Hot! Fuzz!

1 Aug

It’s been pretty dadgum hot around here – several days in a row of 100+ degree temps (including one where the heat index broke 120), and… there’s fuzz growing on all of our Cucurbitacea (that’s squash, zucchini, cucumbers and the like; I learned that word once back when I, along with a handful of food-interested, and possibly too-geeky-for-our-own-good, friends had a cucurbitacea-themed pot luck a few years back. I made butternut squash ravioli from scratch. Totally good, total pain in the butt, especially without one of those nifty pasta machines to make uniform dough). But if you’re reading this, you’re not interested in tales of calorie-fueled nerd-dom (seriously, we once fashioned a double-blind study to determine whose mac and cheese was best), you’re reading this because you’d like to know what’s happening in our garden.

So, here’s a picture of our garden from last night. As you can see, things have… changed. The carrot harvest is ongoing (we’re just over four pounds on carrots, and I estimate we have at least a pound to go!), and the cherry tomatoes are having a virtual bonanza out there. The romas and slicers (the one Big Boy vine and handful of Cherokee Purples) are starting to pick up steam as well (although the Cherokee Purples, with their green shoulders, are a little tricksy; you think they need a day or two more and  then all of a sudden they’ve gone to rot or some non-human has decided we don’t want them and it’d be a shame to waste them, so they’ll just go ahead and take a little nibble, thank you very much).  Meanwhile, bean production has definitely slowed down. This could be an issue of the plants having already given all they could (doubt it), or something more sinister. Like the cucumber vine next door that’s a little greedy with the sunlight and space (poor planning on our part), or worse, some kind of disease. But I lean towards door number two on this one, I think.

So, I mentioned it was hot. But also, there’s fuzz. Specifically, what I strongly believe to be powdery-white-mildew. As best I can tell from my research, it’s not really a problem from a production perspective, it just looks ugly. All the same, I went through on a leaf-cutting tear on Friday morning chopping off the affected leaves from our zucchini and winter squash. The zucchini is still producing a solid fruit-a-week or so, so I’m relatively unconcerned; I’ll consider taking more drastic measures if for some reason zucchini or squash production appear to be threatened.

Meanwhile, on the left, you can see a mutant cucumber. I think this is the result of either a) a nutrient shortage or b) a pollination problem, though I’m not entirely sure, since apparently lots of people have lots of different problems with cucumbers. The more I read, the more convinced I become that cucumbers are a  problem child. We haven’t had a really good-looking cucumber in a couple of weeks now. But there are also some decent looking baby cucumber candidates out there, so I’ll keep monitoring. And, as it turns out, other than pickles, I’m not entirely certain of what to do with them. I mean, we made a nice gazpacho with some of them, and I’ve seen a lot of salad recipes, but I’d like something with a little more… more to it. I guess I shouldn’t expect too much from a fruit that’s mostly water though. Cucumbers just gotta be cucumbers, after all.

Oh. So, I mentioned up there that the beans appear to have stopped producing. While not entirely true – there are still some baby bean pods out there, and I’ve seen one or two out there getting bigger as well, there just don’t seem to be nearly as many. Again, I think it’s a shade/space/resource issue with the cucumber that they’re entirely too close too, but then there’s also this leaf on the right that looks a little… Off.  With slightly blown-out highlights, you can see a powdery-mildew-y cucumber leaf in the right of that photo, but then you can also see two slightly brown bean leaves right next to that on the left. I haven’t done much research on this one yet, so if anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

So, looking back, this post seems like something of a downer. In reality, the garden is still a very exciting project – one that’s constantly teaching us new lessons, providing new surprises and things to get excited about (like our first female butternut squash blossoms!), and of course, delicious food. Just this past Sunday, it took all of about ten minutes to harvest a cup of basil, throw it in the food processer with garlic and olive oil (all while the pasta was cooking), for this pretty fantastic lunch of pesto topped with pan-roasted cherry tomatoes. Fifteen minutes, tops, and it’s delicious. You should try it.

On a tip from a lovely commenter who, out of sheer coincidence, happens to live right down the road a piece, we also made a pretty fantastic chickpea, tomato, and okra dish, which we ate over a bed of quinoa the night that Wonderpup finally got to meet Stevie Wonder (not garden related, but she’s pretty awesome, I haven’t plugged our friends over here yet, and it’d be kinda great if she found a forever home as great as she is; alas, our own Wonderpup wasn’t entirely impressed; I think he’s getting crotchety in his old age. By which I mean three-and-a-half). We’ve also had tons of salad, more zucchini bread than is probably good for us, a number of stir-fries (again the zucchini), some collards, some chard… In short, a bit of everything.

Speaking of the Wonderpup, here he is, helping out in the garden. We were moving the butternut squash vines back into the garden bed (and out of the way of the mower) planting some more collards, now that the zucchini has moved out into the yard (it’s stubborn – there’s no moving it back into the bed) and is leaving some more sunny spots at that end of the bed, and finally getting off our butts to put some new arugula seed in to fill up the empty spot that used to be full of arugula. We also put in some curly leaf lettuce to shoot for a little diversity in our salads. So, you know. If you were feeling upset about the mildew, stop, take a deep breath, and look at the cuteness that is that giant ball of poodle standing next to a garden spade and a whole bunch of cucurbitacea, which are, as of right now at least, still quite productive for us.

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2 Responses to “Hot! Fuzz!”

  1. val August 2, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    So glad you liked the okra recipe–you will now be subject to a cucumber recipe suggestion: cold cucumber soup! Like tomato gazpacho, but using more cukes. I put avocado and green pepper in mine. Maybe sour cream or yogurt too. You could also do raita/tzatiki. Oh and a Thai sweet and sour with cooked cucumbers (weird but actually good).

    I am with you on the curcurbits–they are a pain. Between the rambling uncontrollably through the yard and the squash vine borers, it has been a challenge. I’m still learning too though, so I’ll continue trying. The last two years I had a lot of trouble with cucumbers. Some looked misshapen, and when they looked good they were impossibly bitter. This year I tried a new variety, lemon cuke, and I’ll be harvesting the first one this evening. I just realized I am not seeing the cucumber beetles this year–I know they were spreading disease in the past. Maybe I have attracted some predators, as I have definitely seen a lot of tiny wasps and flies.

    Kudos on the carrots! That’s the good thing about gardening, you can always plant anew–I’m looking forward to working on the fall crops in a cooler garden.

  2. Aleksandra August 2, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Gosh Matt, I’m exhausted just reading this. I am really impressed with this enterprise. You guys have well more than four green thumbs, which is confusing given that there are only two of you, and last I checked, you each only had two thumbs.

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