Hot summer days and gardening update

We've been lucky this year and enjoyed a relatively mild summer until August. The heat in the last few weeks was tough on veggies and until it got hot, established veggies got watered only every second day. Only transplants got watered daily for a week or two.
We had several Armenian cucumbers and we've been getting lots of tomatoes, mostly cherry, but some are up to 2″ in diameter.

8/31/11: tomatoes, Chinese white eggplant, most likely bitter yellow cucumber and Armenian cucumber

We decided to make a salad instead of a big dinner:

8/31/11: salad with homemade bread, olive oil and hibiscus / spearmint tea

We have lots of red malabar spinach, not a real spinach, but a vine and it thrives in the heat, just as advertised. We added some red kale, perpetual spinach Swiss chard and green onions.
I started 3 types of yeast in July and Jose has been baking bread. It's quite good, although not quite like the German bread I really want. Apparently our flour doesn't have enough gluten. We added some of our thriving basil to the olive oil since we don't eat butter.
Other local gardeners are quite frustrated with their gardens, but if you keep on watering, you'll quite likely get a nice harvest later in September or in October.
Our new lower garden:

8/18/11 Chinese yellow cucumber in our lower garden, amaranth in the back

We've had a few delicious cucumbers, but now they're bitter and from our research it appears that they can't take the heat and the stress causes the bitterness. We're hoping to get at least a hundred cukes in fall, planted about 5 varieties.
The Armenian cucumbers don't get bitter because they are NOT cucumbers, but melons. We'll definitely continue to grow them, although I'm not happy with the about 10% germination rate of the Baker Creek seeds and we'll try to save some seeds. Don't know yet whether they could cross pollinate with the melons, but we should be ok with the seeds from the greenhouse since we don't have melons there.

8/1/11 Japanese white eggplant in lower garden, overwintered from 2010.

The first eggplant ready to harvest was the Japanese white eggplant from last year. We had dug it up last fall and overwintered it in our adobe addition. It didn't look very good when we finally planted it out again in spring, but then took off once it warmed up in June. They never set fruit last year, so we didn't know that you have to harvest them BEFORE they turn yellow as they get bitter.
Critter stashed eggplant in a dark corner under the sorghum

We lost one of them to some critter that moved it in a dark corner under the sorghum. It ate it over the next several days while avoiding our traps and we put a fence around the eggplant.

8/1/11: lots of honey dew melons protected with one of the covers from the garden beds.

We had saved lots of seeds from honey dew melons last year and since we had the space, decided to grow a “diversion” crop. We removed the cover recently to keep the ground squirrels from eating the cucumbers and they've already done some serious damage to those melons.
You can see a little water dish outside the garden for the bunnies and whatever else needs a drink.

8/1/11 Cattails in a little plastic pond with native sage and California shade tree

The bees love to hang out in that little pond. The sage happened to be growing there and we planted the California shade tree earlier this summer.

8/1/11: chaste tree, melons, cucumbers, amaranth, tomatoes …

We planted a chaste tree that we had in a pot for over a year along the west fence and it really took off and has these very pretty blue flowers. We interplanted cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, amaranth and towards the back we have sorghum and some blue corn and onions are everywhere.

That's by far the best area in the lower garden because we did some soil prep when we first started this new garden in spring and we even tied burlap to the field fence to protect from the winds.
It's AMAZING to see the difference in the plants that get a little care and the east side, where the sun and wind kept the plants from thriving.
The upper garden:

7/31/11: It's getting crowded

We decided to move the Swiss chard from two of the garden beds back to the raised beds, where they originally started out. BAD move! Right after we transplanted it got very hot and I don't believe any of the chard survived. Bad timing, especially since the mice broke into the greenhouse and ate all the chard and cilantro there. At least some of the chard in the greenhouse is finally coming back and we have a little chard that we had left in the raised beds. I'll start some more seedlings soon.
We've not had any squash yet, but just finally found the first surprise zucchini. Before it got hot, we had several small fruits, but they were eaten by the critters. Now we have a hardware cloth fence around a couple zucchini, but they completely stopped growing when it got hot. Since it's only 69 right now outside, we're hoping to harvest soon.
The upper garden beds are filled with squash, melons, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos and tomatoes. Unfortunately, gophers or moles just moved in and already killed several plants. We dug a hole through their run big enough for the live trap, but they threw so much dirt into the trap, when it went off it didn't close all the way. They're no dummies (or just lucky). Last week we got a gopher trap and if they come back, we're ready.
We also had spider mites on a few melon plants and the melons looked like they had blossom end rot, so we cut them off. We sprayed with soap and that took care of the mites.
The raised beds do better when COVERED to keep the rabbits out:

7/18/11: rabbits DO jump up a couple feet

In spring we got some cabbage seedlings from Roger (by the campground) and this one was growing good. We have a tendency to ignore critter damage until it's extensive. So now that we lost the cabbage, the raised beds are finally covered again.
The yellow lemon marigold has a wonderful scent and has been flowering for months!
The west bed is almost empty except for two big basil plants and some strawberries. We let most plants go to seed, thinking we could save seeds and they looked pretty when they flowered. But we had so many different plants and then we couldn't recognize them anymore. When we finally pulled them, it was getting hot and then the mice and/or insects ate all the seedlings we planted because we didn't cover that bed. The cover has plastic instead of hardware cloth, need to fix that.
The grapes:

The new bamboo fence prevented a complete loss due to the high winds as happened last year and we got about 7 or so bunches, the critters got the other half. The grapes are very small, but sweet and I like them a lot better than store bought grapes.

It was very nice to see the hyssop take off and FLOWER. We had planted it out between the grapes last summer or fall and didn't know what to expect. Not only did it survive the harsh winter, but it really put on a show. We'll have to save some seeds.
We have taken so many pictures and there are so many more, especially from the greenhouse, but I'll leave those for a new post, hopefully featuring lots of squash and melons!
We've also taken lots of pics of the hoophouse construction and that'll be a separate page.