Sundays with Sue
It was time to get out and tame the dried up, crinkly, crunchy, scalded, jungle-like mass I call my vegetable garden. A very full, dwarf, fig laden tree was purposely planted in a corner of a west positioned planter box with the purpose of protecting my tomatoes and peppers from the afternoon sun. I will admit to this not being one of my most brilliant ideas. As the tree has grown over the years, I am beginning to understand that dwarf fig trees don’t necessarily know they are to be a dwarf! Granted they are shorter than standard fig trees, but the breadth of the branches and enormity of the trunks defy anything I might have expected. Also, with the high intense heat last week, shielding fruit would had to have been an all day, all week, occurrence. Some tomatoes and other fruit did make it but there was plenty of losses. Check out the little purple tomatoes that ripened as they started to turn orange. The star shapes where the flower bud was is characteristic of the solanum family but we don’t normally get such a fascinating view! How did everyone else’s garden do?
Check out the stars where the flowers were attached! These tomatoes came in a variety pack of cherry tomatoes unmarked. Photo by Sue Lovelace
Aside from these issues and a few others, I really do love this time of the year. Even though vines are dry and crinkly, the winter squash shows like gold on the end of a pendant. Tomatillos, not the one I planted but the ones that self-seeded, are loving the heat. The green fruits are bursting from their skins indicating they are ready for harvest. Cucumber plants are still abundant and eggplants; well, eggplants have their own leafy protection. Sweet potatoes are flowering- such a sweet, pink color! Peppers are turning in color and the ones ducked in behind other plants look like colors in a kaleidoscope. Even though, huge, self-seeded flowers like amaranth and Tithtonia (Mexican Sunflower), plus the fig, have created this jungle-like atmosphere, they are beacons to a myriad of insects. The Tithtonias bloom late in the summer just in time to welcome their most famous visitors, the Monarch butterflies. Several varieties of native milkweed are still blooming and in place to host the butterfly’s eggs and larva.
The Monarchs are now migrating down to the central and Southern California Coasts. Recently, I was in the garden when three Monarchs (Danaus plexippus), two Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), those little fiery skippers (Hylephila phyleus), and a multitude of bees were flitting around, landing, sipping nectar, and bathing themselves in the pollen of the Tithtonias. The aerobatics of the butterflies was beyond entertaining! Searching the milkweeds for eggs is a daily occurrence.
The carefree gliding and aeronautics of the Monarchs around and on the Tithtonias. Photo by Sue Lovelace
It seems that many tomatoes in Sonoma County made it through the heat if judged by the tomato tasting hosted by Cathy and Doug Conover in Sebastapol, this week. Tomatoes were cut up, placed on labeled plates, then beautifully displayed underneath grapevines. There was a myriad of varieties placed on tables to be voted on. Lisa Howard was the winner with her ‘Chocolate Sprinkles’ cherry tomatoes. Such a great time had by all!
Tomato tasting at Cathy Conover’s. Photo by Sue Lovelace
Did I say that I love this time of the year -warm days, cool nights, and anticipations of Monarchs and golden harvests- can’t beat that! Have a great week!
“Butterflies used to reproduce on the native plants that grew in our yards before the plants were bulldozed and replaced with lawn. To have butterflies in our future, we need to replace those lost host plants, no if’s, and’s or but’s. If we do not, butterfly populations will continue to decline with every new house that is built.” Douglas Tallamy, author, entomologist