Garden Update July W3: Helpers Growing in Cracks, Purple Broccoli and More!

By Julie Sews - 4:08:00 PM

Garden B July W3
I can't believe it's nearly the end of July!  Time has been going by so fast.  It seems like just yesterday that I was planting seeds wondering if any of it would even grow.  Now our garden looks like an over grown jungle!  And so many things that I wasn't sure if they would pan out look like they're going to make it.  Yea!  This is my favorite time of the gardening season because it's too late to plant anything (except for fall crops) and the only work I need to do is watering, weeding, light harvesting, pest control, and training vining plants and tomatoes.  After that it's time to just sit back and let them grow.  I love how at this time of the year you also know what kind of harvest you can anticipate.  I can already tell we're going to have lots of tomatoes, beans, radishes, peas, kale, basil, zucchini, cucumbers, beets, rutabaga, turnips, and carrots.  That is assuming we don't have any bug problems or disease.  I can't wait!  What's growing in your garden?

Coriander growing in the cracks of the pathway of Garden A
Helpers In Pathway Cracks
Last year we had problems growing cilantro, but did grow a few little cilantro plants that bolted right away so I just let them go to seed.  Apparently the seeds went everywhere and self seeded which started to grow very early in the spring this year.  The cilantro even self seeded into the cracks of our pavers!  I've decided to let it go to seed and self seed again this year, I love helpers!

 I think it looks pretty with all the flowers and I'm not harvesting anything except broccoli in Garden A yet, so I'm not using the path ways yet.  We had another helper in garden B, a radish (see below photo).  So I'm left with the conclusion to try one of three things next season.  Since it seems like plants like to grow in our pavers cracks (both good and bad plants), I figure I should try to either make sure nothing can grow in the cracks or embrace this space as a place to plant and try to crowd out the weed with plants I would want.  I'm thinking thyme could be good if I choose to use cracks as planting.  If I decide to try to make sure no life can grow in the cracks then I plan to try a natural weed killer and to fill in more sand in the cracks.  Any other ideas?

A radish helper growing in the cracks between pavers in Garden B
 Garden A 
Our purple broccoli in Garden A going to flower
Another broccoli plant in Garden A just starting to go to flower, I better harvest it soon!
Purple Broccoli
We have broccoli! And not just any broccoli but purple broccoli.  I'm so excited, because I was starting to doubt if the broccoli would even grow at all because they're drowned out by the tomatoes (except for the ones we planted in our front bed which were planted weeks later than our other broccoli) and they seem to be growing straight up rather than out.  I've concluded broccoli needs LOTS of space.  More like 1 1/2 sq ft instead of the 1 sq ft suggested in sq ft gardening.   Mental note for next year, only plant lettuce or root vegetables in the middle row of tomatoes.  Not only will they be fine in a little shade but the root vegetables don't need to be harvested until fall, so I won't have to worry about it being less accessible to harvest.  I've learned that the hard way before.

Pests in the Garden!
I found a Japanese beetle on our broccoli plant (along with some holes in the leaves) for the first time in or garden today.  I picked it off, put it into a container and put it on the ground and stepped on it.  Organic gardening at it's finest!  Ironically about a week ago someone from WCCO asked if I wanted to come on and discuss controlling Japanese beetles.  I was so flattered but graciously declined and told her that I had not had any problems with it in the past and therefore I didn't feel I would have enough experience to talk about it.  I referred her to  fellow blogger and gardener Amy of Get Busy Gardening since she did a post on using traps to treat them.  Perhaps I jinxed myself!  Anyone else having problems with Japanese beetles?

Roma tomatoes July W3 Garden A
Our Tomatoes are all green and I can tell that we're going to have a lot!  I've been training the tomatoes leaders into their 54" cages every few days.  

Garden B 

Cucumber from Garden B July W3
We finally have cucumbers!!!!  I'm so happy!  Seriously I feel like jumping up and down.  We have more growing then I can count.  Why am I so happy?  The first year I ever gardened (2009) one of the few things that grew were cucumbers.  I started wondering if they would be good juiced.  I learned that in Mexico they drink cucumber lime juice.  So I made it and became obsessed with this refreshing drink (check out my recipe here).  I was looking forward to it the next year (sometimes when things are seasonal I think we enjoy it more), only to have no cucumbers grow.  For the last 3 years, we have not been able to grow any more than one cucumber a season!  We even bought some from a nursery after or direct seeded ones failed last year, and even those didn't work.  Finally I can have as much of my cucumber beverage as I want (and pickles too).  

One of my favorite restaurants, Good Earth  is using cucumbers as they're seasonal meal inspiration.  According to them " cucumbers are high in potassium, a heart healthy electrolyte, and Vitamin K for bone strength. Cucumbers also contain many anti-oxidants including Vitamins A and C."  Check out their seasonal menu here for inspiration or if you live in the area try one of their dishes to see if you like cucumbers or green tea (they're other ingredient this month).   I'm intrigued by their green tea buckwheat Saba noodles.....

