Wednesday, 11 July 2018

A Hot, Dry, Midsummer Garden Update

Has it only been one month since I posted a garden update? Apparently! It looks amazingly different. It always does, between early June and early July. It looks pretty good from a distance, and lots of things are doing well. As usual, there are problems too, not least that our total rainfall since then has been 20mm (1"), all of it in one day. Let's take a closer look.

This ought to be an excellent year for watermelons. Somehow, it is not. Mostly because I just could not get the little buggers to germinate in any reasonable quantity. I tried direct planting, and I tried starting them in damp coffee filters in little plastic bags, and between the 2 techniques we ended up with a barely adequate number of plants. Then they struggled to get started in the drought. At last I am starting to see some flowers, but this is not going to be the bumper watermelon year I was hoping for.

Next to them, the herb bed has had a complete melt-down and is an unspeakable weedy mess. I am presently working on it, but it is bad enough that it will take a few days to clean up. It is so dense and so dry it is extremely tedious work. 

Zucchini went in late, but have roared into production. If we can keep them watered, we should be eating ridiculous amounts of zucchini. Cucumber have yet to start but are flowering, and otherwise look good. Melons seem to be doing well.

 It would be impossible to keep things watered without this soaker hose. Mr. Ferdzy or I move it every half hour for several hours each morning and evening, and we seem to be keeping up adequately. The lettuce is long over though, and whatever is left will just go to seed.

Speaking of seeds, the hardy leeks we saved to go to seed are starting to bloom. I am a little surprised to see some signs of Inegol lineage in their characteristics; I had thought they were mostly Verdonnet crossed with Bandit. But apparently not. At any rate I am looking forward to growing them out next spring.

Behind them, the tomatoes look good. I'm starting to think, though, that we will get 2 distinct waves of tomatoes. There are quite a few forming, which look like being our earliest tomatoes ever. But then it looks like there is a gap, and I suspect that very few tomatoes were set at the peak of the heat and drought. Hopefully that will change and some more tomatoes will form now that we are at least having some cooler days interspersed with the really hot ones. 

Peppers and eggplants look good as plants, but again there is very little sign of any fruit being set. They have been flowering a bit more determinedly this week, so hopefully soon. You can see the other watermelons next to them, looking quite sparse. Behind them the squash plan for world domination. Well, looks like they will at least be able to achieve bed domination. 

To the right, potatoes grown from seed this year are almost as big as the potatoes grown from potatoes grown from seed the year before. Behind them, the onions are finely looking adequate, and some are even forming bulbs. On the left, we finally gave in replanted the carrots, which came up promptly and in large quantities. Why does the first planting of carrots never take well? I don't understand it at all. 

You may have noticed a certain amount of mulch in the preceeding pictures. We asked our lawn mower if he could hook us up with some woodchips for mulch, and he called a guy he knows who cuts trees. We got one load delivered. A week after that some dude turned up at the door asking if we wanted to have our driveway paved, on the spot, for $8000. We looked at each other (and another driveway they were doing up the road) and decided we did. So they hauled the mulch off, paved, and hauled the mulch back on. For better or for worse, our drive is paved and I hope never to have to think about it again.

Then the tree-cutting company showed up again, in the middle of our one and only pouring rain, and delivered ANOTHER load of mulch. When I went running out to ask about it, they said "we were told you would take all the mulch you could use." I said, "This IS all the mulch we can use." Well, they didn't charge us any more for the second load of mulch. And guess what Mr. Ferdzy is doing for the rest of the summer. Still, it really helps keep the moisture in place so we are piling it on and very glad to have it.

Cauliflowers look fabulous. Pusa Meghna  has already formed itty-bitty cauliflowers which went to seed and are now ripening. We planted some more in the hopes they will be more in line with other varieties. Goodman is now the next one to be forming some heads. I hope others will do so soon. Behind them, the broccoli is struggling a bit. In the next bed, cabbage and Swiss chard are doing okay, celeriac is okay, and the leeks have just been transplanted for the final time. The can barely be seen in this picture, but they are doing okay. They will need a lot of watering in the next week though. In the third bed, Brussels sprouts are looking good.

