You may recall that temperatures here began regularly reaching into the 100’s last week. Not particularly liking to walk the garden to pick fruits when it’s muggy and 85 first thing in the morning, my body quickly gets into the “rip it up” mode.
Yesterday’s rainstorm put me in the mood (it’s now a full 20 degrees cooler), but it also put the mosquitoes in the mood. I hastened my plant destruction chore — yes, rain significantly helps keep the mosquitoes off — and pulled all ten tomato plants and the rest of the pumpkin vine while it is still cool outside. Mockingbirds wasted no time picking off surprised, juicy caterpillars, between the rain drops.
The garden carnage now laid out in a uniform thickness on the back lawn, I will wait for a drier day when it’s time to mow the grass (uh, I’m lazy and prefer to let the lawn tractor do the chipping chore for me). That should clean things up sufficiently in this awesome, chemical-free, work-free garden — until it all repeats next season.
I will purée and dice what tomatoes we don’t eat today and tomorrow to freeze and use in sauces and soups. We find tomatoes tremendously easy to keep and eat. We keep them on the counter at room temp until we’re ready to slice and eat. If there’s a cut or worm hole on one, I’ll put it in a covered container (to keep the fruit flies contained), but it’s rare when any ‘maters are given privileged fridge real estate. Even with the tremendous yield we’ve had this season, tomatoes have been eaten predominantly fresh, given away, or diced and used in soups and sauces.
I love pumpkin. They keep well, better than summer or zucchini squash. The pumpkins will keep for a while longer — and it’s hard to beat a weekly homemade pumpkin-and-coconut milk pie. Occasionally, I’ll shred them for muffins or in pancakes.
I still have to figure out what to do with all these green tomatoes. Fried green tomatoes are hard to beat, but I can’t fry them all — my arteries might simply explode with delight. So I’m going to attempt this Southern Food at About.com Chow Chow (Piccalilli) recipe. It looks to be a delicious relish (thanks, Mammaw, for giving me ideas!).
Four of the tomato plants were doing sufficiently good enough (the one’s in the mulched, untended ground) to try one of Bubba’s tricks. I cut the trunk of the plant 6″ from the ground, piled cooked compost around it, and mulched heavily. Bubba, an old-timer 3rd generation food-grower, claims that this will encourage the roots to feed and produce a whole ‘nuther producing plant in the early fall. We’ll see.
Until then, I still have two lovely cherry tomato volunteers (sweet bites of juicy goodness!) and six bell pepper plants to enjoy. The okra should be coming up any day.
Bermuda grass? No longer a problem!! Any stolon runners I did find in my prepped beds were strays that had set root well outside the box — they apparently found it difficult to take root in the fluffy stuff. The layers of cardboard (blocking mother plant propagation) and building up apparently did the trick nicely. St. Augustine runners (our turf grass of choice) are easily removed from the heavily mulched areas just outside the box. Just pull back and snip with some shears.
I’m delighted to say, that after battling with it in my garden for three years, Bermuda grass and I have reached a truce.
I wish I could say that of the mosquitoes.
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Happy Summer and Gardening, be it poolside or enjoying the beauty from within the air conditioning!