The complete article by Milicent McFarland
Excerpted on Page 15 The Corridor Quarterly Magazine Fall 2019
So here we are at the height of summer and the garden is starting to produce. We should have gotten starts in sooner than we did, but I was reluctant to, because of the late May freezes we typically experience here. One year we lost almost a dozen tomatoes to a late freeze. But that didn’t happen this year. So our garden is several weeks behind others who took advantage of the unusually warm Spring we had.
So far, we have been eating radishes and greens, and cherry tomatoes. And the cucumbers have just started. Yum. On the sidelines are dozens of large full-sized green tomatoes that are ripening. We also have a raised bed each of peppers, both hot and sweet, and a potentially huge cabbage crop, as well as some Anasazi beans.
We have had had some significant setbacks. There was a horrendous hail storm that dumped here about a month ago that shredded the cabbages badly and pockmarked everything else. The hail attack set everything back a few weeks and also set plants up for disease entry and bug attack. I have had to keep alert more than usual because weakened plants somehow attract hordes of insects. So I’ve used my arsenal of natural products , including Safer’s soap spray and Neem oil. I think most plants have bounced back successfully, but we may have lost a tomato plant or two.
We also had a spell of extreme winds, 28 mph some days, that desiccated the pepper plants that were newly planted. I lost some plants, but the rest have recovered and are setting on nicely.
Observations and suggestions:
Don’t let a weed or flower continue to grow in a gardening space, no water how attractive they look. The will take over the space and your crop will disappear or be less productive. e.g.Morning Glories in my greens bed. I had no idea there were so many morning glory seeds surviving from last year. I thought I could leave a a few to grow and add some color, but they proceeded to swallow up the slower growing kale and collards, which are my husband’s favorites. The Swiss chard was hardy enough, it competed successfully and thrived. But I have pulled out all of the viney growth and will be vigilant.
- On the flip side of pulling wild weeds, is identifying your friends. We have been lucky enough to have some Blessed Basil plants re-seed in our garden beds for several years now. I purchased the plants about four years ago and they are sprouting up everywhere. They are still tiny but should get full sized quickly. Basil is supposed to improve the flavor of other plants, like tomatoes, as well as help deter insects. These have continued to re-seed every year, and I hope they continue. I leave the mature plants in the garden at the end of the season.
- Other good companion plants are marigold, nasturtiums and onions. We had planted bunching onions last year and some overwintered and set seeds and are replanting themselves. Serendipity!
- You can still plant: I just re-seeded my lettuce patch with Oak Leaf lettuce, a variety that withstands heat well, and some Black Seeded Simpson, a pretty reliable greenleaf lettuce. Both should start coming up in a week or so, and I can use thinnings for salads pretty quickly.
- I am also going to plant a few more cukes as we still have space in the bed. Plus greens like chard and spinach can be planted for a fall crop. I have had luck overwintering them, too, under a heavy row cover. Get one that is rated for below freezing.
Comments about irrigation: After decades of gardening here and trying a variety of drip lines and emitters in the garden, we have found one variety of drip that seems to be most effective, longer lasting and versatile. It is pressure compensating and has emitters built into the quarter inch tubing that burble the water. The emitters present themselves as hard little raised inserts and seem to stay clearer of mineral buildup, which is a problem in our area of alkaline water. I like the six inch, which provides more coverage and can be used with a variety of plants. The lines also come in twelve and eighteen inch spacings. More comments to come.