Meanwhile, back at the sponge ranch…the loofah have bolted into the trees!

What a funny Summer we had – hot right off the bat, cruel, dry and blistering. For a while the sun was burning fruit right off the vine around here, it didn’t matter how much water we gave the plants, some died.

The good news is, the survivors are coming back pretty good. Yesterday my husband came out of the garden with an armful of nice tomatoes to add to the stragglers I’ve been saving up in the fridge. We had BLT’s last night. I may even make a batch of sauce today. Although, they’re holding up nice in the fridge and it’s good to have them for salads and sandwiches, not sure what to do.

Our squash vine has escaped the garden, the base of the plant looking pretty dead, but the errant vines outside the fence are covered with tiny little fruit.

In a couple of days this one will be ready to eat.

In a couple of days this one will be ready to eat.

These “Zucchino Rampicanti” from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds are the best producing squash we’ve had. They’re huge, one fruit per meal! They also have very few seeds, they’re small and tender, and the taste is very smooth.

Here's a Zucchino gourd.

Here’s a Zucchino we missed that is turning into an interesting gourd.

We’re still getting a few cucumbers, which really add the taste of Summer to everything. Summer seems to last as long as there are cukes on the vine. The last cucumber is a sad sign that Fall is moving in.

The biggest surprise this year were the loofah.

One day we noticed several big ones hanging way up in the oak tree next to the garden.

Surprise! That is not an oak fruit.

At first they seemed to be suffering badly from the drought. The vines spread out well, taking over half my clothesline and a section of the garden fence before they bolted into the trees. Waaaaaay into the trees!  But only a few viable fruit at first. The littler fruits were drying up and falling off, I didn’t think I would get a half dozen sponges off all these vines. 

And then the heat died down, and more flowers started coming on. All the sudden we started spotting viable fruit, and they grow noticeably every day.

Here's the first big one we noticed, it's been getting bigger and bigger for a couple of months since I first posted it. A smaller one has started to form there to the right.

Here’s the first big one we noticed, hanging from the clothesline.  It seems to swell noticeably every time I water it.  A smaller one has started to form there to the right, with the yellow flower on the tip.

My husband did some research online. It seems this is normal for these “Chinese Okra”. Each section of vine (and there are many) produces only one viable fruit, the rest (they develop at each nodule) will wither and die. He also read that the ants I thought were eating and sucking the sap from the vines are actually the best pollinators.  The best news was that these plants reach maturity late in Summer and really start producing at that point, into Fall. One site said we should have pinched off all the fruit for the first couple of months. I hate doing that, I have no confidence. I’m glad it worked out.

The exotic flowers are popular with the bees and bugs, especially the big bumble bees.  Even without the fruit, this plant makes a beautiful privacy/shade block for your garden.

But I’m really looking forward to getting some new sponges. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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