I Can’t Get Started With You–Growing Vegetables in the Pacific Northwest, August 2011 Edition

A little mid-summer update for the vegetables I’ve been growing.  As anyone living in the Pacific Northwest knows, this summer has been just as cold as last summer, and the result is that all the warm-season vegetables are very late to ripen this year, as they were last year.  I hope this is not a trend, but it may be (thanks, global climate change–I was hoping we’d turn into Napa Valley here . . .)  Anyway, as I mentioned in this earlier post on Guerilla Gardening, I’m growing a lot of my heat-lovers under hoops and plastic this year.  It helps to raise the night-time temperatures a little bit, which is what the problem is.  Cold nights are not good, because the vegetables mature and ripen at night, so you want higher night-time temperatures for crops to ripen earlier.  This we have not had here at all, and thus the plastic.

Here are the tomatoes:

These are tomato plants in cages under plastic taken earlier in June.  Here they are now:

Those babies have really taken off, and barely fit under plastic anymore.  A veritable jungle of tomato vines . . . but

Green ‘Costoluto Genovese’ tomatoes, and  . . .

yet more green tomatoes–I’ve got green tomatoes as far as the eye can see, and no red and ripe ones yet.  Soon, hopefully.

On to the pumpkin and squash:

The first baby ‘Rouge Vif d’Entemps’ pumpkin, also known as Cinderella pumpkin.  They start out this pretty shade of yellow and deepen to orange as they mature.  They are wonderful for eating, but most of the time I use them for decorating in the autumn months. 

And now a grouping of vegetables:

At the bottom are ‘Mesa Queen’ acorn squash flowers, and above are fava beans, corn and the last of the peas.  (I can’t believe I still have peas–normally they are done in by mid-July here.)   I am just barely seeing some tassels forming on the corn, but the peas have been going strong since July.

I think the fava beans are quite interesting plants to look at.  Here are the flowers from earlier this season:

Other vegetable plants in the garden:

These are ‘Royal Burgundy’ bush beans (curious name, because they are decidedly purple to me).  I’ve grown these for three years and they always produce a good crop, even under these cold growing conditions.  They are just at the picking and eating stage.

I’m also growing:

‘Scarlet Emperor’ runner beans.  I love the flowers and the beans on this pretty hummingbird plant.  Here’s more of a close-up:

Runner bean flowers, with some picasette garden art thrown in the rear of the photo.

Cucumbers have been problematic both this and last year.  Just like last year, I had to restart seeds three times before they would germinate–it was just too darn wet and cold for them earlier.  And it’s still realy cold for them, because they like it to be 60 degrees at night for them to ripen, and not once has it been that warm here.  Nevertheless, they grow on apace under plastic:

Here are the cukes tucked into bed for the night, and . . .

Here they are uncovered.  It needs to be 60 degrees at night for them to ripen, and thus my problem.  However, I am optimistically growing ‘Green Slam’, an early (ha) ripening slicing cuke, along with a new hybrid called ‘Rocky’, and some ‘Harmonie’ pickling cukes.  The ‘Harmonie’ cukes are the largest so far, but only a couple of inches long, and there are lots of flowers still on the vines.  We may have some cukes come September, who knows.

Some crops thrive in cooler weather:

These are beets that I use for beet greens in salads and for sauteeing.  The green leaves are ‘Chioggia’ beets, and the red leaves are ‘Bull’s Blood’ beets.  Both grow quite well here.

One success story is in the fruit department.  In my area and at my house, the berries have been tremendous this season.  We u-picked strawberries–39 pounds–which I made into freezer preserves and individually quick froze, and blueberries–35 pounds–that I preserved in the same manner.  Raspberries did not do so well at the u-pick farm that I went to, so I only ended up with a little cranberry-raspberry freezer preserves, but my own raspberries were very prolific.  I think there was so much rain earlier that it mooshed (that’s scientific of me) the roots of a lot of the raspberry plants here, so they just died, but mine came through unscathed.  Right now the June-bearing raspberries are finishing up, in August(!), and the bees are busy at work polinating the buds and flowers on the fall-bearing raspberries.  I have these beauties ripe and ready to eat now:

They are blackberries and marionberries in various stages of ripeness.  I wrote an earlier post showing and telling about how I trellis, prune and fertilize my berries, and they responded well to this treatment.  I grow a ‘Lochness’ blackberry, which is a thornless variety.  I have to say I’ve changed my tune a lot about the blackberries and marionberries.  They needed a few years to settle in and put down roots, but once they did, youza, have they been producing.

