Gardening Corner
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MV Gardening Corner July, 2013

Gardening Corner
July is always a busy month if one is growing fruits and vegetables and berries.  There have been wonderful successes and some failures or apparent problems with some crops.
The blueberries have been coming in steadily now especially since we netted them to keep the birds out.  Some have been frozen for next winter’s colder months, but a lot have been enjoyed simply with our breakfast cereals or with a little yogurt, or made into blueberry muffins or pancakes,  and the grandchildren eat them right off the bushes when they’re here.  The raspberries are over my head now and setting fruit, but not yet ready to pick, though a few near the bottom have turned ripe, but somehow those never made it to the kitchen…..hmm.  
The elderberry flowers have given way to clusters of elderberries, but they will not be ready to pick until early September.  Our experiment with the new blackberries has been slow.  Perhaps they are taking their time establishing their root systems, but their above ground greenery is only about 12-18 inches high at this point and so far no fruit has set nor have flowers emerged.
We’ve harvested the beets and the spring turnips and their greens (the greens make a yummy addition to winter lasagnas) and discovered a few new recipes from shredding both of those.  My sister in law whose heritage is Russian and Jewish shared a simple recipe of shredded raw beets and apples with a touch of mayonnaise that is delicious.   The cabbage has been harvested and shredded and is presently evolving into sauerkraut in its crock.  I added some garlic and dill this year to give it a new twist.
We’ve been picking summer squash and green beans and wax beans with more to come as the summer continues.  We’ve had a few cucumbers and have made some herbal vinegars and have been soaking the cucumbers in those, which are a wonderful accompaniment to any meal. 
garlic and onions
Yesterday, Bill pulled and set on the drying rack 76 large heads of garlic and he just finished doing the same with the onions this morning.  There is still pesto to make with all the basil and the Swiss chard needs to be cut and either eaten or frozen for later.
The Problems
Our pepper plants are beautiful, but we could only find only one flower on any of them and absolutely no peppers.  Tomatoes are coming in very slowing and Bill thinks we will be having a problem with them due to our crazy swings in climate this year.  Many of the plants appear to be wilting or dying.  June was extremely wet and then we went right into two weeks of excessive heat.  Since the weather swings have calmed down a bit now, we may try fertilizing them some more and spraying them with soap shield to see if they will be able to recover.
Of course, the weeds are taking over every where we look.  Since we did have that extremely rainy June followed by a couple weeks of heat waves in the 90s with high humidity, so all sorts of weeds as well as flies and mosquitoes have challenged our harvesting.  
Other challenges…..keeping up
The most work, however, for the next few days will be the peaches!  We planted ten peach trees in the orchard, luckily five of an early variety and five of a later variety so they all wouldn’t be ripe at the same time.  Bill filled the equivalent of three bushels today and we had peach cobbler for dessert last night, but there is a lot of canning for the next few days.  
canning peaches
Besides putting up regular peaches is light syrup, I will probably be making some peach preserves, some peach conserve and perhaps some peach jam.  The pears are just about ready to harvest as well, and by the time I finish with those the second round of peaches will be ready followed quickly by the apples.  We only had a few plums from the plum trees this year and they were good, but I think the trees need to grow a bit more to produce more fruit.  The sole apricot got us pouring over books to find out why they weren’t producing more and we discovered  that if there were harsh winds during the winter, the apricot trees may have taken the brunt of the damage.  We did have some terrible wind storms this past winter that took down a lot of trees, so we will have to wait until next year to see if they recover or not.  Our daughter, Danielle came over the other day and asked if there was any rhubarb left in the orchard.  We had harvested most of it around Memorial Day, since it is a spring crop, but when we did check, lo and behold, there was plenty more for the picking. Apparently, all the rain in June gave it its second wind.  Sprawling across the orchard among the trees are a few winter squash plants that we will leave until late September when we can begin to harvest the yummy butternut squash.  I’ve already seen some baby squashes on the vines.  
swiss chard
So, July at MV is about growing, but more about harvesting, and cleaning canning jars and pantry shelves and beginning to stock up those shelves and freezers, and keeping up with the canning and freezing before school starts back in session.   We’ve seen some beautiful pink Asiatic lilies in the backyard and a new hydrangea plant is flowering above the backyard fence for the first time.  Come September, we’ll be able to pick its blooms to bring indoors to dry.  We’ve seen an occasional stray wild bunny rabbit who I’m sure manages to slip under the garden gate at night and much on the veggies, but so far, he or she hasn’t eaten too much.  Canning and harvesting bring a warm sense of accomplishment when one is preparing for the winter, but more often than not it elicits a sense of gratitude to an awesome God who has given so much.  Bill has started volunteering each week at the local St. Vincent de Paul food pantry and we can tell there are a lot of people in our community who simply do not have enough food.   Hopefully, we can share some of our fresh produce with those in need.  Praise God!