Monday, June 14, 2010

Volunteer Squash

About fifteen volunteer squash, of unknown provenance, have sprung up in last year's compost pile.  They look like watermelon and spaghetti squash plants, and may well be some Frankensteinian cross.  Squash are notorious for cross-pollinating with gourds, which is why I've yet to plant gourds.  Time will tell if the fruits of these plants are any good to eat.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Drought Tolerant Vegetable Garden

I've learned a little bit about drought tolerant gardening in the last few years.  We had a record two year drought and we also lost access to a well for a brief period of time.  This year, I planted an area of the garden for which I've not yet built a drip system, so I have to water with a garden hose, by hand.  Pretty time consuming, so I planted some really drought tolerant veggies:  hot peppers, calabacita, tomatillos, and zucchini.  I drip the garden hose on one plant at a time, near the base, while I go about other garden chores.  This means that each plant gets a deep watering about every 7-10 days.  So far, we've had enough rains that this has been enough.  As the season progresses, I hope to find time to add a drip system.  But in the meanwhile, the plants are doing great, and producing like mad.  Besides choosing drought tolerant varieties, there are a few other things to do to grow plants with less water:

1. add berms to the garden, to catch and hold rainwater run-off.

2.  study the topography of your garden so that you can lay out beds in a more or less perpendicular manner to run-off patterns.

3.  amend soil with lots of rich organic matter.  I used home made compost and purchased composted turkey manure.

4.  space plants widely, more widely than seems sensible, so that they can really stretch out their toes and have access to lots of water and nutrients.

5.  mulch heavily.  I meant to mulch, and I really should have, but I haven't had a chance.  Poor plants are probably struggling more than they have to as a result.

6. Take advantage of natural clay soils, if you have them.  Our garden has a large patch of heavy clay gumbo soil, and this is where I have my drought tolerant veggies.  Everyone says you can't grow veggies in gumbo soil, but I've found that if I amend with organic matter, it works beautifully.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Something's Lurking Among the Tomatoes

About a week ago these creatures starting showing up on my tomato plants.  They're just sitting on the leaves and there are perhaps five or six per plants.  They look like some kind of multi-lobed egg sac or larvae, about the size of a thumbnail.

Normally, I don't do much about insect invasions -- I just wait them out and nature usually rebalances everything in a reasonable period of time.  Sometimes crops do take a beating but generally, nature just takes her ten percent tithe.

But there's something kind of ominous-looking about these things.  I've never seen them before and suddenly they appear in startling numbers.  So I've been peering at them and trying to decide if I should try to remove them.  Who are you, creature?  Friend or foe?

Everything I Know about Planting Onions

I don't really understand onions and their life cycle.  I really don't.  I only know five things:

1) plant when it's cool, well before the heat of summer takes over.  I planted these last February.

2) plant shallow.  In fact, I usually plant so shallowly that I have to really pinch the dirt up around the seedlings to get them to stay up. This seems like the main thing to get big, healthy onions.

3) harvest when the bulbs push their shoulders up out of the dirt.

4) cure the onions for a good while in the sun.  I'll cure these for about a week.

5) store in a cool, dry place with good air flow.  I break this rule a bit because I don't have such a place to store them.  I put them in a basket in my pantry, which is cool and dry but without much airflow.  But we eat them so quickly, and we have two growing seasons, so we've not had any spoil yet.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Day's Harvest from a Neglected Garden

 Sometimes nature is generous.  This summer so far, more rain than usual, no freak hail storms, tornadoes, or sirocco-like hot winds.  So, this poor neglected garden carries on, and sends veggies our way.