Mid-September Update - Main Garden Beds

Things are going to be very busy for us in the next couple of weeks, so I thought I would slip in a mid-September update a bit early this time round.  There is still a lot going on in the garden, with some crops finishing and others just starting to size up.  I’m hopeful that I’ll still be getting a harvest of one sort or another until the end of October.

We have been without lettuce for over a month now and I’m really missing it.  My attempt at growing transplants last month was not overly successful and I ended up with only a few seedlings.  They are not that large yet, but I often find that lettuce is a bit slow to start and then, all of a sudden, it goes through a growth spurt.

Transplanted lettuce seedlings
To make up for my lack of transplants, I decided to do a bit of direct seeding, which didn't work out that well either.  I'm sure the super-hot weather we had recently didn’t help matters – not only does lettuce not appreciate hot weather when it comes to germinating (or growing), but keeping the bed moist was a challenge to say the least.

Of the 4 varieties I sowed, Royal Red had the best germination, perhaps 10 or so seedlings.  The others only gave me one or two seedlings out of the dozens of seeds I scattered around.  Since I used the scatter method, I ended up with bunches of seedlings in some spots and none in others, so a few days ago, I gently separated and transplanted the groups of seedlings so that each had some leg room.

Lettuce seedlings that were direct sown
The spring sown chard is still growing very well, but the Bright Lights that I transplanted in this bed on August 15th is TINY.

Dwarf chard in front of the spring giants
I normally wouldn’t do a 2nd sowing of chard, as it does tend to last all season, however since I had the spot available and all of my Bright Lights seedlings damped off this spring, I thought I would give it a go.  Oh well…I guess I’ll have to try again next year.

The perennial bunching onions are doing fine.  To make the most of the space, I sowed some cilantro in the spot that had previously been occupied by the potato onions.

Perennial bunching onions & cilantro seedlings
The Evergreen Hardy onions are quite thick – which is not my preference when it comes to bunching onions – but the Nebuka are looking quite promising:

Nebuka Perennial Bunching Onions
But the real test is whether or not they will overwinter.  I’ll likely harvest a few of both varieties before winter hits, but most will be left in the bed until next year to see how well they do on that front.

The other half of the perennial onion bed (which previously held storage onions) has been sowed with overwintering spinach – Giant Winter Viroflex.  Placing these two overwintering crops in the same bed will make my life easier when it comes to covering the bed with straw over the winter.  I seeded the spinach a few days ago (with pre-germinated seed) and some are just now starting to come up.

Spinach seedlings are emerging
Having never overwintered spinach, I’m not sure whether I will be successful or not, but I’m optimistic as the seed is from a local seed house and it is specifically intended for overwintering.

I’ve cut back the strawberry plants as most of the leaves had what I believe is Leaf Scorch, a type of fungal disease.

Leaf Scorch on Strawberry Leaves
Once again, my Fort Laramie strawberries disappointed me, having not provided a single berry after the June harvest.  Not only that, but they were much more affected by the Leaf Scorch fungus than my unknown variety given to me by a neighbor.  When I redo the strawberry beds, I'll be replacing this variety.

The late planted squash is doing ok & has provided me with a couple of zucchini so far:

Romanesco (front) & Tromboncino (back trellis)
Not sure whether I’ll be getting any more from these plants, but the Romanesco planted in the straw bales on the hilltop will be giving me at least one more zucchini.  And it looks like I’ll be getting a tromboncino squash too:

I've since pulled this one back to the other side of the fence so it doesn't get stuck!
Hurray!  Tromboncino was my favourite last year & I’m glad I will get to enjoy at least one of them again.

The sunflowers - or to be more accurate sunflower - in this bed is not doing that great.

Leaning sunflower with it's decapitated sister to the right
One of them had an oddly shaped flower - about ¼ of it was distorted and didn’t leaf out – and then the flower was decapitated.  The “cut” was so clean, that I’m thinking that this was as a result of something being wrong with the stem rather than a critter.  The other sunflower is leaning dangerously as the stem isn’t strong enough to support it, likely due to the shade it received earlier in the season.

