Sunday, July 21, 2019

Cool Harvests in the Heat of Summer 2019


Beck and Ava with first cucumber harvest from their giant plant grown from seed!
     It has been a typical hot summer in Austin, but it is still "cool" to be at the Rollingwood Garden. Although the heat prevents us from planting new crops, the gardeners are still diligent to water and tend the spring garden plants through summer harvest. Although the summer heat wiped out a few of our plants, there were still some spectacular harvests.

The Super Cucumber Vine
    The most amazing plant at RWCEG this spring and summer is a cucumber vine that was planted from a very small seed. It rapidly grew, and soon it towered over the girls that planted and took care of it week after week. The leaves grew larger than their heads, and it became covered with small yellow flowers. The flowers started to bulge outward until, after a few weeks, they were fully ripe cucumbers. Time got a way from us and a few over ripened into what appeared to be large, yellow squash. Although past their prime, they were still edible. The cucumber vine continued to produce cucumbers for several weeks.

Ava proud of her tasty carrots
Little but Big
     Another successful crop were the carrots. Although they were rather little in size, they were still big on flavor. Carrots are tricky to grow since the seeds are like grains of sand. It is difficult to space them properly when planting, so many come up too close to each other. The crowding can reduce the vegetable size, so we practice "thinning" in which we purposely pull out some of the smaller, weaker plants early on to allow more room for the stronger plants to thrive. From our results, we obviously have room to improve, but we are still grateful with we got.

Potato Pals

 The Subterranean Easter Egg Hunt
     A long time favorite event at RWCEG has been the Potato Harvest in mid to late May. The kids have a great time digging through the dirt with no idea what treasures they will find.  Since we grow a variety of multi-colored potatoes, the event is akin to a subterranean Easter egg hunt! We harvested a few potatoes at a time for about a month. Some families made delicious dishes with the potatoes by adding chives and rosemary also harvested from the garden.


Can you spot the fake vs real grapes
When The Fake Becomes Real
     The fenced perimeter of RWCEG becomes covered in Mustang grape vines by Summer time. Despite the fact the vines produce a lot of grapes, we usually only get a few ripe ones because our "forest friends" eat them before they are prime. This year, however, with a cleaver idea from my visiting parents, we decided to outsmart the forest foragers by hanging purple, fake plastic grapes along the vine. The hope was that the animals would be drawn to the fake grapes first, and decide they do not taste good.  Then, when the real grapes become ripe, the animals will not be interested, thinking they taste as bad as the fake ones sampled earlier. I am not sure how well this concept works, but we did end up harvesting a tremendous number of ripe grapes one week. There were so many grapes that we became tired of harvesting and decided to pick more the following weeks. However, by the next week, there were virtually no grapes to be found! Most of the grapes were bitter-sweet. I found it best to blend them in a juicer and then add just a little bit of honey!

From the Real grape harvest
Okra in Bloom
     We also harvest a little bit of okra. Although the edible vegetable is not pretty, the flower on the plant is large and beautiful. Okra can withstand the heat quite well.

The Pleasing Pea Vine
      In early spring we planted sugar snap peas from seed. By end of spring we had a remarkable harvest of peas from the vines that grew about 10 feet tall. They were fun to eat from the vine. In many cases I had to help our younger members reach the peas at the top!
   
     Presently we have a large variety of beans growing at the garden that have been harvested a little bit each week. We also have peppers, tomatoes, and a watermelon growing at the garden, but they are not doing well due to the summer heat. We are hoping they perk back up and start producing once the weather begins to cool in early Autumn. Many vegetable plants "shut down" when temperatures exceed 85'F.

And one for the bugs...
And one for the bugs...
     We make efforts to remove (organically) "bad bugs" from the garden, but many insects and bugs are beneficial. We let select critters share in our garden bounty. One example are the swallowtail caterpillars that are attracted to our dill and fennel plants. Although they eat some of the plant, we know they will become beautiful butterflies that will pollinate many flowers. Besides, we mostly eat the fennel bulb which grows underground.

Happy Gardening to all!
Posted by Glenn Starnes 7/21/2019

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