For years Bryan's family held an unofficial competition to see who could produce the first summer sun-ripened red tomato. Among South Carolina growers, we're probably not winning that race this season; although our bushes are loaded, it will be July before we see a first red fruit. Though, whenever it comes, the wait will be worth it.
We harvested some large broccoli crowns, blanched, and froze 4 quarts. Broccoli plants that were harvested earlier are producing side shoots, not as big as the original crown, but plenty enough for fresh eating. Pickling cucumbers are ripening between 8 and 10 per day - it's hard to keep up with all of them and the green beans that are just getting warmed up. We harvested dill weed, parsley, oregano, and basil to dry for winter use, and we're using a lot fresh. Carrots and onions are large and table-ready. Bell peppers are blocky, just right to stuff. Soil preparation and organic practices are paying off now as we gather a daily trug of vegetables - more than we can eat fresh.
Grass clippings make great garden mulch; if you have time to bag them, try adding clippings around potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and other garden plants. Layer old newspaper directly on top of garden soil, then spread grass clippings over to keep weeds down all season long. We call this "spider mulch" because it creates a home for 8-legged critters, which act as garden guardians, eating pests that damage plants. Both newspaper and grass clippings will compost by end of season and can be incorporated directly into garden soil in Fall or Spring.
Peas are still producing, even though vines are old and show signs of coming to the end of their productive life cycle. Sweet corn has stood up well to the many summer thunderstorms that came through our area; the first crop has set ears that will be ready to eat in a week or two. This melon and more than a dozen others are on the menu for next month, thanks to the work of varied pollinators - bees, wasps, and beneficial insects which are attracted to the garden especially by herb plants in bloom. Speaking of insects, all those lady bird beetles (ladybugs) on our March red clover came back and are doing a great job keeping aphids off our corn.
The June 2011 summer solstice has come and gone, and July, month of greatest activity in the vegetable garden, is around the corner. It's time to pull canning jars out of storage and begin preserving for winter. Next Monday July 4 is a national holiday, and we will take a break from blogging to get our hands dirty: look for our next post on July 11. We wish y'all a happy and safe Independence Day USA!