While it has been a mild summer so far and at least some rain has returned to the region after years of drought, the heat is not a friend of container plants and tomatoes. My tomato jungle is just that, its a jungle. But the Brandywines and Cor di Bues are tall and top heavy (I did no pruning through the first year, only pinched a few suckers here and there). They are ragged and wiry on the bottom now and green high up top. The tomato blooms are fewer and most produce only small fruits in the heat of summer. I may pull up my Romas and Brandywines next month to plant a fall crop in their place. I may cut back the Cor di Bue tomatoes to see if they will start fresh and give me a fall crop.

The blossom end rot on the Roma tomatoes seems to have been managed effectively by using Epsom salt to introduce missing nutrients into the soil last month. They are not producing many edible fruits. The Roma plants are producing small fruits now, and fewer. There are still enough for an occasional pot of pasta sauce.

Long and spindly tomatoes. This is Cour di Bue, my new favorite tomato. I may try to cut the vining plants back and go for a fall crop.
Long and spindly tomatoes. This is Cor di Bue, my new favorite tomato. I may try to cut the vining plants back and go for a fall crop.

I’ve had the expected Assassin Bug invasion. These guys are old friends who have been part of tomato gardening since I started a decade ago. They are beneficial – they kill pest bugs, hence the name. But in dry seasons they may suck plant juices from the stems if they can’t get enough moisture otherwise. I have hundreds of these critters enjoying the hot summers in my garden. They do tend to congregate on the fruits, so far they have not attacked the plants. These little guys can be chased off with a threatening finger or shaken off if you need to harvest a fruit. They will leave a painful bite but only if seriously threatened or handled roughly.

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Assassin Bugs on a tomato. These are good guys. The big one in the middle is a mature adult, easily mistaken for the not-so-good Leaf Footed Bug.

The cowpeas are producing like crazy. I could feed my family of five a generous helping of cowpeas once a week from the 4×4 plot we have. It has spread out and vined to cover more space. I have a family of Green Anoles living in my cowpeas, they are a welcomes critter. This is a productive variety that is delicious when cooked souther style with a dab of bacon grease.

The green beans are producing too but I have only harvested twice. Each time I had plenty for my family of five to enjoy for one meal, with leftovers.

In the words of Johnny Cash, "Look at them beans!"
In the words of Johnny Cash, “Look at them beans!”

I’ve pulled up my Swiss Chard, it was delicious, but the bugs are making is unsightly now. Basil is always available, its growing like a weed. We have tons of it, and have made pesto sauce twice and have more than we can use. Next year, I will plant Genovese Basil only, since we really like that one best. My Star of David Okra has been growing like made, enormous plants, more like trees now, with 3″ wide stalks. We have not eaten any okra since I always seem to let the pods get too big. Its an impressive plant, but I’m probably done with Okra just because we don’t eat it. Beautiful plants, so I might try to grow some as ornamentals along the fence next year, or where I grew sunflowers this year, but not in my good soil. Speaking of sunflowers, they were huge. 11 feet tall and filled with heavy seed heads. They are not quite ready to harvest, but perhaps they will be soon.

The peppers are producing well now too. My sweet peppers (Shishito and Melrose) have been producing heavily, the Jalapeños too. My Poblanos have been the best pepper plants of the year, producimng loads of medium to small peppers (small when compared to the store bought variety). The fruits now seem a bit smaller, but there are lots of them still.

I have three bushes filled with green Tabasco peppers. I will let them ripen on the bush, they I plan to make a sauce with them. My Thai Chilis are flowering now, and my bell peppers are producing small fruits.

The next step is to order fall crop seeds, store some of my current crop seeds for next year, and study up on crop rotation so I can plant proper things in proper places.

As for composting, which is something we faithfully practice, there has not been enough good compost to use it as fertilizer because I have not practiced fast composting. The good batch into which I have been adding all kitchen waste, weed waste, and brown paper/cardboard for the past six months is going to be a rich, black, nutrient-filled pile of black-gold one of these days, for now I just add to it and don’t turn or oxygenate much. My other compost piles are mostly weed and grass clippings, they take longer to decompose than a well-managed pile of greens and browns, but they too will have a good batch of amendments for next year’s spring garden.

Overall, I am very happy to be eating fresh vegetables again. My garden for the first season of the first year is a wild success. I am very happy!

Purple Bells. Small but lovely!
Purple Bells. Small but lovely!
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