Many surprises in the summer garden

by Lala

This afternoon was a very fruitful one in the front garden. Yesterday my father-in-law and our groundsman finished a small project to fence off a large strip of the front garden to keep the dogs out.

This area includes the hugelkultur terrace where I grew giant pumpkins last year. That former pumpkin patch is now home to a large Youngberry & an Arapaho thornless Blackberry. As of today it is also home to two transplanted Japanese watermelons, of the yellow type. We moved the plants to the front because they have not made much progress beyond 4 sets of leaves over more than a month in the back garden, while the smaller red watermelon in the front is a monstrous vine.

My first surprise was the discovery of two of the red watermelons. That just goes to show how far behind the ones at the back were. The seeds were planted on the same day, and the red one already made fruit twice- once after which the hail destroyed them, and then again the ones I found today. I was ridiculously excited to find them. The bigger one was hiding, or should I say nesting in the middle of one of my African irises.

Small red Japanese watermelons growing

The next surprise was on one of the large hazelnut plants I bought bare-root & dormant in July from Cheerio Farm in Mpumalanga. I found what I’m 99% certain is a male catkin. For those who don’t know, hazelnuts set seed by producing male catkins and female flowers. This is the tiny catkin:

Green hazelnut catkin small

The strange thing is the timing. They’re supposed to produce these in late winter and spring. We’re in high summer already. The catkin should elongate and droop down. No sign of female flowers yet, but I saw what I think we’re the remnants of one when we planted these larger hazels, so I live in hope. Sylvie from Cheerio Farm said they had never got a crop from these plants in the 10 years they’ve had them. I hope that the proximity to the hazelnuts I got from the Ferero experimental farm, Springvallei, will help with cross pollination.

The other surprise is the speed at which my little potted habanero has put out loads of blossoms and fruit. Firstly, I’m so happy that they are actual habaneros because I’ve had more than one mix up with plants and labels from my local nurseries.
They are all still green and growing at an alarming rate. I’m very excited to try a habanero challenge video and make sauces, pickles and salsas with these. I believe they’re the usual orange type. The nursery pot just has them labelled as habaneros. I’ve got this one in the pot and one out back in the square foot garden. I’ll see if the one in the back grows into a big bush.

Small habanero in pot with unripe chillies

Lastly the mystery pumpkin that grew from our compost is without a doubt, a butternut. I don’t do anything special for this plant, but it is thriving. There must be at least 5 baby butternuts on the vine. It is interesting to me that they are striped when they’re still forming.

Young butternut squash growing

Both the main vegetables patches have been treated with a mulch of compost and the aged chicken manure and grass clippings from the henhouse. We’ve also had a decent amount of rain since Friday, so everything is growing happily. I transplanted some yellow pear tomatoes out of the courtyard containers into the ground to give them more light and space. They weren’t thriving. I need all the tomatoes I can get because I’m having a serious bird problem. I’m happy to share but they can have it all.

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