July GardenOur garden - mid-July.
Well, here we are in mid-July, and it's been quite an interesting summer so far.... What a year to start a huge, brand new garden! With almost non-stop rain for the past 6 weeks, this is unlike any summer I have ever seen before, but apparently most of the plants are enjoying all the water. The raspberry patch, and our new fruit trees are the main casualties, but little else seems too bothered by the consistent flooding, and in fact, most of the garden seems extremely happy.

We've yet to start on our geothermal project, but hopefully we will get that going within the next month or so. For now, the garden has been my main focus so far this year, so here's an update, and some pictures from yesterday - although these are already out of date, as everything looks even bigger today!

I've already learned quite a few important lessons during this garden season, as I will share below....

The title of this post may be a little premature, as I have a feeling this is just the beginning, but I'm already feeling overwhelmed just looking at the pending bounty!

The tomatoes seem positively overjoyed with all the water, and have formed an impenetrable forest wherever they are planted. Although I thought I gave them plenty of room when planting, they seem determined to spread ever further into each others' personal space. Constant staking and tying is the order of the day, but I can never seem to keep up with it.  After a somewhat slow start, with lots of blooms but no fruit, they are suddenly so heavily laden with tomatoes that I can't even keep their cages and stakes upright!

Lesson Learned: Plant tomatoes further apart than specified - and figure out a more effective staking system next year.
Tomato plants
Just one of the tomato forests.
Mislabeled canning tomatoes - were supposed to be slicers, but they appear to be some sort of pear?
The peppers finally started blooming, but no fruits set yet except for a couple of little jalepenos. The eggplants, despite being almost immediately attacked by flea beetles from the start, have taken off and are growing like champs!

As you can see from the picture below, the raised beds are keeping the plants out of the water to some degree, but "the moat" (as we affectionately call it) is filled with water - as it has been for most of the past 2 months. We had a decent algae bloom for a week or so, until it dried up after 4 days with no rain the first week of July, and then promptly filled up again. It's mucky and swampy, and sometimes frogs splash around in it....
These monsters just keep getting bigger!
Peppers & eggplant
Sweet peppers and eggplant - and the moat!
Every 2 days, I put on my muck boots and splash through the swamp to plunge headfirst into the cucumber jungle, emerging 20 minutes later, tired and dirty, covered with scratches and mosquito bites, triumphantly bearing another armload of cucumbers.

Cucumbers are one of my absolute favorite summer vegetables! My favorite kind are the small Boston pickling cucumbers - ever crunchy, sweet, and forgiving of all sorts of things like hot weather, lack of water (not that we have that this year), and prolific almost all the way until frost. As you can see from the picture below, pickles are on the agenda for this week!

The biggest challenge this year has been actually finding the fruits.... As I'm used to having a very minimal amount of garden space, I'm apparently still in the habit of planting things way too close together. This has led to the cucumber trellis becoming a nearly impenetrable fortress of tightly packed leaves and spiny vines, not to mention hugely overgrown cucumbers that are only discovered a week after they should have been picked.

Lesson Learned: Don't plant 9 cucumber plants on one trellis!
Cucumber trellis
The cucumber jungle. (Celery in the foreground - another experiment.)
Yesterday's harvest.
As for the hay bale part of the garden, it seems equally happy. In fact, with this wet summer, we are beyond happy with the performance of the hay-bale garden experiment. How they would work in a drier year has yet to be seen, but everything seems to be growing incredibly well in them up to this point.

Below is the insanity that is summer squash.... Although these are up on bales of hay, the upper-chest height of the leaves still seems extreme to me, and they are actually completely crowding out the green beans and sweet peppers that I so foolishly planted in nearby bales.

Lesson Learned: Plant squash in single bales - and put nothing nearby!
Summer squash plants
Zucchini & summer squash, planted in hay bales.
Our first zucchini! Probably ready for picking tomorrow.
Another thing that seems to be growing well in the bales (besides, well, basically everything...) are the melons. I've never had any luck growing melons before, so I wasn't sure how they would do here, but since I love good melons, I figured I'd give it a shot.

Apparently, melons love hay bales! We have probably 5-7 cantaloupes that I've discovered so far. We grew 2 different kinds, and one has a lot more fruit on it than the other, but I'm not sure which is which!  (I did put little tags on them, but they are so overgrown now I have no idea where the markers are at this point.)  They are fairly large, and growing daily, so hopefully they will make it to maturity.

The watermelons are not faring so well, unfortunately. They put out vines like crazy, started blooming, and are even setting pretty little melons, but over the past week or so, something (animal? insect?) has started chewing right through all of the vines! I figured they could just sprawl off the bales into the grass and would be fine, but something on the ground seems to think the stems are very tasty.

I had the idea to try to lift the vines up off the ground and put them on top of some pieces of fence that we had left over from fencing the garden, so I just did that a few days ago, and we'll see if it helps.
It was a lot of work, and I ended up breaking off a lot of the vines, myself, in the process. Next time, I will train them up on a fence from the get-go.

Lesson Learned: Train watermelons up off the ground as soon as they start vining.

Just one of our many cantaloupes.
Watermelon trellis
Makeshift watermelon trellis.
I have lots more pics, but will call it a day here. :-) 

So far, our first garden season on the homestead has been quite interesting, somewhat frustrating, and over all very rewarding.  I am both anticipating and dreading the onset of tomato season.... Our first cherry tomato is turning red, so it's not far off now!  I am sure I will post some pictures of the tomato insanity once the canning begins.

Until then, enjoy the rainy summer, and I hope your own gardens are going well!



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