I also have apples:

This is the ‘Spitzenberg’ apple tree, which is part of my espaliered belgian fence in our backyard.  This heirloom is the first the ripen, but they don’t ripen until probably October this year.  I will give more updates as they mature.  Behind it is a ginormous butterfly bush, which the hummingbirds, swallowtail and monarch butterflies have been enjoying for several weeks.

I also have grapes (!) this year, once I got brave and took the pruners to this vine:

This is our ‘Einset’ grape, which is a red seedless table grape.  Obviously, it’s not ripe because the grapes are still green, but I’m thinking end of September or beginning of October these should be ready.  They grow on the open-air roof of a pergola where we dine during the warmer summer months (I’m still waiting for those months.)

Lettuce and salad greens have also been very successful this year as well.

This is mizuna on the top, which is an Asian mustard green that is not as invasive as the regular mustard greens, and Tatsoi–Bok Choy with the round dark green leaves at the bottom.  Both go into our salad bowls, as does the ‘Ruby Red’ Swiss chard with the red stems growing next to them.

My best lettuce to date has been the very earliest starts that I put in the ground in chilly March of this year.  However, here is a little bed that I planted in June.  This contains ‘Two Star’ leaf lettuce in the back with the frillier leaves, and ‘Concept’ lettuce, with more rounded leaves, in the front.  Both of these have consistently produced good lettuce all season.  I will put up a results list of my favorite lettuce and salad greens seeds based on how they grew in my garden later in the year.  I’ll leave you with this garden picture:

(PS–I dug my first new potatoes of the season, called ‘Dark Red Norland’ and they were great.  Had a lot less trouble with flea beatles this year, because I think the cold weather diminished their numbers.  I forgot to take a picture of the harvest, so intent was I on cooking and eating those red round tasties.)  How are your vegetables faring this interesting growing season?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  And don’t forget to visit the garden party.

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7 Comments

  1. allysgrandma said,

    August 16, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Minerva the pictures are beautiful and what a great idea I am going to steal next year. Living in Humboldt right on the coast we have a very hard time with tomatoes, but I am trying again this year with some grafted varieties that were $9.98 a piece…yes you read that right. I went to a growing tomatoes in Humboldt Seminar. Unfortunately one of the large pots was not draining well and I had some problems, but DH told me that the one that looked wilted all the time is really putting on the tomatoes. Our best weather is September/October so September is when we usually have the blackberries everywhere. My mom’s raspberries are coming on and my own strawberries did very well this year.

    I am in South Carolina until August 30th, so I am missing prolific zucchini season. I am hoping my butternut squash and pumpkins are growing. I should text DH right now and ask him! Our brand new blueberry plants just planted this year were producing when I left a week ago.

    I am thinking about my fall/winter garden since we can grow fall crops year round.

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      August 16, 2011 at 6:54 pm

      Wow–I just re-read that price–I better learn how to graft tomatoes myself if I’m ever going to try them!

  2. minervasgardenwriter said,

    August 16, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    So nice to hear from you! And good–steal away–hope the tips help!

    Hey, leave me a link to your blog–I always want to go there, and keep forgetting what the URL is.

    You are the second person in a week that has talked to me about grafted tomatoes–I am going to have to learn more about them, because they are supposed to produce for a super long time. I’ve been reduced to buying ripe tomatoes at the farmers’ market–argh!

    You should do a blog post about the tomato seminar you went to–I’d be interested in that.

    It’s so hard to leave home right when your garden is starting to produce, but have fun in South Carolina–I’ve never been there, but from pictures it looks lovely!

  3. August 16, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    The colors are so lovely!

    I didn’t try veggies this year at all – we only put strawberries and blueberries in our little deck container garden. (Hoping to have a house with garden space before the baby comes.) I hear it’ll be another La Nina winter. Let’s hope next summer gives us some love!

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      August 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm

      Thank you, and I agree–I’d love a hot summer next year. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  4. Lexa said,

    August 17, 2011 at 4:48 am

    Minerva- So good to read about another PNW gardener battling through yet another cold, wet Spring & Summer. Your garden appears to be at about the same point in maturity as mine. We really need these 80 degree days to stay for all of August and into September- fingers crossed. My success story – for both years – has really been the onions. They seem to love this weather. Thansk for sharing and I look forward to watching your garden grow and mature!

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      August 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm

      I hear you–the weather is supposed to be in the 80s all this week and into next, and I hope it keeps up for a good long time. Good for you on the onions–I am really negligent with weeding and it appears that the onions do not like to be crowded at all, so I haven’t done as well with them. You give me motivation to groom the garden beds more often!


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