Sunday Garden Chat: August Gardens

marvel scarlet runner Beans

From faithful commentor Marvel:

We’re having a swell summer, with odd variations in the weather (we’ve lived in the beautiful Willamette Valley for six years, so can’t comment on what’s normal beyond our own slim memory). Last week we saw a four-hour rollicking electrical storm and unexpected rain; this week’s been warm and dry. So far we’ve not seen triple-digit temps, but a few of our leafy greens (esp. lettuce, spinach & the young cole crops) are appreciating the shade cloth we’ve put up for them.

The garden’s not the least bit confused and it’s doing a Full Speed Ahead sprint to the finish.

marvel Artichoke

I planted a few artichokes this year — they’re bulking up nicely and I expect we’ll see some ‘chokes next year (gardening is making me develop the patience I never learned in my youth).

This is my first year with Scarlet Runner beans (top photo) — we’ve eaten some pods while they were still quite small and will let the majority of them fully ripen (and dry the lovely beans later on).

marvel Corn2

The corn is about ready to pick & eat (& freeze and eat & freeze — there’s a LOT of it out there!).

marvel Marsanos
marvel Slicers

The tomatoes are going crazy. We plant mostly paste-types (for canning & storing) and the Marzanos this year are stupid-abundant. The slicers are taking their sweet time — which works for me, since these are the ones we eat every day of the season.

marvel Quinoa1
We planted more quinoa this year and it’s looking pretty happy — we’ve cut back on its water and it’s adding more (and more colorful) seeds for harvest (Fall, before the rains come).

It’s peak tomato season here north of Boston — made one batch of slow- roasted tomato base last weekend, and may have to do another one this week after I’ve picked through the garden again tomorrow.

There’s a dozen golf-ball-sized fruit ripening on the mini-bell pepper plant that was one of this season’s experiments, but while the sour gherkin cucumber plant is robust, I haven’t seen any flowers or fruit yet. It’s probably not getting quite enough sun to be happy in its current location.

What’s going on in your gardens this weekend?

55 replies
  1. 1
    Tommy says:

    I did not plant a garden this year. I had a lot of other things I needed to do with my yard. My house. But I an kicking myself. I’ve found there are few things that bring me the enjoyment of that garden. That I produce things I can eat.

  2. 2
    tsquared2001 says:

    You ain’t had tomatoes until you have had Minnesota tomatoes.

    Should I let my neighbor take some space in my back yard for him to have a garden?

    Pros: tomatoes all summer long.
    Cons: We already have a semi quasi kinda sorta barter deal going on (he fixes my garage roof and bathroom window for me allowing him to use my garage to store his Model Ts). Not sure I want to deepen this relationship.
    Pros: He is one very nice guy
    Cons: Still got a lot of my mom in me where neighbors should be nodded at (at best) instead of interacting with.

  3. 3
    raven says:

    @tsquared2001: Wow. We had a couple with a first grader move into a rental across the street last week. They came here specifically for the neighborhood school and, while the house is not the greatest, it puts them where they want to be. We had already introduced ourselves last week and Friday I noticed they had a new mailbox but it was secured with a bunji cord. I told them I had plenty of tools and lumber and we could secure it sometime. I was working in the yard when I remembered and just went ahead and cut the board and secured it although they were not around. We came home from a funeral and there was a sweet kids drawing on our door. We have other friends in the area with kids and we were not sure who it was. A bit later the dad and little girl came over to thank me and, after about 10 seconds of being scared of the dogs, the little one warmed up and we had a great visit showing them the gardens and giving her a bunch of flowers. I can’t imagine just having a “nod” relationship with neighbors.

  4. 4
    tsquared2001 says:

    @raven: To me, that is some weird shit.

    First time I talked to the guy who lives across the street was when he was moving his family in and I told him to NOT park in the parking spot on my side of the block even though I never even use that spot. Because it is mine.

    Took nearly 10 years before I even learned the next door neighbor’s name and even then I had to ask the one neighbor I did talk to for a clue as to their names.

    Minnesota Nice has its passive aggressive aspect.

  5. 5
    raven says:

    @tsquared2001: Wow man, somehow I don’t think that has much to do with geography.

  6. 6
    raven says:

    This Minnesotan had a different take”

    So when you see your neighbor carryin’ somethin’
    Help him with his load
    And don’t go mistaking Paradise
    For that home across the road

    Read more:

  7. 7

    Some of my fondest memories of childhood are eating tomatoes out of the garden that were so fresh they were still warm from the sun. Those are beautiful.

