We’ve hit midsummer, a time in my area when the garden tends to go downhill. While there is much bounty to be had, many plants begin to suffer in the heat. Or it is just their time to go. Or we’re just too darn tired/hot/fed up/over it to keep up with garden chores.
Sometimes we need some perspective, a reminder to just let it be. Your garden is good as it is. A garden doesn’t have to be fancy or perfectly quaffed to provide pleasure, food, pretty things to look at, or respite.
It’s canning season! To get in the spirit, Margaret of A Way to Garden and I are hosting a canning extravaganza and giveaway thanks to our newest sponsor, Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. Giveaway details can be found at the bottom of this post.
Canning is joyful, fun, and creative activity, but make no mistake, it is work. I’m not sure if it is the creative impulse or the fact of the hard work, but all canners inevitably seem to follow a trajectory that begins in hesitation and fear (OMG will I accidentally kill my friends and family!?), and ends in crazed jar hoarding and pimping. Many of you have followed along on this website or social media where I have mentioned the lengths I have gone to to acquire and schlep home pretty jars that I can’t buy here in Canada. For practical and budgetary reasons I still put up the bulk of my wares in the cheapest jars I can find wither thrifted or new, but the fact remains that I want the aesthetics of my handiwork to reflect the quality of the work I put into filling them. I gotta have nice jars!
I’ve tried all manner of jars over the years, and so far the jars that I love and covet most are simply crafted, glass and rubber works of art made by a German company called Weck. I bought my first set of fancy pants Weck canning jars 4 years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. Several boxes later and I have managed to assemble a collection that includes at least one of very nearly every size and shape in their catalogue. The first jars I bought back in 2008 were the larger deco and tulip designs. They are absolutely gorgeous jars to be sure, but I immediately discovered that their awkward sizing and shape makes them difficult to can. I fumbled around over the course of two years, sustaining several minor burns, before giving up and deciding that they would be better used elsewhere.
How I prune my tomatoes is a popular question and while I was out doing that work yesterday evening, I figured it was high time that I address it here on the site.
There are countless ways to approach tomato culture, all or at least most of which are probably right and good. I am not one to force my methods down anyone’s throat — you are doing it right if it works for you. I’ve experimented with a lot of different methods over the years, sometimes intentionally and sometimes due to neglect (do not underestimate the learning that comes from doing nothing), and have made adjustments to my approach along the way. I have also adjusted based on different varieties and tomato types. The following is a general picture of how I do things to date.
To begin, I do not prune dwarf or determinate (bushing) varieties unless they are showing signs of disease. The following only applies to indeterminate (vining) varieties. That said, wild currant varieties are an exception to the rule. I try to keep them trained as best I can early in the season, but there is always a point where their growth is so fast and furious that I just let them be and try to keep them staked to the best of my ability. I find that they tend to be more disease resistant than many other types.
July was painfully hot and dry. The garden suffered and there were days when I was sure that I would lose a few plants as a result.
August, on the other hand, has been wet and somewhat cool. I really can’t complain. I don’t remember the last time I watered anything other than the pots and many plants have bounced back from the extreme conditions. The only drawback is that the earwigs and slugs have regained traction and some of my tomatoes split on the vine due to the rapid shift overnight from extremely dry to wet. I don’t like knowing that summer’s days are limited, but I do like that I can get out into the garden without burning to a crisp!
Clockwise from Top Left: 1. My garden on August 9, 2012. 2. We made Stuffed Squash Blossoms last night. First batch of the summer and SO SO good. 3. Yesterday also marked the first big batch of homegrown Roasted Tomato Soup of the season. It was a day of delicious seasonal firsts. 4. I am in love with ‘Rattlesnake’ pole bean, a beautiful and delicious heirloom that I inherited from my friend Margaret at AwaytoGarden.com. The beans come on fast and grow large quickly, yet I’ve been able to snack on them raw despite their size. Oh dear. ‘Trionfo Violetto’ has got some work ahead if it is going to hold onto its title as my go-to pole bean favourite.
Assorted and Sundry
Again I am posting last week’s herbaria late. Tomatoes made their mark for a second week, especially since I am now bringing in harvests that are large enough to be preserved. For the first year ever we have had overlap and are still eating jars from last year’s mega crop!
Zucchinis are the other standout in the garden. I was late getting started so my crop is well behind for this time of year, but we have enjoyed a handful of fruit from a compact, early variety called ‘Astia’ that is not shown here.