Sunday, August 7, 2016

Taking Stock

It is about this time of the summer that I take stock of my vegetable garden. Every year is different: what and where I plant, the weather (no rain!) and temperature (hot!), insects and animals, weeds, time spent in the garden. Often by now the weeds have gotten the best of me and the tomatoes wilted from blight, but this year I feel particularly pleased with the garden, and oddly enough I think it is due to the lack of rain.

Rain is good of course, easier and more deep soaking than watering by hand. However, rain carries disease and causes back splash on the plants. Usually wet summers bring more insect pests and plant diseases. Not this year. The tomatoes are the best ever.

I'm seeing fewer bugs and and caterpillars--those that are pesky. The zucchini and summer squash plants are lush and overflowing (does anyone need zucchini?). Kale and Swiss chard and okra are exceptional.
This week I did find my first tobacco hornworm of the season -- a huge 3-incher munching away on the cherry tomatoes. But on nearby plants smaller hornworms were embedded with the larvae of parasitic braconid wasps. This is nature's way of controlling the hornworms - thank you wasps.
Some things haven't worked well this year. The sugar snap peas lasted all of one week due to the heat in June. And my eggplant is looking sad. I do have a drip irrigation system, which is very effective especially during dry years, but maybe the eggplant still weren't getting enough moisture. One issue is chipmunks. They aren't so much eating things in the garden, but their tunneling creates holes around the plant roots, which dries them out before I notice. And something ate the broccoli stems. Lettuce bolted too soon. But I can plant more.

I saw our first monarch butterfly on the gorgeous purple zinnias yesterday.
In the perennial garden the tall anise hyssop and bee balm are loaded with bees and clearwings and other pollinators. Hummingbirds and dragonflies zoom about the yard, and sometimes land nearby.
Oh, and for the first time since my sister and I started growing garlic (400+ bulbs per year) at our parent's place, the crop was a bust. Garlic need water and we were not there to take care of them. It would have required too much water anyway. We did harvest some nice garlic, but much less and much smaller than usual.
So, I am buying new seed garlic from Fedco in Maine and will be planting my crop here this fall, since my parents are now gone and we are visiting the homestead (now rented) less. The garlic is a symbol of this transition as our parents helped us every year with the garlic planting and harvest.

I am already planning my garden for next year, especially since I now need to make room for 200 garlic bulbs. I'm going to skip the broccoli and plant fewer zukes and summer squash -- way too many this year. I need to move the rhubarb to a shadier spot (too hot in current location), which will make room for the cucumbers. And the catnip is in the wrong place. I need to get cow manure. So much to do in the garden and I love it. Now to find one more zucchini recipe.


  1. Hi Ellen,

    Your tomatoes look like mine from last year. And instead I think all of our tomatoes are nearly dead, with probably less than 5 pounds of tomatoes from about 15 plants. I grew them from seed, then put them under grow lights and they looked as sturdy as could be when I put them out in early May. But as you suggest I think that the rain got the better of them and they are all in the process of dying from blight. I keep holding off on pulling them hoping for at least something more but I think that they are probably done.

    At least it does give me a new 4x8 raised bed in which to grow something else before November/December frosts.

    As you say though every year is different. There are new successes and new failures. And always a reason to get out in the garden and see just what is happening!!

    Good luck during the rest of the season.

  2. Hi Ken,

    Sorry to hear that your tomatoes are sort of a bust. Now that we've had a bit of rain this past week, mine too are getting blight. I know a lot of local farmers now are growing tomatoes inside hoop houses as just too much blight in open air. This year I am going to plant spinach in the fall, cover with Reemay and harvest next spring. I did that a few years ago and it was delicious.