I had more than my share of struggles this summer — namely super shitty terrible hard soggy sticky clay soil — which left me less than enthusiastic to write. After all, who wants to write about their failures when they don’t exactly know the solution?!?!? A lot of people in my town already think I’m nuts. No need to add fuel to the fire!
But I did done do well in a few areas.
First of all, my tomatoes were a smashing success. We harvested more than we could eat this summer, which left me giving bagfuls away to my hairdresser, parents, in-laws, neighbors, and unexpected guests. I think that’s pretty damn good considering that I didn’t buy my tomato plants, and they are notoriously difficult to grow from seeds.
But tomatoes-from-seed are a labor of love. It’s warfare. There’s a high attrition rate, and it probably didn’t help that I was a first-timer. I think I started with something like… 60 plants by seed? Many, many withered and died long before they ever made it out to the garden. Whole species were later wiped out by poor soil, including zebras or tiger stripes, I can’t remember. I accidentally sat on my Thomas Jefferson Brandywine seedlings (**face palm**), so those were goners. And every ananas noire tomato got riddled with bugs before I could actually lure them into edibility. But the blue beauties were incredible, fragrant and fleshy and gorgeously colored. And these green thingies — tigers or zebras, can’t remember — were lovely, too.
I didn’t fare so well with my pepper plants. The bhut jolokias, which I was SO excited to grow, never even germinated. My tobasco peppers later got some terrible mold or fungus or something and I let them die. While picking up blood meal at Lowes, I picked up two planters of Jamaican Scotch Bonnet peppers, which used to be the hottest peppers in the world. They were probably pre-treated with chemicals while they were still seeds, and likely sprayed with insectisides before I took them home, but they lived wholly organic lives once they moved into my garden. These babies did great! They never, never caved to insects. The peppers turn the loveliest fire engine red. They look like little cherries in the garden. I harvested them every few days all summer, roasted them, and used them to make hot pepper flakes for the coming winter. We love that shit.
I did make a batch of salsa with them. These things are freaking hot. And we are not spice wimps. Eight tomatoes and one teeny, tiny Scotch Bonnet makes for a suitably firey salsa. Yikes.
On a side note, roasting them for several days at 170 does something wonderful by taking away the residual oil or something. Jon and I talk about this constantly. Once dry roasted and then ground, they kick up the heat of a dish without singing off your lips. I don’t know why this works, but it does. Jon thinks it’s so great that we should go into business.
I also got a great collards crop, but I dusted frequently with diatomaceous earth to keep black beetles away. No harm done. I can’t quite remember, but I’m pretty sure these were the Georgia Southern Collards from Baker Creek. They were truly heat tolerant and never bitter. I ate the shit out of them for weeks.
My cucumber crop was also thoroughly abundant. I grew so many that I kind of hate them now. I would honestly pull them off the vine and feed them to the horses… which is HILARIOUS, by the way! When our mule eats them it sounds like there’s a dishwasher running in his mouth.
My melon crop was pretty spectacular, too. Go figure… I literally never took a single picture of ANY of them except this one below. That’s a white wonder. I think they taste disgusting and I probably won’t grow them again. I grew Arkansas Blacks, Green Machine, and Congo Watermelons with great success, but our mild summer meant they took FOREVER to ripen. Rejects: Old Time Tennessee melon. That thing was disgusting. Even the deer wouldn’t eat them. The very best melon, though, was a French melon called charentais. I highly recommend growing this if you live in the ripe zone. They are incredibly fragrant, beautiful, and the vine is very productive.
I also had a heck of a radish crop. Unfortunately, the only person in the entire world that I personally know who likes these things are my mother-in-law. But if a row of white radishes is what it takes to keep a MIL relationship in smooth waters, it’s entirely worth the effort. She likes to eat them on bread with butter and salt. Yeah.
Somehow, I kept the deer out of my bean crop last year. I have no idea how I did it. Whatever the mysterious method was, it failed me this year. This was about as tall as any of my beans EVER got.
My border flowers were great. I really, really loved how low maintenance all of these were. And they attracted butterflies and bees, which is good stuff, right? Right.