Below Right: Right to Left; watermelon, yellow squash, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes. Elsewhere, out of view: cantaloupe, pimientos, okra, hot cherry peppers.
We have had more rain this spring than I could keep track of. Quite wonderful for our state, plagued by a drought for about 7 years now. And quite wonderful for our garden this year, which has progressed in leaps and bounds, I believe, because of the rain. I'm grateful that the garden has had this wonderful head start on the hot summer that lies ahead. John and I have worked hard and done a lot of work, but somehow, we are reluctant to take credit for the garden's prolific growth and success this far.
And, well, it is finally getting hot! Although the mornings and evenings are still slightly cool, several days have been way too hot to work outside at midday. So we concentrate most of our efforts in the early morning and evening. We're still getting a fair share of rain, though not as often. It did rain yesterday, all day, a gentle, mostly quiet rain that soaked deeply into the soil. Today, because of cloud cover, it was much cooler, with a nice cool breeze, and comfortable enough for John and me to do some work in the garden.
Right: cucumbers starting to climb the old windmill.
The garden is really doing fabulously! The cucumber plants are getting huge, but insist on spreading out across the ground instead of growing up the old windmill, so I pulled them up and tied them with string to encourage their upward movement. There were many cuke blossoms last week, but I was delighted to find many tiny cucumbers growing among the leaves today. I was absolutely astounded when I found one cucumber, already about 4 inches long! I haven't had any success with cucumbers in summers past. That was a big disappointment, but I am feeling encouraged about cucumbers this year. I might just get a chance to can my own pickles!
Below Right: a cucumber, 4 inches long, among the leaves at the top of the picture.
When I finally counted the tomato plants a few weeks ago, I was a bit stunned to realize I had planted 45 (about 6 different varieties) in the garden. I must have been thinking of the 18-20 I used to plant each year, with only a mediocre harvest by the end of the season. Yesterday, there were about a dozen ripe Sweet 100s that I couldn't resist picking. I ate a few, gave most to John, and shared a couple with one or
two of the dogs who were bouncing around excitedly in front
of me, curious about what I had, and anxious to have a taste of their own.
I think the pepper plants have been the most surprising of anything in the garden. Jalapenos, bell peppers, cayenne, and banana peppers - none of them are more than a few inches high, and each and every plant has at least one pepper on them. Several plants have up to 3 or 4 peppers, and the fruit are so large, they're dragging the ground.
Below: Two rows of small pepper plants (banana, green bell,cayenne, jalapeno) loaded down with fruit.
Last week, the yellow squash were still on the small side, but filling up with blossoms. This week, the plants are huge, and although there are still many blossoms, some of the plants are showing young fruit, already a few inches long! This year I'd like to dry some of the squash, freeze some, and perhaps, can some. I would have loved to have some zucchini as well this year, but each time I visited the garden centers, they were out of zucchini. When I finally found some, my garden was already too full to make room.
Below: Yellow Squash plants, late May. Right: baby squash, early June
Last year we planted a few watermelon, cantaloupe, and acorn squash seeds as an afterthought. We were happy to get a few small cantaloupe, a couple of tiny watermelon, and several small acorn squash that we kept and used through the winter. This year, we planted the cantaloupe more deliberately, and the plants are flourishing, full of blossoms. We also planted watermelon, which are also flourishing, though they are not flowering yet. Then there are the pumpkin. The leaves are huge, and the vines keep reaching out and grabbing the fence nearby. They too are full of blossoms. As with all the other plants in our garden, these three look promisingly fruitful.
Left: Pumpkin plants with blossoms, flourishing.
I can't say it enough. I am delighted with the progress the garden is making this year. It's a new garden plot. John's health crisis last fall delayed us working on the garden, but my dear husband pressed in after his recovery and worked very hard during the early spring to get the bed ready. Together we used heat and steam to remove the grass and weeds, guaranteeing very little would come back as weeds in the garden. We collected free mulch ourselves, hauled it home, and spread it on the bed. Likewise, we collected free horse manure, hauled it home, and spread it too on the bed. The ground was tilled each time something was added, and multiple times before planting began.
Below: Cantaloupe plants with blossoms, also flourishing.
The garden has been the primary focus of our lives for the last six months. John and I have cared for this garden as though it were a child, treating it with tenderness, love, and care, and fretting over it when weather, timing, and planting problems seemed to warrant fretting. Like a child, our garden has only been given to us for a season. We prepared the garden in the best way we could, working within the parameters of our financial budget, knowledge, tools, and available materials. We have done everything we can to insure that this garden will be the best it can be. But the outcome of this garden is up to God, for his word reminds us that it is not the one who waters or the one who plants that gives the increase, but God (I Cor: 3:7).Though Paul was speaking of us all being laborers in the field of God, bringing souls to Christ, his point was made through a farming metaphore that I can relate to.
Now if that comparison doesn't work for you, how about this one, slightly paraphrased to fit:
Raise up a garden in the way it should be, and when it has matured, it will produce a harvest worthy of all your early work.
Above: Me planting tomatoes in April.
Right: John watering those tomatoes after planting.
Below: the tomatoes at the end of May.