hopefully I'll be able to collect enough seed to make them worth it!

Other things doing well are my watermelons, as shown in this post.  Also the okra...

It's Clemson Spineless.  And my sweet peppers...

These are an heirloom variety called "Chinese Giant." I'm afraid they haven't lived up to the giant part, but they are pretty and have an excellent flavor.

My sweet potatoes too (Bush Porto Rico), have thrived.  They are the dark green bushy plants in the back row behind the bush beans ...

Those are yellow cosmos in amongst my sweet pepper plants in the front.

Actually I need to check on the sweet potatoes soon, as they are harvested according to desired size, rather than when by what the foliage is doing.  Definitely before first frost, which can damage them.

The sunflower heads are now heavy with seed.....

... and drooping under the weight of them.  I grow these for feed.

One of my biggest frustrations though, are my tomatoes, of which both varieties (Roma and Rutgers) which have been stricken with blight.  At least I think it's blight.  I've compared the leaves and fruits to pictures in The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control,  and blight seems the most likely cause, though some plants fit other disease descriptions.  I did spray these early on with a liquid copper based fungicide, but obviously it either wasn't enough or it was the wrong thing.

Unfortunately, I lost a lot of fruit because of this.  Fortunately I planted more plants (30 Romas, 6 Rutgers), than I would have needed if they'd remained healthy. Volume offset loss, though I wouldn't have minded having more.  Obviously I have some studying to do before next year.

That's this month's highlights.

August Garden Tour photos and text © August 2010 by Leigh at


katrien said...

wow, looking good! I wish my garden looked that green, that *full*. Those amaranth are amazing. I think I'll try those next year.

What do you do with all the chard? How do you process it?

Prairie Mother said...

Your garden is lovely!! We didn't have a garden this year :( because we moved in the middle of the summer. But we are planning a garden for a small space next year. It will be a challenge! but your garden makes me look forward to it.

maggie said...

Maybe you could tie mesh bags over the amaranth heads and collect all the ripened seeds at once at the end of the season? I'm so sorry about your tomatoes- that's just depressing. Thank goodness for over planting!

Theresa said...

Such bounty! It looks great, all of it except the tomatoes of course.
Who knows what kind of a winter it will be. We had temps almost to 100 up here Tuesday and yesterday barely topped 80, last night down to 40. I would prefer our winter to be cold and snowy, instead of warmer and rainy like last year.

Annie said...

Your garden looks great - so much growing there.
Our tomatoes are having the same trouble, due to all the wetness we're having here. They stay wet for too long and then this happens.
We usually cover them at night, but the wind blew over our little tomato-greenhouse.

The Mom said...

What a gorgeous garden. For the amaranth, I think I'd hack the top off and harvest them that way. The weather has been quite odd this year.

Leigh said...

Katrien, I'd definitely recommend something smaller. Theres one called "Love Lies Bleeding" that produces beautiful drooping red ropes of seed. I'd like to try that one next year.

I've canned a lot of the chard, but it probably freezes better. I just have limited room in my freezer. It can be steamed and served with butter (yum) or chopped & sautéed with onions. Dan likes it better than spinach.

Prairie Mother, I have been in the same boat about not being able to have a garden, so I feel for you. Even a small one though is lovely to have!

Maggie, that's an idea. The seeds are really teeny though, so it would have to be a fine mesh. It's something to look in to.

Theresa, sounds like we need to trade winters. :)

Annie, you're confirming my suspicions that water has something to do with it. It's been very inconsistent. I understand why folks make tomato tunnels to control that.

Heather, the only trouble with that is that they don't ripen all at the same time so I'd miss most of the harvest. :( I do wish they were easier. Maybe a shorter variety next year!

Mama Pea said...

Wow. I, too, agree that your garden looks great for this time of year.

My sunflowers look much like yours . . . not standing up pretty anymore but very droopy. However, as usual, my seed heads are not developing fast enough to actually give us any seeds to use. Drat.