    Despite my reputation as the Grim Reaper of Gardening — I can kill a geranium — I am able to keep orchids alive. Back in May I won an orchid at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden car show. It did okay in the kitchen window, but it became obvious that it needed to be liberated from its plastic container. I had an empty orchid hanging basket left over from a long-departed philodendron, so I cleaned it out, put some orchid bark in it, and moved it out to a branch on the north side of a hibiscus where it will get some shaded sun and plenty of air and rain.

    Let’s see how it does.

  8. 8
    tsquared2001 says:

    @raven: It is ALL about geography. The winters are brutal and Mr. Dylan, seeing as he comes from the Range, would know that better than anyone.

    I can’t tell you about the numbers of times I have pushed, shoveled, and got cars unstuck and guess what happens after? A wave and an “okay then”. That’s helping with the load but we don’t need to get all sloppy about it.

  9. 9
    raven says:

    @tsquared2001: You’re killin me.

  10. 10
    tsquared2001 says:

    @raven: Then my work is done and I will drop the mike.

    But for real. I have an idea of what Raven thinks, but do I open my backyard for a garden run by my neighbor? Paying 5 bucks for 3 MN tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market is pissing me off.

  11. 11
    sharl says:

    Any mid-Atlantic vegetable gardeners here? (I’m in the Washington DC area.)

    Do you have any problems with the brown marmorated stink bug feasting on your veggies? I’m especially interested in tomatoes or bell peppers, which I’ve had decent success in growing in containers on my balcony.

    I haven’t done any balcony gardening for a number of years, but have considered starting up again. But the thought of stink bugs uglifying my veggies with puncture blemishes and whatnot is not an encouraging factor.

  12. 12
    gelfling545 says:

    @raven: Neighbors were family when I was growing up. Indeed, my brother married the niece of our across-the-street neighbor who came to stay with them one summer. Dinners, picnics, holidays (my mother became the social director wherever she lived), helping out in time of trouble; I can’t imagine growing up without them. Same here when my kids were growing up. I’m not as close with my current neighbors, still, I mulched the fence area for the west corner neighbor, help the east corner neighbor prune back her shrubs (she’s older, even, that I) and am harvesting summer squash which I don’t usually plant because the neighbor behind had extra plants he passed on to me. In winter, people out with a snow blower will often plow the front walks right down the block. I have found the “City of Good Neighbors” thing to be mostly true.
    Some poor soul from “not the city” (and out of state) rented the flat next door last year & I guess had never lived in a city before. He tried to prevent people from parking in the space in front of his rental & generated quite a bit of hostility for himself. This is the city (single side parking & 1/2 the houses are multifamily) & you park where you can when you can. The police, whom he had called on one occasion to enforce his self-declared parking restriction, kindly & gently explained to him that that’s not how things work here. He moved in the spring.

  13. 13
    Raven says:

    @sharl: I had one of those suckers on my toothbrush a while back and I couldn’t get the nasty taste out of my mouth for a week!

  14. 14
    Iowa Old Lady says:

    I don’t garden, but one of the advantages of moving to Iowa is that I haven’t bought sweet corn from the grocery store in 15 years.

    @tsquared2001: I don’t know my neighbors here either, and I always did in Detroit. I blame it on our pretend suburban (since there’s not really a suburb) neighborhood.

  15. 15
    Raven says:

    @gelfling545: we’ve had some bummers in 15 years, mostly college kids who don’t give a shit if they live in a residential neighborhood. Because of a change in school choice we’ve seen many more families move in and it’s really made it a more friendly joint.

  16. 16
    Raven says:

    Today is the annual garden club party and I’ve thawed a mess of the Cobia I caught to make fish tacos!

  17. 17

    I have a genial “howdy”-and-nodding relationship with my neighbor to the north. When I was doing a photo shoot of my antique car in the yard he came out and we chatted about cars and stuff. During the primaries in 2012 he had a Rick Santorum sign in his front yard, so it hasn’t gone much further than that.

    The neighbors to the south moved in last winter with a couple of small kids, a large boat, and a dog. I said hello to them and introduced myself, but that’s about as far as it’s gone.

  18. 18
    JPL says:

    @sharl: Last year I had stink bugs, but I haven’t seen one in months. Hopefully, they found a nicer place to smell up. Since I have a mutt who likes to snack on outdoor critters, who knows maybe he’s been feasting on them. ugh

    Marvel, I’m always green with envy when I see your photos. My green beans have been plentiful and the sweet potato plants seem to be thriving. I’ll see how the crop is in another month though.