And speaking of sunflowers, that huge one that my daughter had in her bed is equally distorted.  There was something wrong with the stem portion and it didn’t allow the flower to straighten up, so the flower is growing upside down on the top of the stem and, to make matters worse, half of the flower didn’t develop at all:

Wonky, upside down, half developed sunflower...so strange
Perhaps this variety (Giant Gray Stripe) is prone to misshapen flowers?  The seeds look like they are developing, however, so hopefully we still get some tasty seeds from it.

The carrot bed is coming along, but I didn’t end up thinning it until just a couple of days ago, which likely slowed down growth in this bed.

Carrot Bed
I hate thinning carrots – such a hassle!  But it was either direct seed & thin or go without as I really didn’t have time to make seed mats this time round.

The old garlic bed is now going strong with a fall planting of brassicas – radishes, rapini, komatsuna and various varieties of bok choy.

Rapini (front), Radishes (middle left),
Komatsuna (middle right), Choy (rear)
When I initially planted up this bed, I left the netting off until the seedlings were about an inch or so tall, just to make it easier when it came to the daily watering that freshly seeded beds need.  I figured that the seedlings were much too small to be bothered by the cabbage white butterflies – how on earth would they be able to lay eggs on such tiny little things?  Yeah, that was a mistake.  Since covering the bed, I have been back in several times to remove munching caterpillars.

So on to Area 2 which contains two more brassica beds & the tomato beds.  The broccoli is the only spring planting left in bed #12 and it is still producing a lot of side shoots.  If you recall, I had one particularly hyperactive plant that was giving me huge side shoots – and as you can see in the photo below, it’s not finished yet:

This guy is going crazy with huge side shoots!
Most of the remaining broccoli plants (there are 7 in total) are giving me smaller, but adequately sized shoots with a couple generating only runty shoots.

Bed #11 was seeded last month and contains mizuna, tatsoi, turnips and kohlrabi:

Mizuna with Tatsoi in the rear

Tatsoi in the foreground with turnips in the rear.
The kohlrabi is still tiny & hiding behind the turnips
This time round I am growing only the White Lady turnip variety, which I preferred to the "Just Right" variety that I grew over the summer.

Ah, the tomato beds – they went from glory to late blight battlefield in the blink of an eye:

Tomato beds are on a fast decline
Doesn’t look great, but not horribly bad either.  When you get up close, however, it’s not a pretty sight:

Late Blight on Brandywine
Late blight thrives in cool, humid weather, so I'm a bit surprised that it surfaced considering how hot it has been all summer – even now in September, when our temps are supposed to cooling down to the teens, we have still been getting temperatures in the high 20’s (80F+) with humidex readings in the high 30’s (100F+).

Oh well - it is what it is.  From the looks of things, my tomatoes will be done by mid-September, just like last year.  The Costoluto Genevese was ripped out a couple of weeks ago and the Amish paste will be the next to go:

Amish Paste on its last legs
A few tomatoes have been affected by blight, but thankfully not too many:

Yellow Pear tomato with blight
The decline is so rapid, however, that I will likely be ripping all of the plants out at once.  At this stage, I’m just waiting for any that are more or less fully developed to start to ripen.  Once those are picked, the beds will be done.  It will be a relief, actually, to pull up the plants – seeing all of those sick plants every day is a bit depressing.

And lastly, the basil - a little bit of sunshine in the herb bed.

Beautiful Basil
The basil has been beautiful this time round, unlike last year, when it was pretty much decimated by basil downy mildew.  I haven't taken advantage of the fresh supply of basil anywhere near enough this summer, but I'm planning to make a few batches of pesto & that should carry us through the winter.

