Summer garden report; I'm on the verge of fall planting, so might as well report while it's relatively fresh in my mind.
Starting at the lower end of the garden:
Corn, Silver Queen and Augusta. It was a good year for Silver Queen. Even the ones I had to rescue from the self-sown cosmos roared back, despite the dry year (and no, I don't water the corn), and produced plenty of nice ears. We put up 14 cups of cut corn. Augusta did not fare so well - thin germination to begin with, and it tasselled earlier than the Silver Queen I'd planted to pollinate it, so we got few ears and none I'd call well filled out. If I grow this again, it needs to be started two weeks before Silver Queen (which I will absolutely be growing again). Note: there are honeybees in the area, all on their own. We know this because, while the Silver Queen was full of pollen, the entire bed was positively vibrating
with honeybees. I find this interesting because corn is an ancient, wind-pollinated crop; it didn't need those bees at all.
Summer squash. None of the summer squash did well. We had a strong showing of squash bugs rather early, plus a lot of heat and dry weather, and that did it for the squash plants before most of them produced much. The grey zucchini I'd specially sought after produced some of the weirdest fruits I've ever seen, curved and corrugated - not what I'd wanted. Only one of the dark green zucchinis fruited at all, and it succumbed quickly to disease. It's a good thing I still have zucchini in the freezer from last year.
Tomatoes, cherry. We grew three varieties this year, two seed-saved here and one I ordered from Fedco. (http://www.fedcoseeds.com
) The Rose cherries I've been saving for three years produced, but succumbed early to disease. The Kumquat cherries (also seed-saved, though I only selected these last year) were an odd pinky-orange color, strongly productive, strong grower. The fruit cracks quickly after rain (though not as quickly as one of its parents, Sungold). Not sure about this one. The Pink Princess from Fedco was an exceptional grower and producer of gorgeous dark-pink fruit, and I think this variety will be taking over from Rose; Pink Princess showed none of the disease issues that knocked Rose down, despite a planting location with less air circulation (upwind of the early corn).
Tomatoes, main crop. We grew five varieties, two plums and three slicers. German Johnson still gets top marks for productivity and flavor; this tomato remains the backbone of the tomatoes that go in my freezer to make up sauce. Cherokee Purple will never be high on the production list, but the fruits are flavorful and the plants keep going despite disease issues and dry weather. (Most definitely not
a tomato for a wet year, as we discovered last year.) The new slicer was Illini Star, which was (and still is) solidly productive of smallish, perfectly round red tomatoes that are a gorgeous dark pink inside, lovely to see on the plate. The two plums, Illini Gold and Black Plum, were quite productive this year; I've already put up 11 half-pints of tomato paste using just these two tomatoes. Black Plum was the only tomato I had that produced in last year's washout season, and only then because the fruit came on early and tends to be small. If any of these plants gets substituted out next year, it'll probably be Cherokee Purple.
Peppers, hot. We grew poblanos and jalapeños. Both have been very productive. The poblanos seem to want drier weather, though; they keep rotting on the plant before coloring up at all. It's definitely not sunscald, as the plants are heavily leafed and somewhat shaded by a massive tithonia plant. By contrast, the jalapeños have already gone red on the plants, which are growing right next to the poblanos. We also had volunteer Cayenettas show up in the herb bed (which had been the pepper bed last year). I'll probably dry whatever hot pepper fruits don't get used, sold, or given away and make up more deer bombs with the resulting powder. It was wonderfully effective this past winter at keeping the deer and rabbits away from the overwintering kale.
Peppers, sweet. Ashe County pimentos and my favorite Corno di Toro were the varieties we chose, and I'm pleased with both plants, though I could have done with more pimento fruit, as they came in very early and it would have been nice to have fresh sweet peppers in salads over the summer. The Corno di Toros are already coloring beautifully; have to go pick some to take in to work for gloating over.
Beans. I planted one wax bean and two of the Grady Bailly pole bean plants; as anticipated, I cannot keep up with Grady Bailly, and the wax bean is already done. Both took a battering in the early-and-heavy Japanese beetle attack, but Grady Bailly keeps its flowers up under the leaves. The butterbeans (limas) I put in by customer request also got pretty badly chewed up by the beetles. I think we might be starting to finally get some production on them.
Herbs. I put in Genovese basil, some Italian flat leaf parsley, and the pitiful remnants of the cilantro I started in pots; the cilantro bolted and disappeared. The basil has all but filled the area, duking it out with the volunteer Cayenettas and an enormous mound of volunteer marigolds. I'll be trying again with the cilantro over the fall. I know it overwinters pretty well, and will self-sow if it has a long enough season. I don't like cilantro, but a lot of other people do, so I won't mind if it shows up next year.
The tomatillos are in the herb bed, too. This is a new crop for me. All three varieties - a green, a yellow, and a purple - are interesting, and I'll probably plant all three again next year. I'll take some to work with me and see if I can drum up interest. Fortunately, they're not heavy producers, or I'd really be at sea. Points for the purple variety: I came upon a praying mantis laying eggs on one of the stems yesterday.
Winter squash. We planted Seminole and Waltham butternut again this year. The effects of much less rain are pretty stark where the Seminole plants are concerned; hardly any fruit, unlike last year, where we had boxes of it that went to the chickens because we couldn't use it all up. The butternut is a reliable producer. Interestingly, some of the fruits which rotted in the beds last year sprouted in amongst the corn this year; they hybridized into something very odd. If they taste good, I guess I'll save the seed and see what they do next year!
Greens. The summer greens were Senposai, Scarlet Charlotte swiss chard, and a perennial chard called Gator. Senposai got off to a roaring start, but then had a bad period where the cabbage loopers ate holes through all of the leaves. It's a very strong grower, though, and it's come back nicely. I'm having to pull the last plants out to make space for the fall planting of kale and other greens. I'll probably grow it again next year, as the chickens like it (and so do the dogs), but must remember to either cover the rows when the cabbage butterflies show up or spray with Bt. The chard both grew well, though I like the texture of Gator better than Charlotte. Charlotte's awfully pretty, though; it'd make a nice planting in a perennial border, I think. Neither had real problems with cabbage loopers or Japanese beetles, and are both growing very strongly now. It's nice to have plants that don't require coddling.
Onions and garlic. I had some small sets leftover from last year's late planting of yellow keeper onions; those grew to massive proportions once in the ground this year. I also bought some sets from the co-op, and we've been eating off both since earlier this summer. The garlic planting was in the top bed this year, and it did a lot better there than in the bottom bed where it had languished last year (to be fair, the bottom bed was the wettest last year, so that probably didn't help). Last winter's test planting of potato onions did okay after I repelled the voles, so I have starts to put in the ground next month with the garlic.
Other things grown and not accounted for elsewhere: Lemon Queen sunflowers, which took a while to settle in, flowered nicely, and then died back earlier than I'd expected. The plants also have a tendency to get heavy early on and end up sprawled across the planting bed, never making the tall central stalk I'd expected. The local goldfinches were quite pleased I'd planted feeders for them. *g* Cleome is flowering nicely at the other end of the bed from the sunflowers; it'll get invited back next year (will probably self-sow, anyway). The tithonia got huge points for being the one plant which attracted Monarch butterflies - well, that's appropriate, given they're Mexican native wildflowers and they grew so large they towered over my head.