This summer has been a prolific (and hot) one at the Jay Place! This is our first season of really trying to grow as much food as possible, and it’s been quite the learning experience. It’s brought the typical challenges of growing in a hot southern climate, such as a wet spring, dry summer, and scorching humid days. But while there has been a good bit of trial and error, I feel pretty confident in saying we’ve been overall successful in the things that we’ve attempted to grow, and if anything, we’ve definitely gained a good bit of knowledge to take with us into the next growing season.

First things first: the tomatoes. I’m not ashamed to say I’m pretty dang proud of these guys. I planted my tomatoes in raised beds off the back porch. Brennan helped a me build these earlier in the season, and we filled them mainly with dirt from the “big garden” and amended them with composted cow manure. I wasn’t entirely sure if the soil would be good enough, but these beds have blown me away with their productivity this summer! I have 8 tomato plants in the ground, and they have been producing the most beautiful, juicy tomatoes all summer! Unfortunately, by mid July, the heat, humidity, and pests have certainly been giving them a run for their money. But still, some of them have grown taller than I can reach without a step stool, and I’m still gathering tomatoes every few days (even though I’m having to share a few with the worms and other critters.)

We have plans to expand this raised bed garden next year. It’s been wonderful having the garden right out the back door, especially now that I’m about 8 months pregnant and can hardly be bothered to walk that far, if I’m honest. We also planted banana peppers, jalapenos, eggplant, squash, and one lone cantaloupe in this garden. Something I’ve learned that I didn’t anticipate was just how crazy the cantaloupe vine would go, so I’ll be saving melons for the big garden next year, and the vines make it impossible to weed-eat around the beds and by July, it’s become a crazy jungle.

I also have big plans to mulch the walkway area around the beds, and add some trellises for things like cucumbers and small climbing vegetables to grow up.

Our little garden helper, Scooter.

The “big garden” is a large area out in front of the house where my Grandaddy always used to plant his garden. Thanks to some wonderful family members who love to get on their tractors and garden, we wound up with a large patch of corn, watermelons, summer squash, and a few butter beans and okra. We’ve already picked more corn than we could possibly shuck or eat, and I’ve felt like I’ve been drowning in squash these last several weeks, which isn’t a bad thing at all! I’ve had to get creative with how I use it up, so I made some into Yellow Squash Brownies a few weeks ago, and it was insanely good! Leave it to me to turn an otherwise healthy ingredient into something so decadent.

It’s mid July now, and the corn is done but the watermelons are coming in like crazy, and the squash is still coming on strong!

We’re fortunate enough that this property has several varieties of fruit trees and bushes that have been here for years, so we’re able to enjoy the benefits without all the hard work! There are several pear trees, tons and tons of blueberries, muscadine vines, figs, pecans, walnuts, chestnuts, and I’m sure there’s even more we haven’t discovered.

Have you ever had homemade pear preserves on a hot biscuit? Mmmmm

These muscadines were ready to pick right after we moved in last September, and they made some of the best jelly I may have ever tasted.

We’ve also put up at least 5 gallon freezer bags of big sweet blueberries which will be enjoyed all year until next blueberry season rolls around!

Overall, this summer so far has been an incredible learning experience in terms of growing and preserving food. We’ve learned a lot but still have a long long way to go. Luckily, we have some great mentors around to help show us the ropes. I’m already excited to see what the fall garden will bring! Here’s to hoping it will be just as prolific…and a little cooler 😉