I tried growing amaranth only once before with absolutely no luck, just tiny, spindly little plants. Yours are gorgeous. Do the people who slow down to look have any idea what it is?

I'm with your hubby: I love Swiss chard! Thanks for the tour.

Renee Nefe said...

Your garden looks so awesome! Mine, not so much :(

I believe that I lost the battle with the squash bugs...all my plants are very droopy and I never did figure out what the volunteer squash plants even were (planted seeds last year that waited until this year to sprout).
My tomatoes are doing well, I need to eat them up, and the green beans give me about a meal per week. My peppers are doing well too, I just need to figure out what to do with them.

Benita said...

You have what I call a "satisfying" garden - in that it must be satisfying to walk through. Except for the tomatoes, though. Too bad about them.

The weather here has been much the same, except we have had plenty of rain until August, but the temps have bee cooler in this second half of the month. I can start to feel autumn in the air.

Nina said...

We've been hit with blight as well. A number of people I've talked with are having problems with it as well. One report says that our season is 19 days ahead of schedule due to our early spring. It sure seems that way when you look at the trees changing colour already. Our breezes are already autumnal feeling as well and our nights are getting pretty darned cool. It was only 7C last night so in the mid 40's- ish.
Our winter last year was milder and shorter than normal. They are warning us that we're in for at least a normal winter, which will feel brutal in comparison!

Scented Leaf said...

Charming garden - looks like a fairytale garden. Maybe all plants grew so because they feel that you care for them with tenderness.

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, we've read that amaranth can also be used as a cooked green when the plants are small. Obviously we're too late for that . :)

Yes, I have watched folks slow down to look. And our neighbors ask.

Renee, sorry about that squash but hurray for your tomatoes! Certainly a relief after last summer. I freeze our peppers. Just chop, bag, and toss into freezer.

Benita, I reckon there will always be something. I'm surprised actually, that my main problem has been disease and not insects. Are you looking forward to autumn as much as I am?

Nina, I think the thing that worries me most about blight is that there apparently isn't any way to cure nor get rid of it once it's occurred. I will do some research this winter and save seeds from the most resistant looking plants. Hopefully next year will be better.

Scented Leaf, you know what I think makes a garden attractive? Lots of flowers and herbs with the veggies. Hopefully we'll be able to help all those plants feel more at home as we build the soil too.

Ozarkhomesteader said...

Everything looks gorgeous in your garden this year!

Mine still looks relatively bare compared to previous years. Between the March surgery and recovery to May and then our long trip this summer, I planted a lot less than usual. Still, my tomatoes are going nuts, my peppers are doing well, my eggplant is limping along, and my summer squash is about to go from bounty to bumper crop. Cucumbers, okra, and winter squash will be very late this year, but they are growing, as is a watermelon I doubt if I can ever get to produce before frost.

Sharon said...

Sure makes the global warming thing a huge question mark. We were cold in June and cooking in July. Today the temps never even reached 70 - it's August!!

Leigh said...

Ozarkhomesteader, Yes, life does have a way of getting in the way :). I sure wish my DH liked eggplant. Several bloggers have mentioned it lately and I really like it. What are you going to do with all that squash?

Sharon, I thought that's why they started calling it climate change instead.

Michelle said...

Your Amaranth is a nice color & size, looks like you'll be getting lots of chickens feed! I will harvest a little different by cutting the whole stem & laying it to dry. the chickens will get the whole seed head, leaves & stems laid in the run. It may not be as efficient as the way you are collecting seed though .

A great looking garden you have! I have been pulling weeds for days that have taken over the new strawberry patch.

Tomatoes here did very well with no spraying of any kind.

Robin J. said...

I'm wondering if it will shape up to be an odd fall here too. My neighbor was telling me how she was talking to a nursery owner who has decorative maples turning red already, about a month too soon. We have a huge crop of tomatoes coming on (or still green) just about now but the weather has turned cold and rainy. Grrr.