Potager Garden Report: July 2023
Finally! Hot summer temperatures have arrived in Zone 7 of the Upper Southern Piedmont, and many of our fruits and vegetables are quite happy about it! The flowers beyond the potager are celebrating, too, as you can see in this photo. Zinnias love hot weather!
Speaking of zinnias, here is a confession. One of the previous articles noted my reaction to the taste of a French heirloom lettuce, Merveille des Quatre Saisons. Note that I have never grown this lettuce prior to this year. After a bit of time, these seemingly unusual buds appeared on the "lettuce." I dismissed it, thinking they were developing seed buds. When pink zinnias emerged at the top of the "lettuce," I realized my mistake. When I started the seed trays earlier in the year, I unknowingly switched the tag labels. That's what I get for planting zinnia seeds in the same tray as lettuce greens. This means the Merveille des Quatre Saisons ended up in the mixed lettuce greens box, which looks pretty but has started to bolt thanks to the increase in temperature. Meanwhile, I was munching on Zinnia leaves masquerading as lettuce!
The potager has produced a rather bountiful harvest so far. Numerous tomatoes and cucumbers have been the usual heavy producers, and the D'elne Celery has been surprisingly steadfast during the increase in temperatures. The potager annex, known colloquially as the "grow cage," has just the right micro-climate for celery due to the overhanging oak trees, allowing just enough sun to reach the celery while providing shade and cooler temperatures within the structure. This makes watering a much more joyful experience, too.
The newly acquired Mara des Bois Strawberries also seem to appreciate this micro-climate, presumably because the conditions mimic a forest floor. No, we don't have strawberries yet, but these French hybrids are already producing runners and blossoms. They are said to produce small berries between May and September, but they usually wait until the second year.
One surprise has been the squash. We have only grown three of the Patisson Golden Marbre Scallop Squash, known as the Pattypan. It is an adorable squash, though. The zucchini has been equally lax. Even the two hybrid varieties of southern squash have mostly slept through the summer. This is possibly a pest issue, so further investigation is needed. Even more surprising is the okra. Two varieties were planted, and both have been slow to produce. The Louisiana 16-Inch Long Pod Okra is very tall, but the buds seem to be waiting for a reason to emerge. Otherwise, the plants look good and healthy. Do they miss the festive atmosphere of their home state? Perhaps an evening of jazz music in the garden can coax them out!
There are a few pumpkins along with some very, very nice gourds. However, the happiest plants seem to be the melons! The French melons were some of the first to appear, and we finally tried the Petit Gris de Rennes for the first time. It was delicious! Absolutely no aftertaste was detected, and the small size makes it manageable for cutting. We are waiting for the Charentais to fully develop. We did not have to wait for the Honey Rock Cantaloupe, though. It was very good, too. As a matter of fact, it was the best cantaloupe I have ever tasted. We are still waiting for the big watermelons to get ready for their kitchen debut, but there is plenty of Honey Rock Cantaloupe and Petit Gris de Rennes to keep us happy for now!