Our fennel in the center (it looks ferny) of our jungle of a Garden B
 Fennel is another plant that we grew 2009 and 2010, but didn't grow last year.  I kept throwing down celery (which I've never gotten to grow) and fennel seeds hoping they would grow but seeing no signs of life after a month I threw in the towel and threw a bunch of rutabaga seeds down.  Well it turns out what I thought was a weed (and luckily I didn't pull out) was actually a fennel plant.  We actually have two growing.  Another pleasant surprise!  I discovered this a few weeks ago.  The only problem is the rutabaga did so well that it's crowding out the fennel, so I've been having to trim back the rutabaga leaves to give them sun.  

Sugar Snap Peas 
Sugar Snap Peas Garden B July W3
Sugar Snap Peas are the star of the garden right now.  We have been producing about 1 lb of sugar snap peas a week.  I've been making lots of stir fry's and I've actually learned to snack on them with a quick homemade dip of mayo (I plan to try to make my own mayo from scratch soon) milk, mustard, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper (recipe to come).  We increased our peas by one row (5 sq ft) this year and I think it's the perfect amount for us.  I plan to plant some peas for fall in the same spot once I tame the jungle (I can't even see the ground to weed right now!)

Pole Beans
Seed Saver's Purple Pole Beans Garden B
Our purple pole beans are starting to bloom!  And they're starting to need support beyond the chicken wire.......  When we made our new trellises (during the heat wave we had with a heat index of 105-115 for a week!).  we put up all but one because our cucumbers were crawling on the pathway and we couldn't get in to install the trellis for the purple pole beans.  The were doing OK at the time, but two weeks later now and they're not OK anymore.  In fact they're a mess, crawling all over the other plants and weeds, and even to the green pole beans structure across the square (which have a trellis and started to grow before the purple pole beans).  I can't wait to try them, they're suppose to turn green when you cook them.  This is a new heirloom variety for us from Seed Savers.  We planted bush beans in prior years and did pole beans last year for the first time (we planted the same seeds again this year as last year).  I loved pole beans over the bush variety.  They're fantastic for any urban gardener, I even felt they were easier to harvest!  

radishes and beet harvested last week check out the size of the middle one!
 Our radishes are huge!  This is the best crop we ever have had.  So far I've harvested over a pound and most are pretty big (check out the one in the middle of the above photo).  We have one that looks monster huge, I can't wait to harevst it and see what it looks like. 

Our Front Garden Bed
catnip gone crazy in our front garden bed!
It's all about the catnip in this bed.  Holly hamburgers does that stuff grow fast!  I'm seriously considering selling it or just composting it.  We've already harvested twice this year and have all Mr Cat and friends probably need for the year.  It's so overgrown I'll probably need to harvest just to mow the lawn!  I might have to fight the bees though that are loving it (I'm loving that it's bringing them over to my garden!).  Our purple broccoli we planted in this bed are not even close to developing broccoli yet (they're the same ones in Garden A but we're planted a few weeks later).  We still have chamomile, and the lavender we planted hasn't grown at all since we transplanted it over a month ago.  We might or might not have chives anymore, I can't tell with all the catnip!

Our Container Garden

Basil in a large container July W3
Last year I had to buy basil from the farmers market.  I planted some heirloom purple basil (yes I do have an obsession with purple veggies!) and they never grew much because they were shaded by our kale.  So this year I made sure to plant it in a spot that gets plenty of sun and have plenty of space in Garden B.  I bought some purple basil plants at Midtown farmers market and threw seeds down (green basil) that I thought didn't grow, but one actually did!  I also wanted some basil in a planter.  I threw some seeds in a planter and they miraculously grew and no squirrels dug into it! 

The only other plant I have in a container in or front yard is the stevia plant I had last year that survived into this year.  The reason is my new enemy, squirrels.  I planted lettuce, mint, lemon balm, and cilantro this season all ruined by squirrels.  The same as last year.  Some how some survived last year, despite the squirrels but there were casualties.  I thought I'd be slick this year and let them germinate inside first and then bring them outside when they got established.  Well they didn't transition well and died in a day, so much for that.  I'm thinking next year I will make a cage to put around my containers until they get established.  Any ideals?  Has anyone else had this problem?


New Garden Bed
Black Zucchini blossom July W3 in backyard garden bed
We have zucchini flowers!  We have never grown zucchini, squash, or pumpkins before.  We planted them in our new garden bed we made this spring, to see if they is enough sun or not for fruiting plants.  It's an ideal spot for it because we have a built in trellis with our chain fence, so I've been hoping our experiment would work.  Even though all we planted in this bed looks like it's doing well I wasn't sure if it would even produce anything, until......our black zucchini started to flower.  I'm hopeful now that they'll all produce.  Has any one ate squash flowers before?  I should probably try......  I also always forget to try eating pea shoots. 

So that's what's going on in our garden, how about yours?

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