  19. 19
    tsquared2001 says:

    @gelfling545: @raven: We were ALMOST like that we lived in the projects with the lady down the block being our daycare provider and every other mother at home during the day more than willing to whup some ass if she caught you being crooked.

  20. 20
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @Iowa Old Lady: I blame it on most of our neighbors being assholes.

  21. 21
    tsquared2001 says:

    @Iowa Old Lady: Hmm. I am beginning to think my attitude is not the norm. I live southside (SOUTHSIDE!) Mpls which can’t compare to Detroit in population but there are 20 houses on either side of the block and I know the names of exactly 4 of the people who live in those 20 houses.

    And that’s with the fact we all go to the same precinct caucus come political time.

  22. 22
    tsquared2001 says:

    @Mustang Bobby: Braver man than me, Gunga Din

  23. 23
    sharl says:

    @Raven: Heh, I had one of them fly into my mouth – slow & sluggish flyers during over-wintering, but attracted to my vicinity from darker part of the room by reading light, etc. Didn’t see it coming until too late…

    The taste was of course horrible, but fortunately for me didn’t last too long. Maybe my not-very-sensitive palate was an advantage for once(?). Supposedly the chemical source of the stink has been identified as aldehydes, though I’m a bit skeptical, since most aldehydes are known to break down pretty easily in even a mildly oxidizing environment (e.g., air). I wonder if it is breakdown (by)products that are actually the cause of the stink?

    @JPL: I’ve had this species of stink bug every winter for the past several years, though they didn’t seem to be quite as bad in the past two winters. However, with respect to gardening, it is their summer behavior I’m curious about. Once they find their way out of our building in mid-spring or so, I almost never see them until they return to the building to overwinter. But I know they are out there feeding and breeding during the summer. Thus my question about gardeners’ experiences; If I return to veggie gardening, I’d hate for my growing vegetables to be magnets for them during the summer.

  24. 24
    Tommy says:

    @Mustang Bobby: I have that relationship with most around me. Wink and nod. I am known as the hippie liberal. That is not so cool where live.

  25. 25
    JPL says:

    @sharl: They haven’t bothered my garden. I’ve had the normal squash worms but the stink bugs disappeared.

  26. 26
    gogol's wife says:



  27. 27
    Cervantes says:


    Not that it’s any of my business, but seeing as how you’ve asked twice now:

    Should I let my neighbor take some space in my back yard for him to have a garden?


  28. 28
    scav says:

    why get int ruts with neighbors? some are served best with really good fences (Mr Taco Palace with pig, to name no names) and some have smashing sets of tools they lend freely. I think I’d go with one that offered tomatoes, especially with prior history.

  29. 29
    scav says:

    And sorry to get all topical and serious, going too far with the nod only to neighbors stuff can (not invaribly) result in one being the white guy in Ferguson insisting there are no racial tensions in the city. Nothing at all wrong with not being the sloppy hug and kiss instant friend just add water type, (indeed, increase the breed, please) but why do it especially with one class of people? Just a random making coffee thought.

  30. 30

    Always had excellent relationships with neighbors, growing up our neighbors were like family. My brother is about six years younger than me, so most of the hanging out, playing, going to the park etc., was done with the neighbor’s kids.
    Even now I have good relationship with my neighbors. In fact, last week, my neighbor took care of my kittehs when we were gone for a week.

  31. 31
    jeffreyw says:

    Our new neighbors have chickens. They got out the other day and don’t seem to fear me on the mower. Of the three dogs we have, one is fat and lazy, one is nearly blind, but the third, Katie, doesn’t like strangers in her yard. About 20 years ago another set of neighbors kept chickens. Boy dog proudly brought one home to show Mrs J, she plucked it and made chicken dumplins and carried it over to make amends.

  32. 32

    Sitting in O’Hare waiting for our flight home. As usual, it was nice to see both families, but we’re exhausted from ping-ponging between Oak Park and Gurnee.

    Also, if BGinCHI was at Glencoe Roast yesterday around 10:00 am, we were there, too. Their Banana Hot Chocolate was delish.

  33. 33
    tsquared2001 says:

    @Cervantes: Cool. I was bending that way and Now The Internet Has Spoken.


  34. 34
    Iowa Old Lady says:

    @tsquared2001: What made the difference in the city was a strong block club that actually did stuff like inform neighbors when there’d been break-ins or call the city when something had gone wrong or organize a block party.

