By the middle of August, we were getting regular harvests of a wide variety of veggies. Although we got a few Green Zebras in the mix (one shown here), the plant had been diseased for a few weeks and we were losing the battle. Its fruit were few and small. Cucumbers were coming in great and we were careful this year not to let any grow too large to pickle in a pint jar. This was one of our goals for the year—to keep harvesting regularly and not let any fruit get overly large, so as to encourage our plants to produce new fruit. Also in this day’s harvest was a lone asparagus spear—many of his buddies’ first-year roots had not survived the harsh winter.
The heirloom Brandywines were ripening as well, showing good size, color and flavor. All that Brooklyn sunshine was soaking in. In the background here you can see our lovely handmade bamboo trellis, assembled on the fly a few weeks earlier by my handy partner and her friend. It really helped reduce pruning and tying and provided a great stage for the vines to stretch their legs this year.
Our first harvest of beets was big, healthy and delicious. This was the finest bunch I’ve grown to date. One issue is when their leaves spread out, many lie flat on the soil, which allows them to pick up moisture and disease, and leaves them vulnerable to anything crawling on the soil surface. I tried bundling the leaves up a bit with some string to reduce this issue.
Our Okra plants told a story of their own this year. We lost the first set of them soon after germination, as they succumbed to damping-off. The replacement set was also quite weak and suffered mightily. We waited and waited, long after all other seedlings were transplanted, for them to grow more than a few inches high. We planted what looked like half-dead nearly leafless sticks, almost as a joke to ourselves. So they stayed, sticklike, for a month or more, but we gave them sunny spots between the tomatoes. One day, new leaves unfolded. A couple of weeks later we were seeing their happy yellow flowers, and then healthy fruit soon after.
I was amazed at their recovery. Not long after picking our second or third harvest of their cute little fruit, they were hit by a new illness which claimed one leaf at a time. Not large enough to survive this new affliction (and perhaps it was a latent original affliction), we laid them to rest in mid-September. But we got a few fruits out of them and used them in succotash, pickling and frying. We also used them to increase the adorability of our Instagram feed. The upside-down way the fruit appear to grow is always a crowdpleaser. The first year I grew them, I let one or two get too big and it became almost as big as an ear of corn, too touch and woody to eat but full of seeds.
Last year we had a purple pole bean crop that was nearly more than we could handle. This year we planted more green ones than purple. The green variety we used have a fruiting season that is markedly later than the purple ones. We were almost ready to give up on them by mid-August, but they caught up and started putting out big handfuls of beans. I think they are slightly less tough than their earlier purple cousins, but they are much harder to spot on the vine. The purple ones really call out to be picked. If we plan it right in the future, we could have a purple harvest and a green harvest in quick succession.
In the rear of the garden, the pole beans can often be found trying to make a break for it into neighboring properties… and often succeeding. This vine is reaching several feet into a neighboring tree, about eight or nine feet up. I pulled them down whenever I spotted these runaways, but one of them is currently on its way up the coaxial internet cable; hopefully it will find its way into Time Warner Cable’s headquarters and speak to a manager about our spotty service.
Our eggplant were proving that the sunny spot we set them up with was their new favorite hangout, and rewarding us with big waves of fruit on plants that were sometimes small, even diminutive.
We planted four varieties. Again, we had lost several to damping-off earlier on, and supplemented one or two of our own weaker seedlings with farmer’s market starts. All in all we have six or seven plants out in that patch.
A lone Kobocha squash was developing from a vine that had climbed up the rear fence and was spreading out. We had planted its seeds in shady spots a bit later in the season than the rest of the direct sows, but figured it would be aggressive enough to spread quickly. We wanted it in the mix but didn’t want it taking over and shading or strangling other plants.
It looks good in pinstripes. A second one appeared to be on the way.
By the end of August, we were able to pull this handsome handful of heirlooms down for slicing and added some basil for a nice summer caprese salad—the true taste of summer in the garden. We let them ripen on the vine until they were almost about to drop for the full effect, eating them within a few moments of picking them. 2015 was my best Brandywine year to date. Credit the sunshine.