The Garden in July - Greens and Brassicas

March this year was insanely warm, so I decided to try an early planting of greens and brassicas in early April. The worst thing that could happen was that I wasted seeds - the best would be that I had an early harvest.

So, of course, April was cold, cold and cold. But not cold enough to actually kill anything: all the plants, after they germinated, just kinda sat there and waited for better weather.

Unfortunately, that better weather came in May, in the form of unseasonable heat and drought.  How dry was it?

Lettuce planted in early April. Photo taken May 16.

That's lettuce growing in a raised bed. Please note the cracks in the soil. And yes, I did water. I did three succession planting of greens (lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard) along with radishes and scallions. None of the spinach or chard grew enough to actually harvest anything, and I only got 3-4 scallions from all the plantings combined. The lettuce, however, did quite well. I love the mixes I bought this year - a great range of different colours, textures and tastes. The one thing I did notice was that red lettuces get bitter earlier than green, which is good to know for the future. I can extend my season further into the summer by limiting later planting to green varieties. The butterhead, especially, stayed sweet well into the hot weather.
Lovely, tasty romaine.
The radishes did great as well. I bought two mixes, and it was nice to taste all the different varieties. However, I also had a few French Breakfast radish seed, and for my taste, this is a clear winner in the radish Olympics. I'm not sure if I'll plant mixes again, of just stick to French Breakfast: while I like radishes, I don't eat that many of them, so having 2-3 different seed packs is a bit of overkill. And none of the other varieties stood out for me like French Breakfast did!

As for the rest of the brassicas? One word: ugh.

Oh, they started out great:

Napa cabbage, rutabaga and turnips, May 16.

Napa cabbage, May 28.

Unfortunately, the hot weather made everything bolt before they matured enough to actually eat. All of the Napa, rutabaga and turnips ended up in the compost bin :(

As did the broccoli, cauliflower and romanesco.


The kale and collards did well, as did the green cabbages - the red got shaded out by the kale :( However, both green cabbages seem to be growing at the same rate, even though The Early Jersey Wakefield is supposed to be an early variety (hence the name!)

Early Jersey Wakefield
Copenhagen Market

I'm going to pick one of the Early Jerseys soon, and see how much I actually get from it. It's been FAR longer than the 63 days from transplant that the variety claims. I direct seeded, so I expected it to take a bit longer, but these were seeded at the beginning of April. That's four months!

So, lessons learned? Lettuce seed mixes are great. Succession planting and variety selection is important. And I need to re-think my brassica growing strategy - I'm no wasting an entire bed anymore, simply to pull half of it out and add it to the compost. I know the weather this spring was unusual, but springs are getting warmer, earlier in general. It's quite possible I will switch entirely to fall-sown brassicas and over-wintering for an early spring harvest.

The Garden in July - Squash and Cucumbers

Due to the garden expansion and fence installation, I didn't get the cucurbits planted until mid-June. That's not a big problem, except for the long-season winter squash varieties - a variety like Sibley, at 110 days, is a bit iffy if we get an early frost.

I planted Sibley, Chersonskaya and Table Queen Bush Acorn winter squash. Unfortunately, the late planting wasn't late enough to prevent the squash vine borer from attacking the plants, even though I tried to remove any eggs that I saw. And since I planted them wherever I found room, I couldn't try row covers this year. Good thing there is always next year!

Squash vine borer egg
Sibley squash stem with vine borer damage
Out of the three varieties, the acorn seems to be resistant to the borer, and may be the only variety I plant in the future. I can't keep giving space to crops that don't produce, and I can't seem to be able to control the vine borer.

Acorn squash - look at those happy stems!
However, only Chersonskaya has set fruit so far - an impressive 7 to date. Hopefully the fruit will mature before the vines succumb to the damage.

Young Chersonskaya - the fruit is already the size of my hand.

I decided to try trellising the cucumbers and summer squash this year. I had room for two trellises - one for the two cucumber varieties (Straight 8 and National Pickling) and one for zuchinni zuchini zucchini (Black Beauty) and spaghetti squash. Of course, once it started growing, I realized the zuchinni zuchini zucchini is actually a bush variety. Oh well!

Summer squash - the spaghetti squash is taking over!
The cucumbers aren't producing yet, but the spaghetti squash is doing well, with almost a dozen fruits so far - which is good, since it's one of my favourites!
Young spaghetti squash - yum!
 And just yesterday, I spied my first zuchinni zuchini zucchini. Good thing the grill is ready!

The Garden in July - Big News!

 Well, it's big news to me, at least. I doubled the size of the garden this year, from 6 beds (12' x 4') to 12. And the yard also got fenced - finally! The dogs are LOVING it - especially Katy, who figured out really quickly that she can squeeze under the fence at the low spots - grrrr.

New garden beds!

New fence! Hello neighbour dog!
One of the benefits of installing the fence was being able to put perennial plants along it - aka I finally have fruit!! (Well, the potential to have fruit in 2-5 years). But because I am cheap frugal, I waited until later in the season to take advantage of end-of-season sales that most large garden centres start in July. Of course, July isn't the best time to plant things, and added to the hot, dry year we are having....

Oh well. The sales, combined with a $50 gift certificate for a big box home renovation store that also has a garden centre (thanks, Air Miles), allowed me to get 5 currants (2 red, 1 white currant and 2 black) 3 blueberries (all different varieties, since that increases fertilization), 2 rhubarb and one more Concord grape to join the two other grapes (one Concord, one white whose variety I've forgotten!) that I bought last fall and over-wintered in the pots - all hail a mild winter! Yes, Concord grapes - the bane of our local wine industry. Trust me, and anyone else who drank Niagara red wine prior to the 90s - Concords do NOT make good wine! But they are the BEST variety for grape juice and especially jelly.

None of the plants are looking fantastic, and I think I'm going to lose one of the rhubarbs, in spite of daily, deep watering, but 13 (or 12, depending on the fate of the rhubarb) fruit plants for under $55... not bad! If I bought at regular prices, and didn't have the gift certificate, I would have spent well over $130.

Grape! One benefit of chain link fences - no additional fencing needed to support the vines.

Rhubarb - I cannot wait for next spring!

The row of currants and blueberries.
I still need to move the asparagus from one of the garden beds into it's own bed, and find a space for raspberries and strawberries. The herb garden and mints are also going to be moved, giving me all 12 beds for my veggie garden. But I'm going to wait a few more weeks to start that - the plants will have a better chance at surviving the transplanting if it's cooler.

Despite the past few days being full of clouds and thunderstorms, we've had no significant rain. In fact, the sprinkles we've gotten over the past two days came in well under 1/4" - nowhere near enough. So, if you are looking for me, I'll be out watering...

July Garden Update

a.k.a. "Does anyone want to pay my water bill"?

Like most of the rest of the North American continent, we are dry, dry, dry here. And hot.

July is normally hot and dry - but it's been hot and dry since May. And that is not normal. According to the Ag Canada drought watch, this area has received less than 60% of normal precipitation for the growing season.

Do you know what happens when it's that dry? Your grass goes dormant in May, instead of in August. You get cracks in your lawn that are large enough to swallow a small dog. And that's in the low-lying area that floods in wet years!

That is a bare spot, but the cracks are all over. And they are DEEP. And this is an area right next to the vegetable garden, which has been getting water - hence the green grass.

But even with watering, I've had many crop failures: the spinach bolted almost before it grew, and the Swiss chard simply didn't get large enough to pick. Most of the brassicas bolted, except the kale, collards and cabbages. However, the heat lovers, like tomatoes and peppers, are loving the conditions. I've already picked almost a dozen tomatoes (the first one on July 12!) and a couple of hot peppers. Everything else seems to be holding on, but only because it's a small enough garden that I can water it.

The local farmers are looking at more crop failures if it doesn't rain a lot, and soon. And this comes after the projected 80-100% loss of the local fruit crops, thanks to an insanely warm March followed by a cold, frosty April.

Which makes me glad I have a garden, even if I do have to water it. Because food prices are going to go up, and it's going to be a scary year, I think.

Since this post is getting long enough, I do more specific updates in separate posts. Stay tuned!

Well hello there!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. I haven't been around for a while - and I have no reason, other than I simply haven't felt like blogging. Hopefully, that has changed and I'll post a bit more often (more often than once in 3 months??).

I have some garden updates to share, and some progress on the house.

But I also think I may be posting about some more serious topics. I've gone back and forth on that, trying to keep this blog fairly light and fun, without any potentially contentious topics. However, a few things have happened in the past few months, and I realized I'm tired of being the "nice" person and staying quiet on topics that are important to me.

Don't worry, I'm not planning on turning this blog into a personal diatribe on all things I don't like. I'll still post about the garden, and the house, and the dogs, and about soup. And bacon. But I'll also post about science and religion and politics.

So, while this space may be changing a bit, I hope you all stick around for the ride!

And I'll post again soon. Promise!!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...