By Diane Lockspeiser
The hot Summer was enjoyed by many of the old classics around our place — the zucchini, the heirloom Beefsteak tomatoes, the big old-fashioned watermelon, and my husband Steve.
We were fortunate to get just enough rain from the scattered thunderstorms that passed through, but I’ve heard that many areas were not so lucky, sometimes even just a short distance away on the other side of town! Even so, I did supplement the more thirsty members of the garden with the hose early almost every morning. Mulching also helped.
It was pure luck that this year I decided to try growing watermelon. I got the seeds from the Seed Exchange, which is usually located under the window that faces the parking lot at the Andes Public Library. I left a small baggie of homegrown heirloom string bean seeds and took home a couple of cabbage seeds to try, as well as the watermelon.
I learned to leave much more space for cabbages! I grew two about a foot apart and one became so gigantic it overshadowed the other.
Speaking of gigantic, the one watermelon that developed from the one plant I had managed to grow, starting inside under lights in April, grew to be 26 pounds! I was unsure and very nervous about when to harvest it. It took some critter raiding our corn for me to realize how upset I’d be if something ate into that one watermelon before I had a chance to taste it. Cut open, it wasn’t as red inside as those from the store, so I was disappointed, that is, until the first sweet juicy bite made me not care so much about the color. A deeper red did develop during the couple of weeks that it sat in the refrigerator as we made our way through it, slice by sweet juicy slice.
There’s an abundance of tomatoes this year, but not nearly as many apples as usual. I thought it was something I did, or didn’t do, but many growers and vendors I spoke with said basically the same thing: Tomatoes and apples thrive in opposite conditions. This was definitely a tomato year.
Although the cucumbers did well enough for our usage, they have never thrived here as well as they did during the first few years when I grew them in hay bales. Those old bales have long ago decomposed into beautiful soil, but the cucumbers in particular seem to have preferred the conditions inside the bale itself (airy but compressed, hot and steamy). Maybe one year I’ll become ambitious enough to get some more bales.
I was, however, extremely happy with the type of cucumber I tried this year. It’s from High Mowing seeds in Vermont and called, unimaginatively, H-19 Little Leaf Cucumber. Those much smaller leaves made it SO much easier to find all the cukes before they could become seedy monstrosities.
In case you are not aware, if you save seeds for next season from a Hybrid plant, you don’t know what it will produce. Make sure your seed-saving efforts are with Heirloom varieties.~