30 August 2014
The August 2014 garden
First things first: the garden has indeed been affected by drought. It may not look like it to the naked eye, but when you compare it to the 2013 garden there's a difference. And when you compare it to the 2012 garden? Yeah.
Granted, I personally caused some of the difference. I have been watering less and encouraging deep root growth with infrequent but thorough soakings. I learned not to overcrowd the beds quite as much as usual, and I pinched off the tops of the tomato plants when they got to be about eight feet tall. I also got myself together enough to plant half the tomatoes in the side bed instead of the main bed, which obviously leaves some extra space here.
Still. I haven't had to fight with the tomatoes at ALL compared to the constant staking and tying and pinching of years past. That in itself is a big difference.
On the left: Caspian Pink tomato #1, with garlic and a volunteer potato hidden behind it. To its right, there are lots of scallions surrounding two jalapeño peppers and a red pepper. Next, there is basil, Caspian Pink tomato #2, and, at the edge of the frame, three tiny green beans. Not pictured: I also have some scarlet runner beans and cucumbers tucked into odd corners around the yard, and the other two tomato plants in the side bed.
You can see some of my anti-drought, anti-neighborhood-cat cardboard mulch on the right. I just flattened whatever cardboard boxes I could get my hands on and fit them in around my biggest plants. This was a good plan and really did help the beds retain moisture. Next year I might get some hay for mulching the more crowded scallion & garlic sections.
The scallions have been quite successful. These guys consistently get up to three feet high, no problem.
Over the winter I scattered last year's seedheads all over the bed and waited to see what came up. Then I moved the most crowded seedlings around to fill in the bare patches in the bed while also thinning reasonably. Scallions have no problem with transplanting like this, in my experience. It's a really good way to get the most out of a crowded planting.
When I harvest, I find the biggest scallion that is also in a crowded location. This lets the other scallions around it get even bigger. It's more or less late-stage thinning.
Sometimes I cut off a few greens and just leave the plant in the ground to recover, so we have multiple harvests. Not that I really need to do such a thing, considering the amount of scallions around.
I started the basil from seed inside and transplanted it into the garden at about four inches high.
The basil more or less tries to bolt as soon as I get it established every year. This year was no exception. I'm thinking I will let some of these go completely to seed and see how many baby basil plants pop up next spring.
Also, I really need to go cut a bunch of basil stems and dry all the leaves for our winter basil supply.
Here we see the two biggest bell peppers on the plant. I'm super excited for homegrown red pepper!
We only have a few fruits on this plant, though. I'm thinking this has been due to the serious amount of wind around over the past few months. All summer I would regularly find tiny baby pepper buds blown off the plant and into the dirt. Happily, a few more have established themselves more firmly in the past month or so. Crossing fingers for October.
Here you can see some of the jalapeños peeking out from in between the massive amounts of scallions. Hooray, jalapeños!
These guys have been pretty prolific, although neither plant is anywhere near as large as the one I grew last year -- the bigger of the two is about half as large. Is this due to crowding, or lack of water? Last year the jalapeños were super crowded by marauding tomato vines, but they still grew to be about three feet tall, so I'm inclined to blame the lack of water.
We aren't going to need to buy any jalapeños for the next few months, though! That's really saying something when you eat as much spicy food as we do.
I actually dug up the garlic just yesterday. This is the entire harvest. I'm curing it by just leaving it spread out in one layer in a dark yet airy place for a few weeks. "Curing" just means "drying" in onion and garlic parlance.
You can see that these guys are pretty small -- that's a full-sized dinner plate -- but that's no huge surprise, considering how late I planted them (February?). I'm frankly pretty happy that any of them had time to head up at all.
I am super excited to eat these. Homegrown garlic!!
So that's how our garden is going. I feel pretty good about the amount of food we're producing, certainly. With the garden plus the CSA box, we haven't had to buy very much of any other vegetables in months. But at this point drought is just a constant specter, hovering. We'll see what happens in January.
How is your late summer garden doing?