One month ago these beans were about 6" tall and untrellised. Now they are reaching for the top, or even coming back down. All them are at least in bud, and some have started to form small beans. We should be picking our first beans within a week, I would say. This is a mixture of tried and true varieties, and some experimental crosses that I am quite excited about.

I haven't said too much about the peas. They are definitely somewhere between slowing down and over. We have gotten a decent crop, but the heat and drought has kept them from being a really good crop.

We are also having a lot of trouble with rabbits eating the garden; peas, beet tops, chick peas, and sweet potato tops are their favourites. They were eating the lettuce but gave up on it about the same time I did. This should be a fabulous year for sweet potatoes, but the tops keep getting munched to the ground so maybe not. Peanuts are flowering - I can see it clearly because all the top leaves have been eaten - so I hope we will have enough for seed, at least. Chick peas I think have been eaten to death, which is too bad as that was 3 years of selection.

All in all, it's an average year in that some things are doing well, and some things are not. On the other hand, it's a strange and difficult year in how very hot and dry it is. I drive around and see how bad the corn and soybeans look; you can expect that to show up at some point as higher meat prices I expect.

How are all you doing out there? Are you dry-dry-dry or are you getting a bit of rain?


Unknown said...

You may already know this, but wood mulch, as it decomposes, can take nitrogen from the soil. I use leaf mulch when I can get it, and newspapers if I can't. Your gardens look lovely, even with the heat and drought. I live in NE Illinois, and it's been really hot and droughty for the last couple of weeks. I mostly grow native plants, so they're ok, but my veggies and flowers aren't doing so well.

Seems to happen every year now. We get a wet, cold spring. Then somebody, somewhere flips a switch around the end of June and it's hot with no rain. It wasn't like this 25 years ago. I thinks it's going to get worse.

Philadelphia Gardener said...

Here in PA they give away chips to avoid the cost of landfilling them. While they can steal nitrogen while decomposing, if you just leave a pile in place (well, not on that nice new driveway!) for a few years you will have a great (but much smaller) pile of compost. Hope you get some rain soon!

Ferdzy said...

Unknown, I know there are arguments for and against wood chips as mulch. We have decided that the fact that we can get the stuff in the quantities we need tips it over into the "we'll use it" side. So far, things continue to grow well. We do amend a quarter of the beds with other compost each year.

Philly Gardener, we do have a spot in the compost complex (a set of bays made with old pallets) where the mulch will get moved, whatever is left over after putting it on the flower and vegetable beds.

And the forecast says we *might* get some rain this week. I'll believe it when I see it!

Karen said...

The Ottawa Valley is in drought. My far garden is done. 1. I can't water it from our rapidly depleting dug well. 2. The rabbits have reproduced in astounding numbers this year. 3. The extreme heat is sucking the life out of the stuff that the rabbits didn't get. BUT. Close to the house I have five gallon buckets with tomatoes that are doing great. I water them from my rapidly depleting rain barrels. I planted the squashes right into the bags of triple mix from the nursery. They are really liking that environment. I have copious flowers, but they all seem to be males at the moment. I don't plant beans until July 1. It's a holiday thing with me. They are sprouting up like mad things! We have been using the same rattle snake beans for about 15 years, saving seed for next year from every lot. I let one bean from each plant get quite mature and dry.

Ferdzy said...

Karen, yeah; we have the option to use town water. We were actually able to keep our dug well going until the end of June but we have had to switch. It takes a lot of hose but we can do it.

The rabbits are INSANE. It is a known fact that their population goes in cycles and plainly we are at a peak. Presumably it will crash at some point. I have to admit I am waiting for it...

This is probably a great time to plant beans. The plants are loving the heat, if they can be kept watered, but hopefully by the time they come to flower it will be a little more reasonable. Things just don't want to set when it is this hot.

Seeds that are acclimatized to your garden definitely do better than random seeds!

Oh yeah, that forecast of possible rain has been scaled back to a faint chance of a little more than nothing. Hmmm.