An update from the dog days of summer at the Not So Seekrit Lair….

It has been unrelentingly hot here in southwest Michigan this summer with consistent temps in the high 80s and low 90s. That said, it’s still been a fun year at the Farm at the Not So Seekrit Lair. The garden has been one of the things that’s kept me on balance during this crazy year, because it’s intensely relaxing to go sit in the garden and pull weeds, eat blueberries off the bush, or just gaze into the middle distance. It has also provided me some delicious small bites, fresh from the garden.

Mardi Gras beans, Italian Stripe zucchini and Elliot blueberries. I ate the blueberries and the beans for dinner last night.

My tomatoes are starting to come on. I have signs of blossom end rot on one of my plants already despite my preparations to avoid that, so I’m monitoring all 10 of the grow bags. This is what comes of insisting on growing heirloom varieties instead of hybrids that are bred for resistance, but man, the taste of some of these heirlooms is unbeatable. I’m growing Green Zebra, Red Zebra, Ace 55, Trip-L-Crop, and Vintage Wine. Ace-55 and Trip-L-Crop were my favorites from last year. I think I’m going to go with some of the newer hybrids next year, though. The advancements in breeding new varietals with heirlooms have been pretty great, and if I can have the disease resistance of hybrids and the taste of heirlooms, that isn’t a bad thing at all.

I decided to diversify the locations for my plants this year. I have some in the back corner herb bed, some in pots on my porch steps, and some in raised beds in the garden itself. That way, if something gets into the main grouping in the fabric bags, I’m still going to have delicious tomatoes! I do think that I should have listened to myself and put just one plant in each bag, but I think most of them have three. That is still too many plants, and next year I think I’ll put the tomatoes in the raised beds and do something else in the grow bags.

Two kinds of zuchinni are taking up residence in a raised bed this year and the Italian Stripe is going nuts in there. This is a delicious variety that also has the benefit of looking amazing in a stir fry if you peel it in stripes and cut it in rounds.

Both zuchinnis are pretty happy in the raised beds.

The Mardi Gras Bean Project has worked out really well. I have had two or three nice portions of steamed purple, green, and yellow beans. Yes, I’m easily entertained.

Mardi Gras beans!
The purple beans have gorgeous leaves!
The flowers from the yellow beans.

I’m not 100% sure I want to devote the space in the raised beds to beans next year. Since I NEVER tire of snow peas, imagine my absolute delight to find that Johnny’s Seeds has purple snow peas and yellow snow peas!! There will be a Mardi Gras Snow Pea Project, and since they have excellent prices, I’ve loaded up on seed. I’m particularly impressed with the fact that they are an employee-owned company. I’m going to support that kind of ownership wherever I can.

I thought that my Tabasco and jalapeno peppers were a bust this year, so I was pleased to find that they just took a long time to germinate. I found a clump of tiny seedlings growing under one of the tomatoes in the raised beds and replanted them all with appropriate distance. I believe I’ll pickle some of the jalapenos, and make my own hot sauce with the Tabasco peppers. I have some interesting ideas involving a lot of garlic!

Speaking of garlic, I dug all of it from the front beds as I plan to remake that space next year. The bulbils from last year that I carelessly threw in the back of the yard grew into a huge patch, so I’m covered for garlic. Garlic bulbils are what you get when the garlic “flowers”. It makes top sets of little bulbs that you can easily replant. Garlic is truly the gift that keeps on giving. If you look in the upper left and lower right of this photo you’ll see the bulbils. They’re in a papery husk, and if you just rub it between your fingers it will break open and you’ll have a good number of bulbils. Last fall I just threw them on the ground and walked away, and this year I had garlic for days. I heavily sowed this year’s bulbils in the back herb bed, so I expect next year I’ll have a nice crop there as well, with the side benefit of deterring the deer, as much as one can actually do that. .

Garlic freshly dug, now drying inside the cold frame.

The herb beds have given me joy this summer. I have a very healthy stand of oregano and my mints (spearmint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint) are running wild. I put some spare tomatoes in there as well as some spare zuchinni and ground cherry seeds. They’re doing okay in there, but I’m real tired of carrying buckets out there since we haven’t had much rain this summer. My rain barrel has been pretty useless, and I have buckets out there to catch the periodic overnight rains. I enjoyed my large stand of parsley very much till this year’s duo of fawns decided that they deserved fresh breath and laid waste to it. I still have basil in several pots, both Genovese and sweet basil, and I have greatly enjoyed the addition of its delightful leaves to just about everything.

Parsley, pre-fawns!
Oregano, going strong. Deer don’t seem to like it.

I have Burpee’s Patio Corn in the apple box with Sugar Baby watermelons. I’m not super thrilled with the germination I got from this year’s batch of the patio corn and may actually try to do a couple of rows of traditional sweet corn next year in the raised beds. It would have to be the raised beds, to keep the deer and the raccoons at bay. This may also be the problem in the apple box, they might well have just been torn up by deer predation. They’re pretty bold. The watermelons are going like a house on fire though! I imagine I’ll have some tasty melons before too much longer.

I planned to dug up the blueberries in the front bed to move to pots and found that only one survived the winter, a lowbush variety. I put it in a pot, and bought two news plants of Duke and Elliot and put those in a pot as well, all three plants in the fenced raised beds area. They are thriving! I had a nice crop on both the Duke and Elliot plants, including today’s picking of a full cup of Elliot! The lowbush I saved from the front berm is healthy, but did not flower this year. Next year I expect it will be much happier, without the competition from the grass in the front bed.

The bare sticks now have many leaves!

It’s almost time to put in my fall and winter garden. I like fall crops because they can take a frost or two and usually be better for it. Some, like turnips, you can leave in the ground and dig all winter! I’m planning on those, a few kinds of kale, the aforementioned Mardi Gras Pea Project, a couple types of lettuce, definitely a lot of spinach, and probably broccoli and cauliflower. I’m trying pak choi this year! Park Seed has a miniature pak choi for us single serving people, called Toy Choi. They also have several cool rainbow mixes of the usual cool season crops, like beets, radishes, and carrots. I’m more than likely going to succumb to the beauty of these gorgeous mixes.

In southwest Michigan, I usually sow seeds over Labor Day and have plenty of time to harvest before it gets too cold. This year, I’m considering a small lean-to greenhouse outside my kitchen door. It would be set up against a reflective white wall, and a great exposure to the east with sun about 2/3 of the day. I *can* grow things all winter with row cover over the hoops on my raised beds, but the idea of puttering around in a little greenhouse right outside the kitchen makes me happy.

What do your gardens look like? Tell me what’s growing on at your place!

Author: Amy Crabtree Campbell

figuring it out as I go, since 1967

2 thoughts

  1. Love the Mardi Gras beans. What do you do with your extra tomatoes? Do you can them, freeze them? My tomatoes plants are doing well but so many tomatoes not sure whats bes to do with them.
    Hoping to our in a garden next year besides just tomatoes.


    1. Irma, I think I’m going to dry some this year. I love love love sun dried tomatoes and I understand it is easily done in a low oven. But first I’m going to eat myself ill on delicious tomato goodness. 🙂 I’m going to get some good mozzarella and eat caprese salads till I explode. 🙂


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