Archive for August, 2011

So it looks like we’re really going to do it this year, even though Roxie and I know better. We’re going for the fall garden.

Nothing big, mind you. You’d like your failures to be small, rather than oversized and dramatic. Probably we’ll plant some lettuce, spinach and radish seeds in the empty spaces that,  earlier in the season,  were home to green beans, garlic, potatoes and — it’s like deja vu all over again — lettuce, spinach and radishes.


Yes, I almost forgot. We must have kale, albeit with the understanding that the entire venture is doomed to failure. So I probably should delete the exclamation point above. Instead, let’s leave it as one expression of optimism in this post of low expectations.

We are not at all good at fall gardening. Most years we don’t even try.

Partly to blame is the weather. No,  strike that. The weather is mostly to blame, given the punishing heat that coincides with the ideal to plant a fall garden — which is now.  Though  last week would have been even more ideal, thanks to the 4 inches of rain we’ve gotten the last several days.

Another impediment is the difficulty Roxie has in finding seeds. The garden stores this time of year have few seed packs to sell, because they never restocked after the spring rush owing, we imagine, to the belief that few gardeners hereabouts try for a fall crop.

Fatigue is the other excuse we’ve often given for forgoing a fall garden.  Roxie, in particular, wears herself out canning tomatoes in the summertime, when she’s not freezing green beans, broccoli and cauliflower, or making pickles and  pesto.

But the vegetable processing was more than a little off this years thanks to the blistering heat-wave that lowered the tomato harvest. Also, there was the matter of the new broccoli variety we planted this year being a total bust and, well,  you get the idea.

Desperate people will take desperate measures. And so to make up for our warm-season disappointments, we’ve set our sights on fall.

Roxie has this idea that we can build some sort of wooden contraption that will protect our young seedling (assuming anything comes up) from the blast furnace that is August and the first half of September.

When I get whatever it is built, we’ll post a photo.

Posted by: Mike


Read Full Post »

Finally! An inch and two-tenths of rain, temperatures back into the 80s. Finally things can grow again.

Now the question is, will there be enough time left in the season for the non-performers to bounce back?

Tomatoes, as I’ve said, pretty much stopped altogether during the hot dry spell. I managed to can about 6 gallons of puree, but that’s far, far less than I should have done, given that there are 26 paste tomato plants out there.

The tomatoes have fallen victim to several unlucky events. There’s the weather, of course. But then a little leaf spot took hold, causing many leaves to brown out. And then three or four plants are not producing the pear-shaped, Roma but something more akin to a cherry tomato–without the heavy yield.

I’m sure this has something to do with the fact that I saved the seed myself from last year’s Romas. If you grow more than one variety as close as I often do–within 30 feet–you’re bound to get some cross-pollination. (And if you save your own seed from a hybrid, the next plants will be one of the ancestors of that hybrid. These, however, were standard seed.) But dang, it hasn’t been that long since I bought Roma seeds. Oh well. Next year I’ll buy them, I guess.

On the plus side: No sign of any blossom-end rot this year. Zero.

Other non-producers have been eggplants and sweet peppers (the hot are doing just fine.) With any luck, we’ll still get something off these plants.

Elsewhere in the garden, the butternut squash continue to set on like the troupers they are. Sadly, the ‘possum or whatever varmint chewed on them last year took notes and marked his calendar.

If you were reading this blog last year, you may remember the damage photos:

We don’t want this to ever happen again. So after he  got a couple of babies again this year, we put out the live traps. Nothing.

Then I pureed one of the extra-hot salsa peppers with a little water, strained it and painstakingly sprayed it on each and every squash.

The next day we found a few new bite marks.

Last resort: Mike got out the chicken wire I insisted we pick up on big trash night from someone’s curb. And he cut up little wire cages for each squash. Now the patch looks like this:

It’s easy to trip on. But so far, so good.

And lastly: There was a story yesterday about how modern vegetables, bred for highest yields possible, do not pack as many nutrients as the old-fashioned kind. (If you missed it, read it here.)

An expert quoted in this article recommended people who want more nutrition go for heirloom and other older varieties.

Well, as my daughter used to say, No Duh. But the best reason to gravitate to old varieties is that they usually taste better. Just try a watermelon or a tangerine with seeds or a fuzzy peach alongside the seedless, fuzzless ones that dominate the markets today. There is no comparison. Sadly, the old kinds are harder and harder to find in stores.

Posted by: Roxie

Read Full Post »


Now that the horrid heat wave has finally broken–at least for today–and we’ve seen a little bit of rain, I can think clearly again.

The last few weeks of gardening have been filled with rage and frustration. As in, “This heat is killing everything. Why won’t it rain? Why do I live here?”

It’s been several summers since we’ve had as bad a growing season as this has been. We started with plenty of water. But then, just as the cool-weather crops were reaching maturity, a spate of 90 degrees in May. Peas, cauliflower, and broccoli do not appreciate 90 degrees in May.

That was followed by a couple of weeks of seasonal weather, and then high 90s to 100, which is pretty much where things have been since mid June.

The most important thing is not to get discouraged. No matter how much you mulch, how often you water, how many times you put on organic sprays, when it gets like this, you’re going to lose plants. And there just isn’t much more you can say.

But don’t get discouraged and yank them all out. If there’s still a little life on them they could revive, given better weather. Even when they look almost gone, plants show an amazing capacity to bounce back. We’ve lived through several droughts here, and I can’t count how many times we thought the tomatoes were goners, only to see them revive and put out green leaves, blossoms and fruit at the tops. So hang in there.

As proof, I offer two herbs and a houseplant. Readers of  this blog may remember the time I accidentally sprayed a pot of French thyme and marjoram with CLR, thinking it was insecticidal soap. (In my defense, I am left handed, so when I hold the spray bottle, I don’t see the big brand letters of this compound meant to remove hard water deposits from your shower head.)

The plants’ reaction was to curse me and turn brown:

Thyme, post CLR spraying

I apologized profusely, gave them a long shower and kept watering them. After a week or so, some new leaves started to bud. Here is that same plant today, happily outside in the herb garden:

The umbrella plant has a similar story. It was doing fine last winter until one day, the leaves turned dull and started to curl and eventually drop off. Why? Why? I searched the Internet but couldn’t find anything to explain it.

Come spring, we set the denuded plant out on the porch. Our plan was to dump it out and use the pot for something else. But as procrastination took its course, I began to notice tiny lime-green leaves bunching at the ends of the stalks. Now each limb has a cluster of those leaves and it seems to be on the mend.

Maybe the tomatoes will bounce back the same way, maybe they won’t. All I know is, don’t give up on them too soon.

There’s always hope.

Posted by: Roxie

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: