Tuesday, July 7, 2020

If at first you don't succeed - add more mulch

July is the time when the gardening honeymoon is over.  The bugs are showing up and need to be controlled or eliminated.  The weather is hot and dry and you have to keep an eye on everything so you don't let something dry out, or even worse, over water.  Spring plants are either producing or needing to be pulled and replaced.  Summer veggies are either beginning to produce or need to be planted in the spots where you removed the spring plants.

Black Brandywine Tomatoes
 But it is also the most rewarding time of year.  There is actual food out there.  The flowers are blooming.  Plants are at their prime.  If friends stop by to visit your garden there is something to see other than a mass of green or stretches of tilled soil.  I find it fun when someone asks me "how exactly does cauliflower grow?" and I can walk them over to a large healthy cauliflower ready to pick.

Barlow Jap Tomato plant
And to think I was worried about this one dying in May!
This year I have a big garden.  Of course the overall square footage doesn't change from year to year, but the range of plants does.  And this year I am growing some things I'm not real familiar with.  Nothing completely new, but there are a few things that I am not yet comfortable with and that takes more attention and brain power.  All of these things require attentiveness to equipment and supplies like row covers and supports and potting mix or soil additives.

"Mahon Yam" Sweet Potatoes in Grow Bags
 Each year I garden I hold myself to a higher standard. I say to myself "This year the Flea Beetles/Squash Vine Borers/Cabbage Moths will not leave my crops in desolation.  In fact, they won't even make them look ugly!  I will prevent it.  Somehow."  I WILL have giant cauliflower and broccoli and cabbage.  Even though I've never before grown a giant cauliflower or broccoli or cabbage. And if I ignore the cabbage for a week or two I might not get any results at all.  I've found myself editing my growing plan for next year a month earlier than I would usually begin.  I wouldn't say yet that I am tired of the garden, but reality is beginning to set in and I can not just go sit in the shade and sip sweet tea all day when it is becoming more and more tempting to do so.

Carminat Beans
60-65 day bean at 6 weeks of growth
I really do know how to grow pole beans -
Pole Beans 2012
Surprisingly (to me anyway) this year the biggest struggle seems to be with pole beans.  I'm trying two new (to me) varieties so I'm not sure exactly how to gauge their progress.  But they are much less vigorous than I would expect.  They are not growing as well or as rapidly as beans normally grow for me.  One variety is supposed to reach 6 feet tall and the other 8 feet tall but at this point their height can still be counted in inches. The leaves are small and show signs of sun stress although this week they are showing new growth for the first time in weeks.  I'm not worried about the soil because I have lettuce and cucumbers planted along with them and they are thriving.  They are on the same watering schedule of the Lima Beans.  So - when in doubt - Mulch!

I reseeded half of these a week ago and mulched with leaves
I put away a couple of bags of shredded leaves last fall and I've been using them to top off containers to keep them from drying out quickly which is working well.  I'm looking forward to having more to work with next year since they are easy to gather and store. This weekend I opened up the last bag, gave the potatoes in grow bags the first priority and then used up the last of the leaf mulch on the pole beans.  I also mulched between the neighboring cucumber and bush bean row.  My Bush Beans are happily growing.  Last year I tried Jade for the first time and this year I "upgraded" to Jade II.  I planted half a row of the leftover Jade seeds and half a row of the Jade II.

The first planting from a week ago is on the east side of the first cucumber trellis (with no support) along with some late lettuce transplants.  In general, I like to support bush beans, but it isn't always necessary.  The nicest row of bush beans I ever grew was unsupported.

Jade and Jade II beans

Second bed of beans
The second row is down the center of its own bed with double supports and some spare cucumber plants on the ends.  I sprinkled old lettuce seed down each side as ground cover.  I am not sure how well lettuce will germinate in this extreme summer heat without being tended in trays, but the execution of a similar plan this spring was a great success

Garden Sweet peas

I have three more beds of old peas to remove and plant.  There are still peas being produced, but in this heat they ripen fast and dry out even faster.  We've had a plethora of peas.  We don't want any more.

It is easy to see what is ready under the mesh Agfabric covers
I have as much broccoli and cauliflower as I want.  We don't eat it in large volume, but when I get in the mood for some I find the largest floret and pick that.  As I am relatively new to the broccoli/cauliflower game I would rather pick a head a little early and small than miss it and have it bolt.  The broccoli plants that I've harvested are sending out nice secondary side shoots.

My favorite broccoli dish is a fresh salad made of equal parts chopped raw broccoli and blanched peas with a home made dressing and craisens for flavor.  You can also add cheddar cheese and/or chopped bacon.  Here is a standard recipe. I don't know why none of the recipes include peas.  They're really missing out!

My one variety of sweet corn is putting out "Tillers".  I've read up on them a little and it doesn't seem that there is any proof that tillers reduce production (removing them may actually hurt production) so I'm just going to let them grow.  In fact, most agree that corn puts out tillers when the growing conditions are most favorable which is good yes?

So that's what's going on in the July garden.  The weather has been hot, and Buffalo (just to our north) is likely to break a record for the most 90 degree days in a row.  We haven't had this many 90 degree days in July since 1988, and I remember that heat wave well. We got a quarter inch of rain yesterday which helped immensely and it either sprinkled over night or the dew was extremely heavy because the ground was still soaked this morning.

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