  35. 35
    Pogonip says:

    I vote to let him grow tomatoes in your yard. I would do this even if I disn’t like tomatoes. What could go wrong?

    My neighbor doesn’t like tomatoes but plants them because she likes growing things, tells the neighborhood to help ourselves. Everyone’s happy.

    I deleted the e-mail but a friend e-mailed me an interesting article about life before a/c. The article shouldn’t be hard to find–it’s on, of all places. I can never decide if that site is a clever SWPL parody or for real. I used to read its headlines over lunch to chuckle at the nuttier ones, but had to stop because the site became increasingly NSFW. But the a/c article is good.

  36. 36
    raven says:

    Jesus, Michelle Nunn just released and commercial with a snarling Zell Miller supporting her. What a fucking joke.

  37. 37
    WereBear says:

    @Pogonip: an interesting article about life before a/c

    I can guess. Before a/c, people sat on their porches with icy drinks, and sat on each other’s porches to share icy drinks, and talked to people going by on their way to someone else’s porch to have an icy drink.

    Indeed, this was the Florida of my childhood, where you were a wimp if you complained about the heat, kept half the freezer going making ice cubes, and the whir of fans was a backdrop to the buzz of conversation. Or gossip. There was both.

    The last time I went to Florida for a family emergency, it had been at least a decade since I’d been there. Everyone was buttoned into their houses, and the streets were deserted. Looked like a cheap remake of Omega Man.

  38. 38
    Elizabelle says:

    Enjoyed your comments on neighbors.

    For tsquared, I say let the good ones into your life, and give that neighbor a tomato plot. If it doesn’t work out, so it goes. If it does, you get an ally and better salads.

    For the garden thread: NYTimes story on Mason Jars finding their place in the sun. Again. Although alleging that 7-11 has ruined one hipster trend.

    I love colored glass. And sea glass.

    Don’t have a garden, but would love to learn to can and jar fresh veggies.

  39. 39
    BD of MN says:

    @Iowa Old Lady:

    What made the difference in the city was a strong block club that actually did stuff like inform neighbors when there’d been break-ins or call the city when something had gone wrong or organize a block party.

    I’m up in a eastern burb of St. Paul, and we’re the ones who actually host the National Night Out block party, have for the last seven years. We’ve organized meetings with the police dept due to a rash of burgularies… I hand deliver invites to NNO every year, and some of my “neighbors” don’t even answer the door, even though I can see their TV’s on and the backs of their heads on the recliner. About half of my neighbors have never shown up for the gathering…

  40. 40
    Elizabelle says:

    Here’s Pogonip’s Salon article on life before air conditioning.

    In 1999-2000, the National Building Museum in DC had a wonderful exhibit on the changes wrought by AC. Here’s the PDF. Stay Cool!

    I heart the National Building Museum. Not a free museum, but treat yourself. Building itself is a marvel (the old Pension Building; usually site of an inaugural ball and other galas); thought-provoking exhibits, excellent Museum shop.

  41. 41
    Iowa Old Lady says:

    @BD of MN: When we lived in Detroit, our block met once a month at the block captain’s house for news. It really was a block by block organization and it was driven mostly by the need to rely on one another rather than a desire for socializing. The socializing was a by product.

    Our Neighborhood Association here does hold a picnic once a year, and I went once but I didn’t know anyone. People were in little groups with folks they already knew, carrying conversations they’d already started. I talked to a few people but can’t say I got to know anyone.

  42. 42
    Elizabelle says:

    Article about the NBM’s Stay Cool exhibit.

    The air conditioner’s widespread adoption spelled the demise of frontporches, wide eaves and high ceilings. And it fueled the explosive postwar growth ofSunbelt cities like Houston, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Miami.

    From a 1999 NYTimes article on the NBM exhibit:

    But most of all, the air-conditioner made the movies, and vice versa. Until its arrival in the 1920’s, the movie industry suffered summer doldrums. Only the hardiest souls ventured inside sweltering nickelodeons, which were widely viewed as a public health risk. Air-conditioning gave rise to the atmospheric picture palace, theaters like the Fox in Atlanta, which were designed to simulate courtyards, with sunrises and sunsets projected on the ceiling. Even more galvanizing to the movie business was the ritual of the summer release. Suddenly, pictures could be profitably shown 12 months a year. Ticket booths sprouted ersatz icebergs and icicles. The ultimate summer come-on was ”20 Degrees Cooler Inside.”


