This is such a great time of year. The summer bounty is really starting to come in strong. I'm awash in tomatoes, basil, okra, cucumbers, beans, and eggplant, and the summer flowers are putting on a fireworks show. It's awesome, right? On top of that, it's a high of EIGHTY THREE DEGREES in Memphis today. I'm pretty sure we had warmer days this winter. It's been a mild summer, and the garden is loving it.
Well, I've lived in this region too long to expect this to last. Late July and August in Memphis is (usually) oppressively warm. Usually, by mid to late July, my first round of zinnias, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes have started to succumb to powdery mildew, southern blight, or some other kind of nasty fungal infection. I don't want all of the glorious summer bounty to end in July, though; there are still months to go before our frost date! So, I get ready now to make sure I've got delicious summer produce and bright, beautiful flowers pouring in from the garden until October.
Fall tomatoes are some of the best. In the spring, I like to seed hybrid tomatoes that are bred to withstand some of the gross fungal infections that are so common in our area mid-summer. I've never found a variety (or an organic technique) that totally keeps the disease away, but by seeding hybrid tomatoes, I can usually get a few extra weeks out of them mid-summer. However, it's fall tomatoes where I get to have my fun. Usually, fall in Memphis means a slight reprieve from the high humidity and blazing temperatures, and it's usually a great time to grow heirloom crops that don't do so well for me in the height of summer. Last week, I seeded Berkeley Tie-Dye, Cherokee Purple, Blue Gold Berry, Brandywine, and a few other fun heirloom varieties. I'll plant them outside in a few more weeks.
I also planted my next round of sweet peppers, zinnias, and beans. I can't keep the geese away from edamame during their nesting season. They love it! By mid-summer, though, they've chilled out enough for me to plant some of their favorite foods, so I got some edamame in the ground. I planted a miniature sweet pepper that takes fewer days to mature than standard varieties in order to maximize fall harvest time. I've been enjoying zinnias this summer that have a muted color palette: apricot, light lime, cream, and white. They're starting to succumb to a fungal infection, so in a couple of weeks I'll rip them out, and I'll transplant bright, festive, multi-colored zinnias and sunflowers that will be ready to greet the girls when they come back to school in the fall.