July is a busy time for gardeners, and UVa’s Community Garden is no exception! Even though Mother Nature hasn’t been too helpful in the watering department, we’re harvesting right and left (I may or may not be eating three cucumbers a day to keep up, just saying). Read on for all of the very juicy details, and the obligatory sunflower pics because, really, how could I resist?
This week I’m going to talk all about HARVESTS! Harvesting is such an exciting time. Especially when you’ve planted something from seed, there is nothing more rewarding than harvesting what you’ve cared for. You finally see all of your hard work and nurturing culminated in a tangible, edible form. How cool does it get?!
Our first figs were ready for harvest this week! This means that I tried my VERY FIRST FIG! (unless you count fig newtons, which you really shouldn’t). I’m happy to report that it was delicious. Maybe I’m a tad biased, but I tend to like anything that comes out of the garden.
It’s important to pick figs when they look purple. You don’t want the whole fig to turn purple, or it will rot, but you don’t want it to be too green either, because it needs to be ripe.
Look at the difference between the ripe purple fig and the growing green figs. Remember to pick your figs when they are somewhat purple and soft. The fruit is delicious and I’ve been told the leaves can be used in recipes as well. Enjoy!
Wineberries were another first for me this week! The berries have a nice shine to them and they are absolutely delicious. They’re a bit tart with a strong flavor. Their bushes are quite thorny, so picking them was a bit of an ordeal, but it’s worth it!
We picked a bunch of cherry tomatoes this week! Some people eat these things like candy, right off the vine. I’m definitely not one of those people, but I’m excited to try them out in new dishes.
SO. MANY. CUCUMBERS. I think I lost count. One day we picked 17! Just in one day! Needless to say, I’m giving away cucumbers to any friends, coworkers, and random pedestrians that I come across. At this point, “Hi! Do you want some produce?” is a very common opener for me.
It’s important to pick cucumbers before they get too big, because they’ll get bitter and seedy. Yuck! The plant will also direct all of its energy into ripening the one large cucumber at the expense of others, so I harvest fairly frequently.
Fun fact: We have three (and counting, possibly) varieties of cucumbers growing this summer! We only planted one variety, but we had a lot of volunteer (self-seeded) cukes, much to my excitement. Scroll over the pictures for more details.
We picked a few more heads of cabbage this week! And some of the other cabbage plants that were previously picked are starting to grow mini-heads, so that’s pretty exciting.
Is it bad that I think I like how cabbage looks more than it tastes? (Maybe, but to be fair, I still think it tastes really great)
The Okra is still going strong! Even though the June Bugs are attacking its leaves, the pods themselves are doing just fine. I’ll be honest, I still haven’t quite figured out what to do with the Okra yet, so at this point I’m mainly pushing it on volunteers and my coworkers. Maybe next week!
A singular radish! Perhaps pulled too soon, but I was very excited and couldn’t resist.
The Padrón peppers are thriving! I’m picking them when they’re about an inch or so long. Any longer, and they’ll get pretty hot. I’ll eventually let a few get hot, but for now, I’m interested in mild peppers.
Weeding and Woodchips
I’m excited to report some new faces around the garden this week! Evan, a new volunteer, Lauren and I spent most of Saturday attacking the Asparagus bed, which was completely overrun by thick grass and intimidating, rooted weeds.
Grass and weeds that spread by runners are difficult to remove once they’ve infiltrated a bed. It took the three of us, some hand tools, and a lot of determination to evict those pesky interlopers!
It’s important to remove as much of the root as you can when you’re weeding, unless you want to do the same project a week later. Unless you take out a weed’s root system, it’ll pop back up faster than you can take off your gardening gloves (practically).
Several hours of weeding later….we were successful! We decided to mulch the bed with wood chips in order to smother any lingering weeds. They aren’t gone forever, but hopefully this will work for some time, while also helping to keep the soil cool and moist.
I just need to take a minute and remind everyone that the sunflowers are still breathtaking. That is all. (Plus they’re attracting pollinators! Win-win!)
Tales of Woe
As per usual, not everything is sunny at the garden (despite this scorching heat!). I’m so sad to report that one of/the only bell pepper we had disappeared! (#RIP) (#NeverForget) I’m not sure if it was due to my rodent friends or some human friends, but either way, I was pretty bummed.
In other news, Tomatoes are a challenge! While most of the cherry tomatoes are doing pretty well, there are a bunch of different varieties of volunteer tomatoes and some are doing better than others.
The Roma, in particular, have been badly hit by blossom end rot. This is a common disease that’s caused by a lack of calcium, either due to a lack of calcium in the soil or due to infrequent watering (such that the calcium in the soil isn’t being transported to the tomato). I feel like I water pretty frequently, but apparently my tomatoes feel otherwise.
I was very distressed when I first saw this! Lauren and I sprayed a Calcium spray and removed all of the rotted fruit from the plant. This should help prevent blossom end rot on future fruit.
After talking to the veteran farmers at Bellair, I felt much better! They said that it’s pretty common for the first fruits to have blossom end rot and not to overcompensate and water too much, as that might cause other issues such as the tomatoes splitting or having not as rich of a flavor.
I’m learning that gardening is a big balancing act and an even bigger learning experience. It’s a lot of trial and error, hoping for the best and then readjusting when things go south. I’m growing right alongside my plants, and that’s the way it should be!
Wanna come grow with me, and grab some fresh produce while you’re at it? Join us for our community workdays on Thursdays from 5 to 7 and on Saturdays from 3 to 5.
Hope to see you soon,