Turn your back - blink your eyes - take a week's vacation (or do all three) and the garden goes out of control. Spending hours each day when the thermometer shows temps in the mid-90s and humidity is high takes its toll. The promises and resolutions made in the spring start to feel a bit superfluous months later. Top the plants? Stake everything with care and attention? Remove every bit of blemished foliage? All important, all great ideas, all on the radar screen - and all easy to dismiss in the dog days of summer.
At some point, the objectives for the garden start to take precedence over discipline and attention. If we had canning targets (20 quarts of tomatoes in the cupboard), or neighborhood bragging rights for yield (just to name a few possibilities), some of the omissions and oversights would have been dealt with more carefully. But as a research and development and daily eating garden, a few ripe tomatoes on each mystery plant, and enough yield to make daily meals throughout the summer interesting fit the bill just fine for Sue and I.
It has been a truly excellent season, in many cases exceeding my expectations. Yields and flavors of the indeterminate tomatoes planted in straw bales on May 1, and cucumbers and summer squash and green beans (also from straw bales) have been wonderful. Later (June 1) planted seedlings - particularly dwarf tomato plants in bales and dwarfs and eggplants in 5 gallon containers - didn't reach such heights. Peppers are doing very well in their grow bags, though later than typical due to the late start. Fortunately, last year's bacterial spot issue is a no-show this year. Basil downy mildew is also limited to the plants in deck containers; the straw bale basil is in great shape.
All was well and in good control until about mid-July; that is when our daughter Sara and our grandchildren arrived from Seattle for their two week visit, one of which was spent at Topsail beach. Quality time with family - and then distance - took me out of my garden care routine. When family departed, on August 1, it was clear that it was time to switch to a different mode - less maintenance, more "let's harvest what we can". And that is where things currently are....no longer an aesthetic beauty, but still reasonably productive and providing a few daily surprises and delights.
The carousel of pics below show cucumber and squash plants that were pulled and now replanted (you can see each bale - seeds await germination in the center refreshed potting mix). You can also find various issues on this or that plant. That's enough for now - time to go out into the heat and pick beans, peppers, eggplants and tomatoes. I hope that your 2018 gardens were, or are, successful. As you can see, productive gardens are not necessarily very "pretty" once time and weather and fatigue hit...even for the NC tomato man!