Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hot Weather and Preparing for a Fall Garden

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

I am entering my second trimester and am starting to feel better more often. I am not working in the garden much, but have been pretty productive in the times I have been. I also have some wonderful and enthusiastic helpers!

Drummer Girl and I pulled up the entire brassicas bed. With the temperature spikes this spring, it did not do well. The brassicas group is very vulnerable to heat and will stop growing and/or bolt if it's too hot. Next year I'll be sure to get seeds started much earlier in the hopes that they will produce something even if it's another warm spring. As it were, my broccoli went to flower before the heads got a chance to develop, the brussel sprouts didn't produce anything but leaves, and the cabbage all died. (I do have one head of cabbage in my raised bed that is trying to grow, though, so I let it be.) The Kale and Collards did well, but I can only eat so much of that before I am burned out. I planted way too many of those this year. 

This little guy is all I got, besides the leafy greens, and it was pretty bitter tasting.

Since we have a baby on the way, it seems Baby Brother needs a new handle. I've been calling him Stitch (From the Movie: Lilo and Stitch)...cute, cuddly, and very destructive! He is helping me to fill in some of the holes left after pulling up the plants. It was nice to see the roots were deep and well-formed. I tried to leave some roots in the ground to add to soil health, but it was hard to do. I really needed some pruners to cut the plants with.

He always has a blast playing in the dirt. I can't get enough of that little face!

Here is the bare plot (with toys littered in it already!) My portable chicken pen with chickens in it working on the soil! I hope to be able to get a fall crop of brassicas in this year. Though "chicken soil treatment" should be done several months before planting, these are the babies and don't make a whole lot of poo yet.

Just five little 5-week-olds. Cute little buggers, but wow are they feisty! I can't imagine the entertainment the neighbors get seeing my pregnant self running after these teeny things in my yard come nightfall. Lol! I can't integrate them with my bigger girls soon enough!

At the end of May, you may remember that I found volunteer tomato seedlings in my brassicas bed. I let several of them grow to see what kind they are. As small as the plants are and the shape of the tomatoes, I am guessing they are grape or cherry tomatoes. The help of little hands in deed! I would guess that our snack times with tomatoes contributed with some falling in the dirt and planting themselves. I caged them (the tomatoes, not the kids...hahaha) and we'll see what kind of crop we get!

We also cleaned out the root veggie bed. Most of what you see is wood sorrel and it makes a wonderful living mulch when there is plenty of rain. But, with the heat and dry weather, I am pulling it all up so my crops don't have to compete for water and I won't have to water as often. I will tell you this though, crab grass has been a huge pain in my garden, but where there is a lot of wood sorrel, there is very little crab grass. Also, there aren't as many wood sorrel plants here as you may guess. They turned out to be rather bushy and one square foot only held 2-3 plants. I'd say I pulled about 2 or 3 dozen wood sorrel plants in this whole area. So that was nice too. Much better than the thousands (well, probably not, but might as well have been) tree seedlings I had to pull up. I don't remember ever having this much problem with tree seedlings in the past.

This "weed" turned out to be a turnip that had bolted! I had no idea they'd do that and it was the only one that did. Very interesting.

Little Buddy is hauling the weeds away to the compost pile.

Heave, Buddy, heave!

My hard worker!

He loves using his little garden tools and helping out! Another little face I just can't get enough of!

Wow, look at the contrast! I ended up leaving a plantain in the corner there because it was pretty and not hindering anything. I know I'm crazy calling weeds pretty. Trust me, that's not the least of my craziness though! Most of the turnips are gone and I probably won't plant anymore for fall. My preggy senses have not been able to handle them at all. I tried so hard to love turnips. Seems they always get the short end of the stick. They are so easy to grow! They will grow about anywhere with about any type of soil. But a little goes a long way for my senses. Now beets, on the other hand, I'm not sure I've ever been around beets long enough to get tired of them. Carrots are iffy since they so easily get a "soapy" flavor to them. I found an article HERE to explain why that is. Perhaps I will spend more time on carrot research for next year.

Some of the best advice I have found for a hot weather garden is: 

*Water deeply, less often early in the day. Drench that ground until it's good and soupy, then leave it alone for a week or so. (Only for bigger plants. Keep soil moist for seeds and seedlings until they are well-established.) Those roots will reach much deeper to be able to find water and your plants won't die from drought as easily as those watered several times a week. I love using soaker hoses for this because there is less evaporation than sprinklers and you don't risk burning your plants when the sun hits them. I put them down before I mulch so they actually lay underneath making water loss almost non-existent. Speaking of mulch... 

*Mulch, mulch, and mulch some more! A ground covering will reduce moisture loss and, depending on the type of ground cover you use, keep the roots cooler. Not to mention it will keep the weeds to a minimum and add nutrients to your soil. Ground up leaves, leaf mould, and straw are good candidates for this as they don't heat up when they decompose like grass clippings do. Though if you have heat-loving plants like peppers, then grass clippings are great too. I use grass clippings earlier in the season so they can break down before the hot weather really kicks in.

*Only grow heat loving plants in hot weather. The best contenders are peppers, corn, and squash. Tomatoes will do ok as long as they aren't in intense sun all day. I've known of people who put up awnings over their tomato plants in the hottest part of the summer to keep them from scorching.

*Make use of shady areas in the heat of the summer. You may not be able to get more delicate crops to grow in the heat, like leafy greens or brassicas, but you could try for other types of plants like root crops, potatoes, or melons. Even some herbs will do ok in the heat with enough shade.

But even with all this, if you have a heat wave of 100+ degree temperatures with no rain, it's possible to lose your whole garden or, at the very least, have a meager harvest. My corn crop of 2013 can vouch for that...

This is the harvest of five 15 foot rows of corn. Ouch! Granted, the squirrels didn't help! The corn itself was chewy and not too good. I ended up making corn cob jelly out of it and that helped ease the pain.

Hopefully I'll be able to plant a fall garden this year. That's a tricky game of timing! Planting soon enough to get a harvest before it freezes, but not too soon so the heat doesn't kill off everything before it has a chance.

How is your hot weather garden doing? Are you planning a fall garden? I'd love to hear about it! Stay cool!

Happy Gardening!

Jen Hen