It’s so late to be blogging about the summer veggie garden but once again it’s been a busy year and time just gets away from me. I only managed to publish last year’s summer vegatable garden blog about a month earlier, so I’m not going to be too hard on myself.
This year heralded a new start for veggie gardening at Chez Quincepoacher. In August of last year we had our back-garden landscaped. Changes included the building of raised garden beds, making the overall task of gardening much less arduous on my lower back and for the plants better quality soil, as the beds lifted their growing platform above the Coburg clay.
It was another wet summer and so humid, which meant that the tomatoes were once again blighted by mildewy diseases. Again, I had much more success with the cherry tomato varieties compared to the larger and beef steak varieties. However I am beginning to wonder if my lack of success with beefsteak tomatoes is related to where I plant them in the garden beds, which is towards the back of the bed so they are not getting as much sunlight as those varieties planted at the front. So if I remember, I’ll plant the larger varieties at the front next year and see if I get a better result.
That said, I had great success with the Cherokee Purple. It’s a prolific fruiter and tastes sensational. I think is due to its long ripening period, which makes the flavour very rich and deep. I’ll definitely be growing this one again next year.
The only problem with the Cherokee Purple is that it tends to split. But I can forgive it that flaw because it’s so delicious.
Other large varieties that I grew this summer include:
- Mortgage Lifter
- Grosse Lisse
- Green Zebra
- Purple Russian
- Pink Brandywine
- Red Brandywine
Mortgage Lifter has always struggled in our garden. I think I’m more in love with the story behind it then anything else, and that’s why I continue to (unsuccessfully) grow it. The cultivator of the variety, ‘Radiator Charlie’ purportedly paid off his mortgage in six years through sales of this seedling variety. I’m going to give this one a miss next year.
Tigeralla performed well, particularly towards the end of the season. Grosse Lisse did ok, as did Green Zebra, which was slow to start but came into its own late in the season. I think if I planted them more towards the front of the garden bed they would do better. The Purple Russian struggled. I’m undecided about whether or not to plant it again. My Pink Brandywine struggled also. I grew this one from seed and quite early on the seedling experienced blackspot. I’ll give it another go next year, with the aim of getting the seedlings off to a start much earlier and planting it at the front of one of the garden beds. The Red Brandywine did quite well. This was a seedling I bought at a farmers market. It went in quite early, as did my seedlings of Tigerella, Cherokee Purple and Reinsentraube (from Tesselaar’s) . We had fruit from the Red Brandywine and Reisentraube before Christmas. Reisentraube has been consistently good performer for the last couple of years in our garden – prolific, long-fruiting and early.
Last summer we holidayed in Tasmania and while there I bought some delicious tomatoes from a roadside stand. Unfortunately the lovely gentleman who sold them to us couldn’t remember their name! I saved the seeds and grew them this year, as well as ordering a Jaune Flamme seedling from Diggers Seeds. And guess what? Those Tassie tomato seeds produced the same fruit as the Jaune Flamme. It’s a delicious tomato, tart but not overwhelmingly so with a hint of sweetness. It has quite an intense and explosive taste in your mouth. It’s one of my favourites. I enjoy eating them simply, cut and served with some vintage cheese.
Other cherry tomatoes I grew this year included:
- Christmas Grape
- Green Grape
- Brown Berry
- Broad Ripple Yellow Currant
I had great success with beans this year, growing Purple King, Golden Wax, Blue Lake and Scarlet Runner. Purple King was the most prolific, I couldn’t pick them fast enough! Its flowers are also very pretty. The Scarlet Runner was disappointing. While the flowers are an attractive brilliant red, they just didn’t set fruit, so I won’t be growing these again. After a bit of research I found out that they are best suited to very cool climates.
My Blackjack, Lebanese and Goldrush zucchinis did well. I particularly like the sweetness of the Goldrush, which is a yellow zucchini. And for a quick win, I grew radishes. They are ready in a couple of weeks but don’t blink once they’re ready to pick or they’ll get too woody. I grew a range of varieties, including French Breakfast Easter Egg and Spanish Black. The Spanish Black were disappointing however, as very few seemed to germinate. I’ve been sent quite a few free packets of this variety. Blerg. Heirloom seeds are not always winners.
This year I grew one eggplant plant, Listada de Gandia. While fruiting was slow to start, by the end of February I couldn’t pick them fast enough and was giving them away. This was reliable variety that I’ll try again.
It was the BEST YEAR EVER FOR CUCUMBERS! I’m not sure why. Was it combination of heat and rain, the north-east facing position in the garden bed, the unknown variety my neighbours gave me to plant? I hope I can replicate the result next summer. The plants my neighbours gave me were prolific fruiters. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll find out what variety I had. My neighbour’s first language is not English and usually they tell me the plants they give me are the Turkish variety. Our respective veggie gardens get us talking and there is a mutual exchange of names in each language going on between us.
One more thought about the cucumbers, I did grow a Diggers variety, Double Yield. It was very disappointing as I found it quite bitter.
It was also a great year for peppers and chillies. I threw in a packet of mixed peppers from Diggers and what seemed like a million plants popped up. I also grew the Sweet Chocolate and Orange Bell capsicums, and jalapeno and Tobago Seasoning chillies from seedlings. All these plants are still going strong in the garden. I’ll see how much more of winter they can tolerate, maybe they’ll make it through to next Summer?
This year I grew the pumpkin variety Musque de Provence, which did quite well. It’s a very attractive looking pumpkin. It’s bright orange inside and turns a burnt orange colour when it is ripe. I’d recommend this variety for baking or roasting. It needs this style of cooking to bring out its sweetness flavour, otherwise it can be quite bland and underwhelming.
Finally, I enjoy gardening as it’s one thing I can rely on to get me outside and into the fresh air. I get great satisfaction from growing things, whether its vegetables or a flowering garden. But I’m not going to romanticise it and suggest that everyone grow their own vegetables because ‘that’s what is best’. It’s time consuming and hard work. The winter garden has been planted and it’s much more modest than the summer garden, two beds only. Some peas, broad beans, kohl rabi, carrots, daikon, Japanese turnips and lots of quick growing leafy greens; silverbeet, Asian greens and kale. We’ve already been enjoying the Asian greens for a few weeks now. Soon my mind will be turning to summer veggies again.