    Better Homes and Gardens told readers in 1949: ”in houses planned for air-conditioning, you can omit basement, screens and movable sash to offset the extra cost of the equipment.” The disappearance of thick walls, overhanging eaves, porches and other traditional cooling strategies was compounded by house lots cleared of greenery, all of which made the house hotter. The solution was air-conditioning. Architectural Forum observed, ”These new industries, with their devices and materials, offer ambrosial hopes for bright, new, indoor tomorrows.”

    Have we seen enough of a swing back towards older building practices (windows that draw air in; shutters, etc.)? I am thinking of minimansions and lesser homes with the 2-story foyers and all the excess space that must be climate controlled in the modern home. Expensive and wasteful, IMHO. And sometimes egregiously ugly.

    No surprise the small house movement is afoot, although not for everyone.

  43. 43
    Glidwrith says:

    @Elizabelle: how do windows draw in air?

  44. 44
    Glidwrith says:

    Regarding sauce-type tomatoes, does anyone have recommendations?

  45. 45
    jeffreyw says:

    @Glidwrith: San Marzanos are the gold standard, Romas are good.

  46. 46
    Glidwrith says:

    @jeffreyw: Excellent. I usually have Romas, hadn’t heard of San Marzanos.

  47. 47
    Elizabelle says:


    Can’t think of the word, but it’s building a house so you get — oh yes — cross ventilation.

    Where the air is pulled through the window and out the window behind it.

    I love houses with high ceilings and windows that open and cross ventilate.

    So much of the cheaper houses built, dependent on air conditioning, don’t age as well as those built more carefully.

  48. 48
    Tommy says:

    @Iowa Old Lady: I used to live in DC. We had a weekly community event. A block thing. We were trying to take back our city. Heck our block.

  49. 49
    Violet says:

    Love seeing the quinoa! Didn’t know what that looked like.

    August gardening for me is a pain in the ass. It’s a million degrees and mostly humid and it’s just about clearing out dead stuff to get in the tomato seedlings, that have to be watered a couple times a day to survive the heat, so we can have fall tomatoes. The yards are a mess, no one wants to weed or trim and who can blame them. It’s almost 100 degrees and 80% humidity.

    There’s this window of about an hour just before sunset where the wind picks up and the sun is low so it’s shady and it’s actually possible to work outside without overheating in five minutes. The problem is, I can’t always be out there at that precise time. So things are lagging in the garden. Especially since I’ve been sick all week.

  50. 50
    Cervantes says:

    @tsquared2001: Wisdom comes in monosyllables.

    On the other hand, here’s something I saw (for the umpteenth time) yesterday:

    Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you get rid of him for the entire week-end.

  51. 51
    Cervantes says:

    Marvel, that is one glorious garden.

  52. 52
    max says:

    @Glidwrith: Excellent. I usually have Romas, hadn’t heard of San Marzanos.

    San Marzanos are basically a variation on Romas. Growing a bunch right now, although I’m having a little trouble (so far this year) getting from medium sized and green to big and red. Marvel is lucky in that respect and very nice pics, sir.

    Plain San Marzano seeds..

    You can also try the heirloom San Marzano Redorta, which I suggested to Anne Laurie once. They’re from the Bergamo area, they should be a little better equipped to deal with less light and more rain – that is, Boston-style or New England-style weather. Maybe Minn. & Michigan weather, too.

    [‘Hopefully I will have red tomatoes soon. Seeing as how I have more red peppers than God.’]

  53. 53

    @Cervantes: My version for South Florida:

    Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you get a bunch of drunks in Biscayne Bay.

    Same idea.

  54. 54
    opiejeanne says:

    @Elizabelle: Our last house had another of those disappearing amenities: double-hung windows. You open both the top and bottom and it helps the cross-ventialtion even more. I loved that little house.

  55. 55
    opiejeanne says:

    @tsquared2001: Let him gift you with masses of good tomatoes. It seems a bit late in the year to be starting a garden, but I live where summer is pretty short and our tomato plants are huge, falling down with all of the green tomatoes, which will all ripen the moment we go on vacation in September.

    We picked a few this morning and gave them to a neighbor, saved a couple for us, and considered how to shore up the monster plants. They’ve really outgrown the cages and secondary supports we’ve been using, and there must be 50 pounds of green fruit on the plants right now. Our adult kids will raid the garden a couple of times and throw a harvest party for our friends and neighbors, and just once I’d like to be in town when they do this.

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