Friday, August 30, 2013

I am thankful for all the rain we have had this year, but my garden is a mess!

Since I have begun gardening, at least, I don't think I have ever complained about the rain.  I grew up in a farm family, and I have always been aware of the need for regular rainfall for crops in ways that is not possible for folks who live in the city.  

I have, however, had about enough rain for awhile.  My garden is a mess because of the excess rain, and although I am thankful that the rain is replenishing my well after the years of drought, and that my creek flows with water, I would enjoy a break.  

Standing water beside my driveway

There's a compost pile and some tomatoes under the weeds

My garden is messier this year than it was in the years I had infants and toddlers.  Many times this year I have awoken with plans to work in the garden to hear crashes of thunder and pounding rain.  
Asparagus plants with watermelon vines, and lots of weeds!

According to online weather data, we have already had more rain than we normally get in an entire year, and 8 inches more rain than we had for the entire year last year.




More weeds!


Pea vines have taken over, but at least weeds have a hard time penetrating them.

This week the forecast is for pleasant weather, so I plan to tackle these weeds with the help of my chickens.  A goat would be more helpful, I imagine, but I'll have to use what I have available.  I need to make room for my fall garden.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

It's time to plant the fall garden

Fall weather is on the way.  At this time of year, I usually write about how it’s too hot to imagine cooler days in which fall crops may flourish, but this summer has been unusually cool and fall weather seems to have a better chance to conquer the heat this autumn than in most years.  It is time to start some seeds to grow into transplants to put out later in the fall, and it's a great rainy-day activity if it's pouring rain at your house the way it is at mine.  
Site of fall garden

I won’t try to set out any plants soon, but I plan to sow some seeds in the garden within the next couple of weeks.  I will start the seeds while it’s still hot instead of waiting for cooler temperatures because the plants need to establish themselves before cold weather comes.  If I wait until late September when the weather cools, which I have done, frost will damage the baby plants and they won’t grow well during cold weather.  Older plants enjoy the cold weather, and I am able to harvest from them throughout most of the winter.  In the spring, they will resume growing ahead of new plants.
Baby plants
If the soil is dry, before I plant seeds, I soak the soil.  After I plant the seeds, I water them very gently, and continue to water them gently once or twice a day, depending on rainfall.  Mature plants, with deep roots, need infrequent, long soakings.  Seeds, which inhabit the top layer of soil, need only enough water to keep the top inch or so of soil moist.  They need gentle mists of water, because vigorous water applications will wash the seeds away.  Make sure you tell the afternoon thunderstorms to treat them gently, or you might have to plant the seeds again. 

After I sow the seeds, I put metal hoops across a garden row and I lay shade cloth across them, pinning it down with clothespins.  Shade cloth is available at garden centers or at www.groworganic.com.  Old sheets will work also; use something that blocks the hottest rays of the sun while allowing some light.  Provided strong storms don’t make these coverings collapse, they will protect the seedlings from battering rain. 
When they seeds sprout, I continue to keep the soil moist, but I gradually wean them off such frequent watering so they will develop deep roots.   I leave the shade cloth up until the weather becomes cooler, and I gradually expose the seedlings to brighter sunlight.  If the seedlings look too tall and spindly, they are not getting enough sunlight. 

Indoors, I sow seeds of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, and spinach.  Keep the baby seedlings inside and away from scorching temperatures until the weather cools. 
Outdoors, sow seeds of carrots, beets, chard, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, parsnips, radishes, spinach, and turnips.   Keep the soil moist by frequently misting the soil with water, provide shade as needed, and you should have a garden ready for harvest throughout the fall and winter.   

Google “what to plant now,” to find a yearly planting list at www.motherearthnews.com.When I am well organized in the garden, I can harvest something from the garden every day of the year.  This year, thanks to the excessive rain and my activities, I’ll have to battle the weeds for a spot in the garden before I can begin work.