Till next time…


  1. I planted sunflowers the first year or two I was here. Ever since then I've gotten self seeded ones popping up. Since I had more than one variety the genetics are sometimes weird. Usually I get tall stems, but this year my sunflower has been about 4' tall and put out a huge amount of smaller flowers. Though they do develop the flowers well.

    Your fall brassicas look so much nicer than mine do. Mine have been hit hard by aphids. I've sprayed, but not enough.

    1. I planted a sunflower a couple of years ago in one of the beds, but didn't end up with any volunteers from that. Or maybe I did, but I unknowingly weeded it out - I'l have to pay closer attention to that next time round.

      I recall having aphid issues with my fall planting of Mei Qing choy last year, which is why I decided to only grow it in the spring (and then of course didn't end up growing any this spring). Thankfully, the rest of the brassicas have been relatively bug free....except for those dang caterpillars that I keep missing. Of course, I'll likely find more pests in the brassica beds now that I've said that... ;)

  2. Margaret--everything looks terrific, except of course the tomatoes, but I've never seen a tomato yet that looks good at the end. I think it's just their nature .

    Sounds like you've had a pretty good year. It's been that way here as well, though really, I'd like a few less hot days. This year was hot and muggy and WAY too buggy (though of the flying annoying type, not on my plants).
    I've ripped out most of my stuff. I'm done, the freezer is full, I have all I need. Time for play.
    Have a nice weekend.

    1. Thanks Sue - I just wish the tomatoes lasted a bit longer. I always figured that they "should" keep going until we had a frost. Yeah, wishful thinking, I know :)

      I know what you mean about the bugs - the mosquitos this year were brutal! I would have thought that all those extreme winter temps would have killed a lot of them off, but guess not. So my choice was usually, go out early or late to avoid the heat, but get attacked by swarms of mosquitos, or avoid the mosquitos but endure the heat...normally the heat won out.

      I love the winter; it's such a wonderful time to dream about next year and recharge our enthusiasm for the garden. Have a wonderful & relaxing weekend!

  3. I find successional sowing of lettuce rather hard, there's always a gap in between one lot and the next, and then if the weather's warm that always hampers things too. I've heard other people mention tromboncino squash, it's something I've never grown but I may give it a go in the future.

    1. I'm hoping to grow a good stand of lettuce from spring to frost...one day. But, as you pointed out, that's easier said than done. When it comes to the garden, however, I don't give up easily.

      You should definitely give Tromboncino squash a go - everyone that I have seen try it has subsequently described it as a favourite!

  4. You are much more patient than I am transplanting your lettuce. I sow my too thick and it is always packed in there it seems. Little green tomatoes seems to be what's left on my tomato vines. I was disappointed in my Brandwine. You do a nice job on your garden! Nancy

    1. Thanks Nancy - I think I sowed my lettuce pretty thickly as well, but since I only ended up with a handful of seedlings, it didn't take long to shift them around. That's too bad about your Brandywines - I'm not harvesting a lot of them, but the ones I have picked have been really good. I'm sure next year will be better for you!

  5. Strangely the lettuce which is usually a faourite with slugs is one thing that they have left alone this year

    1. We haven't had that many issues with slugs this year either - well, at least compared to last year when they were huge and seemingly everywhere.

  6. I always get so hungry when I visit your blog, even when it isn't mealtime. ;-) I can only dream of growing so many lovely edibles because of my shady garden. I do grow a little lettuce, however, and I just let it go all summer. It's quite bitter now because of the summer heat, but I recently read a few tips for treating bitter lettuce to make it more palatable--I think I'll try them! (Here's one of the sources: http://tendingmygarden.com/lettuce-bitter-secrets-to-keeping-it-tasty/)

    1. Thanks for the link, Beth! I had never heard of that soak & refrigerate tip and will definitely give it a try next year. I find that bitterness also has a lot to do with variety - one variety I grow, Sierra MI, does very well in the heat and only seems to get bitter once it starts to bolt. It's a definite favourite around here!


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