Heat, bugs, storms, and rascally rabbits, those are the things July is made of. Last week’s record heat wave did in the eggplant, carrot, basil, and beet seedlings growing in the greenhouse, despite daily watering. Our fledgling eggplants in the garden aren’t faring much better; an unidentified insect has transformed the leaves into the most beautiful lace.
Hopefully the plants will continue growing despite our insect friend’s appetite. I (Lindsey) read somewhere that most plants can lose up to 80% of their foliage without dying. More than 80% foliage loss leaves the plant unable to photosynthesize enough sugars, slowly starving the plant (or so I gather from reading garden books…and from what I remember of high school biology!). Some critter has also been munching on our pole beans, chewing through the stems and eating all of the leaves. Enough of the beans are untouched that we can still expect a bountiful late summer harvest.
We planted the eggplant, pole beans, and cantaloupe in June, relatively late in the season, so they didn’t have much of an opportunity to mature before the heat wave hit and the hungry hungry insects discovered their sweet, tender leaves. The seasons of the academic year at Princeton and the seasons of the garden are sadly misaligned. Most summer crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, squash, eggplant, peppers, beans, etc. should be planted in April or May in central New Jersey, which is Zone 5, and between exams, term papers, and independent work, April and May are particularly busy for us undergraduates. Hopefully next year, with a little more planning, we’ll be able to start the crops a bit earlier so they’ll have ample time to get established in the garden before the onslaught of bugs and heat.
Rain is wonderful! Rain, rain, rain, rain, beautiful rain! However. Although last Monday’s rainstorm brought welcome relief in the form of moisture, it did some significant damage to our pepper and tomato plants.
We probably should have been more vigilant about supporting the tomato vines by tying them to stakes with twine. Most people opt to grow tomatoes vertically, which helps prevent various diseases, reduces the fruit lost to pests like our resident rabbit, and also allows more plants to be grown in less space. Tomato vines, however, aren’t strong enough to support their heavy fruit, so it’s necessary to grow them along a fence or build a support structure for each plant. As you can see, we’ve chosen to employ the cage-and-stake method, which requires repeatedly securing the plants to the stake with twine as they grow. Store-bought cages alone just aren’t sturdy enough to support the larger plants. I’m happy to report that the plants damaged in the storm have made a full and fast recovery after receiving adequate support.
Last week we harvested our first ripe tomatoes!!! The low-hanging tomatoes tend to ripen first, and something (I suspect the bunny rabbit who lives under the raspberry bramble) has been taking bites out of otherwise perfect tomatoes! Hmph. It’s good we planted enough tomatoes for us and Mr. Rabbit too.
We have cucumbers! And basil! And cilantro! And, as always, enough mint to feed an army. I made some delicious (if I do say so myself) vegan garden pesto by blending basil, organic extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, raw almonds, salt, and a little bit of mint and cilantro in a food processor. A little grated pecorino romano made it even more delicious! The herbs and garlic were harvested from the garden. YUM.
Golf balls found, to date: 43! The garden is adjacent to the Springdale Golf Club, and stray golf balls frequently find their way into the backyard of Forbes College and the garden itself. I’ve been collecting these golf balls as a belated redneck wedding present for my golf-obsessed cousin. Some days I find as many as six or seven, but most days I come across one or two or none. It keeps things interesting on the walk from the main garden to the greenhouse/magical garden. The magical garden is blooming!