Monday, August 8, 2011

Mid-Season Harvests in My Sacramento Garden

It’s mid-season harvest time and the vegetable garden has been thriving, despite the unseasonably cool summer—and maybe because of it.    The front-runners are the vegetables with “big” seeds that were initially planted in 4” pots and allowed to grow until rooted enough to transplant.  They included the banana squash, bush bean, cucumbers, pumpkins and zucchini.

Banana Squash—I’ve always wanted to try banana squash, not so much because I like to eat it, which I don’t, but because of the novelty of the huge fruit it makes.  The vines of my banana squash have grown very long and taken over a lot of garden space, as expected, with one vine that found a way to climb up a bush next to the fence and is heading over to the other side of the fence into the neighbors yard (lucky them!).  It took 5 weeks before the plants produced the first female flower, with the first squash now over 19” long and growing.  There are a couple more little yellow torpedoes starting to grow now but the plants seem reluctant to produce anymore female flowers.  That’s okay, because I think we have enough; there’s no room for more.

Bush Bean ‘Nugget’—these plants started out with sparse growth and weak stems resulting in the bushes flopping over with watering or in the wind.  About 3 weeks into their growth I packed a solid 3-inches of mulch all around them to help keep the soil moist and hold up the plants.  I also fed them with fish emulsion every week.  In less than 2 weeks the plants had grown fuller, the bushes were standing up straight, and beans were forming on all the stems.  I picked the first cream-yellow beans a week after for soup and have been harvesting every 5-7 days since.  The bushes are pretty much finished and I could start some more if I wanted to since they have an average harvest time of 52 days.  But I think I’ll wait till next year.  The beans are good in soup and vegetable stews.  The taste is very mild.

Cucumber ‘Marketmore 76’—this cucumber gets both thumbs up for ease of growth, prolific fruiting, and delicious taste.  The roots in the 4” pots were very well formed at the time of planting and the plants had their first bloom just a week after planting in the garden bed.  I set up a trellis line for the vines and they were attaching readily.  The first cucumber began to form by the third week, and by the forth week I was picking.  From then on, the vines began to flower nonstop with little baby cukes showing up every day.  I’ve been harvesting cucumbers every 3-5 days.  These cucumbers are big and solid with a clean, slightly sweet flavor and not a hint of bitterness.  They can be picked between 6 and 9 inches and are usually straight, but can be curved.  Take two cucumbers, peel, slice thin and cover with rice vinegar mixed with about 2 tablespoons of sugar,  ½ teaspoon of salt, and a dribble of sesame oil.  Nummers!

Cucumber ‘Green Slam’—compared to the ‘Marketmore 76’, this cucumber is a disappointment.  The transplants struggled from the time they were put in the bed next to ‘Marketmore 76’ and only by packing a thick mulch around them, did they finally start to put on growth.  I had to help them attach to the trellis as the vines grew.  The small leaves also wilted severely in the heat which meant pouring supplemental water around them every afternoon.  I don’t think the plants put down very long roots to get at moisture deeper in the soil.  The cucumbers are small and I picked the first one about 7 weeks after planting.  These cukes should be picked at about 6 inches.  The flesh is dryer than ‘Marketmore 76’ and the taste is very mild.  It does have fewer seeds.  When I grow this cucumber again to use up the seed, I’ll plant it in a tub where I can set it in a spot with afternoon shade and see how it does.  I think ‘Green Slam’ may be better suited to coastal climates rather than the hot Sacramento Valley conditions. 

Pumpkin ‘Jack Be Little’—I planted 3 4-inch pots at the end of the corn bed right around the end of May.  They have been growing vigorously since that time and have begun to grow along the woven trellis around the corn--even growing over the top of the corn patch.  I checked the vines in vain every morning for over 7 weeks for female flowers; male flowers all over the place, but no females.  Then one day 2 weeks ago, I moved a leaf aside and, there it was, the first little pumpkin, looking like a creamy marshmallow at the end of the stem.  It reached about 4 inches in diameter and colored a deep orange this week —ready to pick.  It’s so cute.  It sits right in the palm of my hand.  And, wonder of wonders!  There are more female flowers showing up and more creamy chunks growing on the vines.  Fingers crossed, I’ll have a bushel by October!


Zucchini ‘Revenue’—what can you say about zucchini?  It pretty much grows itself.  You just have to find homes for all the zukes as they seem to explode off the bushes all at once.  ‘Revenue’ is a really good variety.  The plant stays fairly bushy with a shape around 3’x 3’ with very slight vining.  Two bushes are plenty for two people.  The color is a medium green (see the sample in the basket above) and it has a nice, clean taste that works well in scrambled eggs, creamy soups, mixed vegetable stews or chopped in salads.  I was a little worried when the bushes stopped producing at the end of August, but they started putting out more zukes about a week later.  Needless to say, the production is starting to get out of hand again.  Time to dig out my Zucchini Bread recipe.


  1. Love all the harvest news! I just pulled up the onions. They didn't get very big but the greens had all but dried so it was time to pick. I'm organic gardening but I know that doesn't mean not fertilizing - I was just to nervous to use anything. Any suggestions for next year? In fact, all of out root crop was on the small side. I filled our beds with 1/3 soil, 1/3 manure and 1/3 compost. Planing on top dressing with compost in the fall since the beds have settled and again in the spring but any other suggestions?

  2. I also garden organically and started out using fish emulsion as a light fertilizer every week for the first month. There are other granular organic fertilizers you can use, too. Putting a thick layer of mulch over most of the plantings made a huge difference in the plants this year. It holds down the weeds and tends to keep the soil evenly moist, which the plants love. Top dressing your beds in the fall is an excellent plan since it will help the beneficial microbes to produce more before the cold weather settles in. The earthworms will likely tunnel deeper in the bed and come back up in the spring when it warms up. Save a few of those onions to replant next year for a bigger size. Sounds like you're on the right track for a great garden next year!

  3. Wow your garden sounds great. But by now I guess it is maybe starting to get thinner. Hey I do cucumbers like that too. I also add slices of onion. Yummier!