Grow, Garden, Grow!

Last week was a crazy busy week at our house.  With our adoption homestudy home visit taking place later this month, I took some time off work to accomplish a very ambitious list of projects around the house.  The days were packed with projects, paint, and power tools, but my favorite part of each day was the earliest hours of the day spent tending the gardens.  Each day I was up and out to the gardens before 6 a.m. to spend a couple of hours trying to keep up with the rapidly increasing rate of growth.  Every year around this time, I am simply amazed at how much the garden is growing - it goes from looking like a few seedlings and scrawny plants to a lush garden almost overnight!  It's impossible to pick a single garden moments to share, so here's a roundup of how the garden is growing in early July:
The tomatoes in the raised beds are looking amazing!  Several of the plants have already grown tall enough to peek over the fence, which makes them about 5' tall, give or take a bit.  On size alone, you'd never know we had such a late start to the spring (I give most of the credit to the fish emulsion).  I've been busy staking up stray branches and trying to keep on top of the inevitable arrival of the early blight that thrives as much as the tomatoes do when the humidity is high.  Out at the community garden, I finally got my hands on some straw to start mulching the tomato plants.
While the tomatoes have definitely caught up size-wise, the late start to spring means that we're still quite a ways away from the first ripe tomato.  The plants are starting to load up with cute little baby tomatoes in a variety of shapes and sizes.  I'm especially loving the look of the Japanese Black Trifele (pictured) and the ruffled look of the Purple Calabash.  The only varieties that have yet to set fruit are Hillbilly and Costoluto Genovese (as soon as they do so, I plan to post a more in depth tomato roundup).
The Litchi Tomatoes have been loving the heat!  I swear they have been growing several inches a day in the past week.  I'm quickly discovering that tending to these plants is going to be a treacherous task--those thorns are all business!--but they are a fascinating addition to the garden.  The first buds appeared and they started blooming last week. I'm hoping that the pollinators are able to make their way back and forth between the two plants and I might see the first fruit set in the coming week!
The other heat-loving plants have been flourishing as well.  The peppers and tomatillos are loaded with blossoms and have been experiencing a nice growth spurt after not doing much during the cooler parts of May and June.  The long term forecast is calling for lots of July heat, so I would guess that within a matter of a week or so, these plants will be loaded down with fruit.
The onions are getting quite big already.  I'm especially impressed with how beautiful the Crimson Forrest onions are looking!  These onions are making an accidental repeat appearance in the garden, as the small onions I had in storage started to sprout this winter, so I planted them along with some yellow onion sets at the community garden.  I wasn't expecting to see them grow this big, so I'm anxious to see what they'll look like when it's harvest time.  I also had my first taste of the Red of Florence onions last week, and I think it's safe to say that I have found a new favorite onion!
The Cherokee Trail of Tears pole beans have started to climb.  I had to add some additional structure to the supports (using jute twine), and they are starting to fill in nicely.  So far the deer have left the beans alone (or more likely they haven't found them yet) and it is shaping up to be a good crop of dry beans this year!  I was also able to plant the black eyed peas this week, seeing as we've had a few weeks of hot weather now.  What a rewarding feeling to see those little beans pop up within a couple of days of planting! 
The Royalty Purple bush beans are already producing lots of beans.  I would guess that I'll be harvesting the first beans by the end of the week.  The Dragon's Tongue haven't even started to flower yet, but that should mean that the bean harvest should be spread out a little more, which is definitely a good thing!
And speaking of harvests, the Sugar Snap peas are finally ready to pick! The plants are towering over the fence at close to 6' and are just getting into full on pea production.  I've been a little concerned that the hot weather will do them in before I have a chance to get much out of them, but so far, so good.  One of the main reasons I really like this variety is that is seems to be more heat tolerant than most peas.
And would you look at that broccoli!  I have several heads that are ready to pick, which means tonight's dinner will be broccoli salad with a few tender onions.  So far there has been absolutely no sign of cabbage worms (knock on wood!), but I did find the first Japanese Beetles of the season munching on the broccoli leaves a couple of days ago (luckily, they leave the good part alone!).  With the arrival of the Japanese Beetles, I'll have to keep a close eye on the edamame and raspberries as well.  
A pest that has not yet shown its ugly self is the squash bug.  I've been keeping a careful watch on my zucchini, patty pan, and pumpkin varieties for signs of the bugs and eggs, ready to make my move when they do arrive, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying seeing beautiful, healthy, pest-free squash plants.  The vine crops (melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins) are just starting to spread and meander in the community garden, and the plants that will take the place of the peas on the vertical garden fence should be growing upwards within the next week as well.  No blossoms on any of these cucurbits yet, but it shouldn't be long.  
The quinoa is just starting to develop some flower heads, which has me slightly nervous given the timing with the hot weather, but so far we've managed to stay below the critical 95 degree mark, so I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for the opportunity to harvest some grain.
Unfortunately, it appears that something else likes the quinoa.  I'm assuming this damage was done by deer, but there were no prints to confirm that suspicion.  Whatever it was only took a few bites off the top of a small number of plants and hasn't returned since.  Luckily, quinoa develops a good number of side shoots that also produce flower heads, so the plants are not a total loss.  
The other grain in the garden, Hopi Red Dye amaranth, is growing strong as well.  I am really enjoying the pop of color the intensely red foliage is adding to the garden and I can't wait to see what it looks like when it starts to develop a flower head.

I know I haven't covered everything, but I think I've hit the highlights.  I'm just thrilled to see the garden growing so vigorously and filling in to look more like a garden again.

How is your garden growing this July?

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