There's something about watering the garden in the early evenings that has become a nice end to the workday. Something about seeing the daily progress of the plants, even in the heat of the past month, is almost soothing.
That is, until August 2, 2011.
Picture it: a hot August Tuesday. We came home after a long day at work, eager to visit the garden.
We discovered we had a problem when we found a squirrel with one of our beautiful, ripe tomatoes in his mouth. He took one look at us, decided to get while the getting was good, and scurried up a nearby tree. He had gone on a full-out tomato binge -- leaving scraps of other tomatoes littering the ground.
Honestly, we're not sure how many tomatoes are being snatched. It's a small number, we think. Right now, for instance, we have nearly 40 green tomatoes still on the vine. When we returned home this past weekend after more than a week away, there were no ripe tomatoes, so we're assuming the varmints are stealing the ripe ones. We may start harvesting them a little underripe so as to not continue feeding the neighborhood squirrels.
Overall, the tomato plants are looking far better at this point than we predicted a month ago. They continue to bloom and produce little fruits. All these months later it's still a wonder to watch.
Squirrels aside, our garden seems to have weathered our recent storms pretty well. Oddly, the morning after Hurricane Irene came through our neck of the woods, we found that our okra plants -- that were standing bolt upright the night before -- were lying down completely. We helped them to stand back up, and they've stayed that way ever since.
The okra plants, though, aren't very productive. At any given point, there's a single okra pod growing on each of the four plants. This past weekend, we returned home to find that the four okra pods on each plant had grown huge while we were away. One was 9 inches long! We harvested them, and now there are already four more forming on the plants.
Our only regret about our okra is that it doesn't produce more pods. Well, that and also that it doesn't create more blossoms, because they're absolutely beautiful.
Okra blossom. Suck it, O'Keefe!
Last month, we said that we had given up on our beets, pulling most of them out of the soil. Two plants still remained in the ground, so we finally pulled them up. This photo doesn't do justice to how small these beets actually are -- they're each only about an inch and a half long and a half inch wide.
Our pepper plants have been surprisingly productive. On one plant, our green peppers turned a shade of purple, then red. On another, the green fruit is now deeply purple and doesn't seem to be changing. We've thrown the peppers into sautées, and added them to tomato sauces.
In anticipation of the shift to autumn, we made two changes in the garden.
First, we gave our basil plants (which have continued to be amazingly productive) a severe trim. (We'll share more about what we did with the basil next week.) We didn't really expect the basil to come back so strongly, but in the week we were gone they grew tremendously.
Because we doubted how the plants would perform after the big cut, we went ahead and planted some more seeds, thinking we would just transplant them to the garden once they were ready. Now it looks as if we'll have plenty of basil until the first frost, so we may just have extra seedlings.
The other big change we made is that we replanted peas before we left for the beach. We were thrilled to see that they had not only come out of the ground, but they were each about 3 inches tall when we got home! We hope that these peas will perform better in the cooler September weather than they did in the heat of May.
Overall, we remain pleased with our garden. It's not as productive as we would like and doesn't quite match the visions we'd had of bushels of okra and pounds of tomatoes. But we continue to receive joy out of the experience of watching the plants mature and replanting for future harvests.
Now if we could just get those squirrels to take a vacation, too.