Monday, September 3rd, 2012
10:17 pm - Garden Final Report, Probably...  
Labor Day is the end of summer, or so my garden apparently thinks as it seems to have packed it in for the year. Mind, I had only planted tomatoes, pickling cukes, and spaghetti squash, all warm weather plants, but we've also had weather that wouldn't be out of place in August in Louisiana, so it's not likely death from frostbite.

The spaghetti squash I can understand. I'm sure growing something that big takes a lot out of the plant, which is probably why the vines are basically dead. I harvested the squash today, 21 lbs. worth, and all appear thoroughly ripe. The pickling cuke vines are still hanging in for the most part, although there are few new blossoms or cukes, which is just as well because I am up to my ears in pickles, with a dozen pints and three quarts of various recipes of bread and butters and dills (see below). I threw away quite a few enormous overripe cukes, too, as they grow from gherkin to mini-watermelon sized monsters in what has to be just days, hidden deep in all the foliage. It was hard to keep up.

The tomatoes were a good news-bad new situation. The good news was that apart from a few early nibbles, my precautionary measures against the local field mouse colony seem to have been effective. The bad news is that none of the four varieties of tomatoes I planted were particularly satisfactory, and now, as I said above, all the tomato plants seem to have packed it in for the season way ahead of time. My neighbor's plants are all dying, too.

I had planted one fairly mature* beefsteak variety that gave me two fruits early on, but nothing later apart from one fruit that rotted on the vine. There was one Ultra Boy variety, which produced a number of perfect, superball-sized** fruits that seem to give me digestive problems. Then there were a couple plants each of two heirloom varieties. One yielded large, neat-looking yellow fruits streaked with red that went from underripe to rotten in the blink of an eye. I think I was able to salvage one by picking it while still mostly green on top and letting it ripen a little more on the counter before cutting away the entire still green top half of the fruit.

* By which I mean there were already flowers on the plant when I bought it.

** That do not, alas, bounce like superballs when dropped.

The other heirloom, a pink variety, gave me most of my usable tomatoes. It's problem was that I wound up having to cut away the tops AND the bottoms of most of them because the blossom ends were badly deformed and scabbed over. Fortunately, most of them were fairly large fruits, so there was still plenty of tomato left. And once it started producing, I was able to pick sufficient tomatoes to meet my needs, at least until this weekend. Even so, only one of the two examples of that variety I planted actually produced any fruit. The other just sat there, growing tomato foliage and little else.

Next year I'll try some different varieties. I should also water them more often, even if they don't need it, just to keep them from bursting at the seams every time we get a good strong thundershower. The other thing for next year, if I do cukes again, is to install a trellis for the cukes to climb. I found that the best looking cukes were the ones hanging from vines that had started climbing the tomato stakes. A lot of the cukes growing on the ground were deformed, stumpy looking things. Also, a trellis should make them easier to spot instead of having to root around through all the ground covering foliage.

I sampled some of the first batches of pickles, which were also not very satisfactory. The first batch of B&Bs tasted fine, but were very rubbery. I probably over processed them. The first batch of dills were made from an old Betty Crocker recipe from a long time ago, and are way, way, too salty. And that's after I substituted kosher salt for the table salt in the recipe without converting the quantity, which means they should've been even saltier. I cut the amount by half for the second batch I made, and tasted the brine before adding it. That batch should be better.