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In the Garden: Good summer for vegetables

Sun., Aug. 24, 2014

Artichokes can be grown as annual vegetable crops in the Inland Northwest.
Artichokes can be grown as annual vegetable crops in the Inland Northwest.

It’s time for a report on how my vegetable garden is performing this summer.

Heat-loving crops like tomatoes, peppers and squash have really been enjoying our extended heat wave. This gardener can’t say the same, but as long as the plants continue to get plenty of water, they will manage just fine with a minimal amount of care.

It seems to be a good year for carrots. I’m growing Red Core Chantenay, Purple Haze and Tendersweet. The roots have developed quickly and are delicious. I’ll keep them in the bed until after a few fall frosts, which will make them even sweeter.

The onions (Copra and Highlander), which I grew from plant starts, are doing well. The stalks began falling over earlier this month, a sign that they are nearing maturity. I’ve turned off the water to the bed to dry them out for storage.

I’m growing Caraflex, a new variety of cabbage with cone-shaped heads. They have grown quickly into 5-pound heads, which I’ve used for making coleslaw and am hoping to try out a sauerkraut recipe as well. Recently, slugs have been nibbling on some of the leaves. At this point, the easiest solution is to peel off the outer leaves after harvesting to reveal a perfect head underneath.

The Broad Windsor fava beans produced a huge crop about a month ago and then dramatically tapered off. I chopped up the plants and worked them into the soil. That bed is now seeded with salad greens for fall and winter harvesting.

My leek crop, Bluegreen Autumn, is growing extremely slowly. Since they tend not to mature until fall, I’m hoping they’ll come around soon.

Strawberry spinach is an heirloom variety dating to the 1600s. One harvests the leaves like spinach and plump red berries from the stems. I’d seen it growing in Anne Hathaway’s cottage garden in England two years ago so wanted to give it a try. Since the berries are mildly-flavored, the plants are more of a novelty.

Once again, artichokes have a place of honor in the garden. I started them from seed in mid-February and began harvesting them about two weeks ago. There haven’t been any stink bugs chewing on them, a pleasant change from last year.

The corn patch is growing beautifully. I chose Peaches & Cream for this year’s variety, and it has busily been growing ears. Each will be ready for harvesting once the tassels dry out and the tips of the ears are rounded out with kernels. The biggest challenge was keeping the stalks from snapping off at the ground during our more intense windstorms. Fortunately, I had pounded in tall stakes at the bed corners and strung twine around the perimeter to give the plants extra support; this was well worth the effort since they made it through several storms.

Tomatillos are another new veggie crop I’ve tried. They should produce enough fruit for some batches of salsa verde.

The only disappointing crop has been the okra. Even though they’ve produced a bit, the plants are just languishing. I’ve heard they never recover if subjected to a cold spell in the spring. While I protected the plants as best I could, they seem to be holding a grudge.

I’m growing cherry tomatoes (Sungold), paste tomatoes (Italian Pompeii and San Marzano), slicing tomatoes (Jetstar) and three grafted tomatoes given to me by a friend. All are 4 to 5 feet tall and producing well. Every time I eat a ripe tomato, it reminds me why I make room for them each year. They’ll mostly be used for making tomato sauce and ketchup.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at inthegarden@live.com.


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