A Garden Blog by Kevin Milaeger

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The August Harvest Begins

August 13
, 2014     (See below for archives)

Midsummer is upon us, and as many customers comment every year about the weather---“It’s been a funny year.”  Idiosyncratic weather is what we have come to expect.  A local meteorologist reported that July was 3.5 degrees cooler than average. That sounds like quite a bit to me. I know my tomato plants agree. Their growth is significantly behind that of other years. I normally start picking the early varieties around the first week of July. This year serious picking (of early varieties) started around July 25th. If that isn’t troublesome enough, I think their flavor has suffered with the cooler temperatures. My cherry tomatoes seem fine, but ‘Bloody Butcher,’ my favorite early variety, has been less flavorful than usual so far. I attribute it to cool weather; warm temperatures would increase the natural sugar content, a significant factor in flavor. I’ll grow ‘Bloody Butcher’ again, but I have already started to look for a replacement---next year I’ll be doing a comparison taste test. The competitive world is a tough place, and in the search for improvement, sentimentality has no place. Of course that’s just in my little corner of the world----in your garden you can do whatever makes you happy.

Peppers have been coloring up for the past week or so. One common misconception that I encounter with first time pepper growers concerns the pepper ripening process. The customer bought “red pepper plants” and wants to know why they are green. All peppers change color when they ripen. Most, but not all, start out green. They can be eaten before they are mature, but the flavor differs considerably when fully ripe, especially with sweet peppers. Perhaps more importantly, nutritional value is greater when mature. ‘Mariachi,’ a 4” long tapered pepper with mild heat, starts out pale yellow, and finishes scarlet red. ‘Melrose’ is a 5” long, sweet Italian frying pepper. It starts out green and finishes deep red. It is a regional favorite, apparently originating in Chicago. ‘Mini Belle Mix’ ripens to assorted colors, this one golden orange. It is a sweet pepper, and it has a compact habit---ideal for container culture.

Most of the early garden crops finished weeks ago. The few remaining lettuce, radishes, spinach, peas, and others have been stripped from the garden and relegated to the compost heap. In the last week of July I sowed more carrots and lettuce to fill in some of the space. I’ll plant radish seed in mid-August for a late harvest, and some lettuce and kale starter plants around September 1st. Some of you experienced lettuce growers might be thinking that midsummer is the wrong time to sow lettuce seed. Yes, that is what all the books say. But in this cooler year, I’d like to give it a try. I found two varieties offered by Italian seed companies, and the seed packet suggests planting them anytime throughout the summer months. I figure most of Italy is warm, so maybe they’ll be okay. I’m not worried about how well they will grow; I’m worried about their flavor.

My onions are doing well. I planted sets (marble sized onions) about April 20th. I just started to pull some onions and the largest ones look to be nearly 4” wide. The rule for harvesting this type of onion is that when the tops of half the onion plants fall over, they are ready. At that time, gently pull them out of the ground and clean off excess dirt. Leave them lying in the garden for about a week while they “cure.” They need dry sunny weather to cure properly, so if the weather is wet you can lay them out in your garage on cardboard---at least they’ll be dry, if not sunny. Leave the garage doors open when possible, to help them dry. When the leaves are crinkly, clip the tops so they are an inch long, trim off the roots, and peel off any excess skin. Then you can store them in the mesh onion bags that you saved last winter, from store bought onions. Good ventilation is important for successful storage.

Carrots can be harvested any time now. When carrots are mature, they acquire the color they are supposed to have---like you see on the seedKevin with Carrots packet. (Not all carrots are dark orange.) When immature, their pale color is still evident, and the nutritional value has not yet peaked. I sowed the seed for mine during the third week of April. At that time of year the seed takes more than two weeks to germinate. If the weather is cooler than usual the seed can take more than three weeks to sprout. I love harvesting carrots. They are so sweetly fragrant when they are just pulled out of the ground, and the flavor is intense.

Tomatomania 2014 is less than a month away----we hope you’ll join us. It always a lot of fun and the tasting is free! Click here to read about the event! This is what this year’s Tomatomania t-shirt looks like.


Please email me (kevin@milaegers.com) if you have any questions or comments.


Archives  (Click on the green text for links)

July 2014 - Greens to Grow for Fall!!!  Click here for Spreadsheet

July 2014 - My Tomatoes are Blushing

June 2014 - Some Tomato Concerns

May 2014 - Garden Update --- the Cold Weather Experiment

May 2014 - Is it Time to Plant Tomatoes?

May 2014 - Vintage Veggies #4 and Vintage Veggies List 2014

April 2014 - A Chilly Spring... What Can I Plant Now?

March 2014 - Start Growing Your Own Food Right Now

February 2014 - Greens to Grow   Click here for Spreadsheet


October 2013 - Keep Calm and Garden On!

October 2013 - Autumn Vegetables

September 2013 - Tomato Popularity Poll Results Blog

September 2013 - Tomatomania Category and Cumulative Results

September 2013 - Tomatomania 2013 Blog, Video and T-Shirt

August 2013 - Greens to Grow and Spreadsheet

July 2013 - Spaghetti Squash

July 2013 - New Tomato and Zucchini Recipe Blog
July 2013 - Tomato and Zucchini Recipe

June 2013 - Cold Spring - What it Means for Vegetables
May 2013 - Tomatoes in Containers
May 2013 - Vintage Veggies 2013
April 2013 - My Tomato Garden Preview 2013
April 2013 - Don't Forget Rosemary!
April 2013 - It's Planting Time
March 2013 - Onions
March 2013 - Vintage Veggies
March 2013 - Greens to Grow Update
February 2013 - Hot Peppers
February 2013 - Grafted Tomatoes
February 2013 - Greens to Grow

September 2012 - Tomatomania Results
July 2012 - Compass Plant
July 2012 - Heat Wave
June 2012 - Okra
June 2012 - Potato Onion
May 2012 - Gas Plant

May 2012- My Tomato Garden
May 2012 - Vintage Veggie Fest
March 2012 - Growing Raspberries in SE Wisconsin
March 2012 - Winter Tomato Project
February 2012 - Success with Sweet Peppers
February 2012 - Vegetable Cukes Miniature
January 2012 - Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2011 -Tomatomania Review 
August 2011 - Tomatomania Preview
August 2011 - Racine Vegetable Garden Tour
Summer 2011 - Vegetables in my Garden
July 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
June 2011 - Vegetables - Diseases made Simple
June 2011 - Vegetables - Container Growing
May 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
April 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Event Preview
March 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Announcement

September 2010 - Tomatomania Review 
August 2010 - Flowers Late Summer Color
July 2010 Vegetables Cukes and Tomatoes
June 2010 Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2009 - Tomatoes End of Season Review 
September 2009 - Tomatomania Review
July 2009 - Tomatoes General and Fruit Set Problems
June 2009  - Tomatoes Fertilization
June 2009  - Tomatoes Personal Experience
May 2009 - Tomatoes General
May 2009 - Tomatoes Diseases
May 2009 - Tomatoes Selecting and Growing
April 2009 - Tomatoes General

Any questions or comments, please contact us at: gardenquestions@milaegers.com