Thursday 13: Project Green Thumbs garden update

I'm going to hazard a guess that I stand in the minority of people who LOVE the weather lately. You see, with almost triple digit heat in Sacramento, it's as if summer just hit my garden and I've been rejoicing that things are finally growing in my all-too-shady patch of earth. (Apologies to the Midwest and East who've been suffering through a horrendous heatwave!)

To celebrate, I'm dedicating this Thursday 13 to my dirt patch. Enjoy!

1. Chugging along to harvest. On the whole, my little garden box is healthy and happy this year, more so now that the sun has started to come out in Northern California. While the rest of the world fried, we've had one of the coolest summer's on record. Great for the utility bills, lame for the tomatoes. (As you see, they are mostly green still!)
I still have five squares to replant. What to do, what to do??
 2. First cucumber of the season! Happy to report, it was sweet unlike year one's sourpuss cucs.
Unlike my first attempt growing cucumbers, these haven't been overrun by aphids. Praises.
3. Terror. My mom tried to convince me that he is one of the "good guys" but this gorilla spider creeped me the hell out. Look at those hugemongous Shawna-eating fangs! Not cool.
This image haunts my dreams people and reminds me what I hate most about gardening, the freaking bugs.
4. Rage. After the lettuce-demolishing debacle of early July (see here), I've been watching my garden box like a hawk. Consequently, I didn't realize that the veggie predators had moved over to my mint, practically decimating it overnight! I was not a happy camper.
Look carefully and you can see bites out of almost every leaf!
I thought it might be slugs. While I was laying out bait, I caught this creeper on his way to dinner. Anyone have a gentle way to get rid of caterpillars? I bought some pesticide at Lowe's but I read that it kills bees and woodland creatures which is no good.
5. Slow growing onions. I'm not convinced these will ever mature but they are a dainty addition to the garden.
6. A little spice. My "mammoth" jalapeno pepper is slowly but surely maturing.
7. Baby beets. Streets of beets, round two. One of the great things about square foot gardening is the ability to turn crops quickly and easily. Pull out rads, plant beets. Pull out beets, plant more beets.
8. Bloomin' basil. After surviving a full on slug offensive, I'm pleased that the basil has rebounded so beautifully. I see pesto in my future!
The key to herbs is to use them. Every time I pinch off a few leaves, twice as many more grow in its place. The idea is to have bushy herbs versus tall "leggy" ones. When I can't use the herbs immediately, I dry 'em.
9. My gardening inspiration. Tomatoes were how this whole gardening mess started. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by just buying one of those topsy turvy things!
My love!
10. Happy harvest! Normally I have a few tomatoes by early-mid July so this waiting until August nonsense was tough.
First tomato harvest. Note, these suckers are the size of marbles. I have way too many mini varieties this year. 
Caprese salad! Combine tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella. Lightly drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Finish with a little salt and copious amounts of fresh cracked pepper. I don't know that this is PC, but sometimes I nuke the mozzarella for 30 seconds or so to make it happy and melty. Delish!
11. Praying mantis buddies. My little friends are still around and getting bigger by the day. This one was sore at me for accidentally spraying him with the hose. I swear I could read indignation as he flicked off water droplets in my general direction.
Although bigger, this praying mantis is still just a couple inches long. He's hanging upside on a medium-sized mint leaf.
12. The promise of peppers. I wasn't holding out much hope for this yellow bell pepper plant. I put it in in May and it grew maybe an inch since then. Until the last couple weeks, thank you sunshine. Now there are many flower buds which I'm hoping will mean actual peppers one of these days!
Confession: I find that garden bells taste way similar to store bought and take for-ever, even in a good weather year. Ditto for carrots. Not sure if they are worth the energy!
13. Happiness. Yesterday I noticed this fruit finally turning colors. It's an Early Girl and easily the largest tomato my garden has ever produced. When it's ripe, I plan to weigh that sucker and then immediately turn it into a tomato sandwich. On potato bread. With the thinnest spread of mayo and cracked pepper. Sigh.

How do your respective gardens grow?


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