I know, there is a huge gap of time between this article and the one before it, but there have been things…However, the garden has been a source of joy (and consternation) and good food, right through these past bunch of months.
Some Food that We Grew on Purpose
I planted a lot of the usual summer crops this year, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and okra. We have harvested and eaten a lot of good food!
Of course, there are plenty of other crops woven into the mix. Sweet potato vines are all over the place, making the garden look especially lush. Eggplants are in there, but this has not been their best year.
Dandelions are also in the garden, because I like to chop up a few leaves to add to my salads, and because even though I have seen dandelions growing pretty much everywhere else in the world I have ever been, they don’t seem to grow in Long Beach, Mississippi. My Louisiana sister collected seeds from her yard so I could plant them in my garden.
In addition, the turmeric and ginger are doing very well, and so are Grandpa Bill’s “Winter Onions”.
A Couple of Surprises
One surprise crop this year was a squash plant that grew out of the compost pile in the back corner of the yard. This one plant has provided several large squashes, and the vine grew to be more than 100 feet long! We started calling that vine Squashzilla when it was about half that length.
Luckily, the vine hugged the fence, so we didn’t have to work too hard to avoid stepping on it or accidentally mowing it.
The other surprise should not have been, but it was. I planted a couple of watermelon seeds. The timing was bad. I had missed (late!) the recommended planting window by a few weeks. One vine grew, but I did not see any fruit.
A couple of weeks ago I started clearing that part of the garden, which was crowded with an assortment of wandering vines, weeds, and ailing plants, and I found a watermelon.
More good news: I harvested it at exactly the right time, even though I did not even know to check on it!
The melon was plenty sweet, and it was big enough that we ate watermelon all week long.
Other Fruit So Far
We have been in this yard less than three years, but we have planted a lot of fruit. Because all of those plants can add up to a major expenditure, most of them were purchased at the smallest size I could locate.
Some are still too young/small to make fruit, but we have brought in some muscadines, kumquats, blueberries, and mulberries.
Of our two varieties of muscadines, Cowart is a big winner over Albemarle in terms of productivity. The two differ in flavor, but I could not say which flavor is better. I like them both!
The ‘Meiwa’ Kumquat is super-productive, and the little fruits are definitely sweeter than other kumquats I have tasted. We also have a very small ‘Eustace’ Limequat that has produced a few little lime-tasting fruits. We bought the ‘Meiwa’ locally, but the Limequat is from a company called Georgia Grown Citrus, in Ochlocknee, GA.
We also have a ‘Nippon’ Orangequat from Georgia Grown Citrus, but it has not yet made any fruit. However, it has been in the ground for only about six months, so it might need a bit more time.
For the blueberries — we brought a potted ‘Cutie Pie’ with us from Georgia, and it makes quite a lot of very small blueberries. We also found a blueberry bush in the wild hedge/fenceline on the western side of our yard, and it has provided full-sized berries.
Other fruits we have planted but not yet harvested from include Loquats, Moro orange, assorted bananas, pomegranates, plums, figs, Asian persimmon, Mayhaw, and Surinam cherry. (That might not be the whole list. Example – there are still two pawpaws in pots, waiting for us to plant them.)
This year, we are planting strawberries, which ought to give us fruit next spring. I have ordered a flat of ‘Sweet Charlie’ strawberry plugs from Ison’s Nursery , and the little plants should arrive sometime in October. I grew ‘Chandler’ strawberries from Ison’s when we lived in north Georgia, but ‘Sweet Charlie’ is more recommended for my new planting zone.
In addition to plants, we have plenty of other life in the garden. Besides the squirrels and occasional opossum, we find a wide assortment of what I mentally place in the broad category of creepy-crawlies. These are the bugs, insects, and all manner of squiggly wormy things.
Guardians of the Garden
The garden also is home to an amazing assortment of predators — frogs, toads, skinks, and lizards — that act as Guardians in the garden. They eat a lot of the plant-eating creepy-crawlies, keeping the damage to a dull roar.
Many of our plant-eating critters are various kinds of stink bugs, from the ones that look like little shields on legs to the big, long, leaf-footed bugs. These all have damaged quite a bit of the produce in the garden, especially the tomatoes and Southern peas.
Other pests that the tiny Guardians eat include aphids, caterpillars, weird ants, and sawfly larvae (which look a lot like caterpillars, but not quite).
Here is one way I know that the small army of frogs, toads, skinks, and lizards acts as Guardians in the garden: last year’s corn crop had caterpillar damage only on the plants at one end of the corn patch. The non-damaged ears were all on corn at the end of the patch that was home to a big brown toad. At the time, I named that toad The Guardian of the Corn, but there are so many frogs, toads, skinks, and lizards eating pests now that they all have earned the title of Guardian.
Time for the Seasonal Switch to Cool Season Crops
If I were still in North Georgia, I already would have been planting some of the cool-season crops. Here in the Deeper South, that switch from summer crops to fall/winter crops happens later. In the next couple of weeks, though, the first round of fall planting will begin in my garden.
I hope that everyone else’s gardens have grown well, and that your fall planting is underway. I am looking forward to growing a different set of crops to bring into the kitchen!