Hello everyone! It’s time to do an early fall update on the crops, so let’s get into it.
I have seeded radishes, peas, lettuces and spinach in hopes of some fall crops! Many of the radishes and peas are up and setting leaves, but the lettuce and spinach were seeded later and haven’t sprouted yet. Keeping them well watered in this heat is the key to getting them started. Just a couple more days of this heat and this heat will be just a memory…
The okra has loved all this heat! And, in turn, you have loved the okra. This means that next year there will be a full bed of okra to help meet your needs. It’s been the surprise crop this season. I’ll try to get a picture of the flowers. They’re huge and very pretty.
The zucchini and yellow squash have not loved the heat, humidity or sudden presence of squash bugs. There are just a couple of each plants giving fruits, and there were a few zucchini seeded on August 20th in hopes that we will see late zucchini.
Green beans have been plentiful this season, and the first two beds are slowing drastically and will start to get pulled later this week. There is a third and fourth planting, though. The third bed has been giving us beautiful beans for a couple weeks and the last patch is setting tiny beans already. Beans will continue – not great big harvests, but good amounts of long beans. This is great for September!
Peppers seem to love it when the nights are a little longer and cooler. But, the bucket peppers (mini sweet, pimiento, and orange bell) have struggled with being hot and dry despite daily watering. The bell, sweet Carmen (tastes like a bell but without the acid), banana and the hot peppers are still going strong and are setting loads of flowers and new fruits! Prepare for a big fall crop of peppers that you’ll want in your freezer.
Beets and carrots have been fewer this year thanks to naughty birds pulling out the little seedlings and rabbits getting in where they’ve not been in past years. *sigh* I’ve got some carrots and beets coming again for fall, though. They’ve been covered with netting, planted in small patches in random areas where birds are less likely to get them, and in new places. Thanks for your patience on these. I’ll be trying to figure out an easy solution to this bird and rabbit issue for next year. Covering the beds with insect netting makes watering, weeding and picking feel like a game of Twister so there’s got to be a better way.
Cherry and yellow pear tomatoes continue to come in faster than I can pick or sell them. If you’d like some to pop in the freezer for a sweet marinara sauce this winter, get in touch! My gut instinct is that these are going to be go, go, go and then done this year. Fresh, they are a great snack, addition to your juicing routine, or mix with fresh mozzarella pearls, basil and your favorite vinaigrette and you’ve got a meal!
The Roma tomatoes (also known as sauce or paste tomatoes) are really coming in fast right now, and need homes. There are still some smaller San Marzano coming, but not in huge numbers. The larger fruiting Roma plants are having a rough time with these last couple of days with high heat, humidity and lots of wind. The plants are watered deeply every night, but they are maturing fruit and giving signs that they will be finishing sooner rather than later. The Big Mama that we’ve had in past years is still giving beautiful fruits. The new to us varieties, Amish Paste and Cipolla’s Pride, are big and meaty! The Amish Paste seem to have “ugly shoulders” in many pictures and references, and ours do too. Despite having what outwardly looks like a blemish, these tomatoes are deep red, meaty, slip their skins easily and have made great salsa and canned tomatoes. The Cipolla’s Pride has outperformed my expectations for both size and quality. These tomatoes were billed as 10-16 ounces and they’ve absolutely hit those sizes! Again, they’re meaty, deep red, and easily slip their skins. All of these Roma tomatoes are good for freezing, canning, making salsa or sauce, and have been in the tomato soup kits. Please let me know if you’d like bulk tomatoes, as this week is looking like the “last hurrah” for them. More will come, but in less quantities and in the form of smaller fruits. These are $1.50 per pound with a 5 pound minimum.
Slicing tomatoes are starting to slow down in numbers and many of the tomatoes coming in the next weeks will be smaller in size, too. This is just part of nature. As days get shorter, nights cooler, and (eventually) cooler daytime temperatures, the plants are forced to ripen the fruits before they reach their ideal size. They’re still the same taste and texture, just in a smaller package. There are a few determinate plants that will be finished after picking for this weekend, but I’m not sad. These plants have given a tremendous number of amazing tomatoes this season. This is especially true considering that in mid-June it was questionable if we’d get plants to set many fruits because of an early and continued, drought.
The Amana Orange heirloom has quite a few more fruits coming! The Ananas Noire seems to be nearing the end of its season, though. Both of these gave more fruits than I expected, but they’re SO soft and juicy which makes for delicate picking and handling. We’ll probably have them both back next year, unless I can find a smaller replacement for the Ananas Noire. Some of those fruits were monsters and there was no way to get them out of the plant without damage.
Salad tomatoes have had marginal sales this year, so please tell me if you’re still interested in them for next season. These tomatoes are about the size of a golf ball or slightly larger. They are a regular tomato that has been bred to be small. They have the same balanced flavor that you expect from a traditional slicer, but just in a small size that you can use for so many things. We’ve used them to roast and make sauce, made a great pan sauce, and you can slice them in half and toss with your favorite dressing and add-ins to make a great salad. These tomatoes will continue to be plentiful for at least a couple more weeks. Weather will determine if the new blossoms will mature or not.
I’ve got fall squash coming, as long as they stay happy with hand watering. There are lots of acorn and Butterbaby (small butternut), some spaghetti and a few buttercup coming! The acorn looks to be the most yielding fall squash by a long shot, and some will start to ripen in the week or so, with a second planting following about two weeks after that. The small spaghetti squash were planted early to get an early crop, but they’ve suffered in more high heat days than the other plants. So, we will not see huge numbers of them. This year, Butterbaby looks much more productive than last year and I’ve allowed them to just roam all over the ground and they seem happier there.
Let’s talk about cucumbers for a second. I’ve got more cucumbers planted than ever so we could can some relish and sliced pickle chips, but week after week the cucumbers are selling out! That’s incredible! Again, I’m not completely sad about this as pickles and relish take a lot of prep before canning. I’m in amazement when those babies just keep going in bags for customers. Then, the bin is empty. We’ve had an amazing cucumber crop and more are coming, but the first planting is showing signs of slowing.
The fall sunflowers are starting to open, so if you want single stems or bouquets made with them – get in touch! Tonight, there was a dark one just starting top open. We’ll need to pick them frequently to keep the goldfinches from plucking and feasting on them. There are some spent sunflowers left in the beds to encourage these winged friends to eat the mature seeds and leave the fall flowers for us. Fingers crossed that it works!
That sums up most of the crops.Thank you all for coming along on this journey and for your support. It means so much to me that all of you want fresh, chemical-free produce from my little patch of the world.