August Garden Progress
It’s been a while since my last garden post but summer is in full swing and I wanted to share an update. Temperatures can be brutal for plants, especially in June when there were weeks of 90-degree highs. It’s times like this I’m glad my company transitioned into work-from-home since it gave me the opportunity to move the containers into shade during the toughest parts of the day. The ones in the raised beds weren’t in as advantageous of a situation but they’ve persevered with help from rigorous watering.
First: the tomatoes and peppers. I would have been surprised if the peppers didn’t survive. I applied an insane amount of compost to that part of the yard early in the year, so I knew the soil was rich. I also believe the types of peppers I planted prefer warm climates. The Thai chili isn’t bearing any fruit yet, but the number of flowers is promising. As for the tomatoes, only the cherries are ripening. A few have reddened enough to pick. I’ve collected four so far and have been sun drying them. I know some people garden because they to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, but I prefer preservation. I plan to sun dry all the tomatoes and once the peppers mature I’ll either dehydrate and crush them or ferment them into hot sauce. (Then again, it’s New Mexico, so I’ll have to broil, peel, and freeze a few of the peppers, as is tradition.)
In the last garden post the apple trees just looked like sticks poking out of the dirt. They’ve started to fill in, although only one is gaining significant height. I’m thinking the soil is lacking in nutrients the trees need so I’ll have to look up the soil conditions these plants thrive in. There is still plenty of time to experiment with their containers. All these trees are only 1 year old and when grown from seed it takes at least 7 years to bear fruit. Right now, they’re still alive, which is good enough for me.
Artichokes have been challenging. I tried growing a few but only one germinated, and it only has one bulb. On the plus side, once this one’s first true leaves became stablished, it was very low maintenance. It’s the plant that wilts the least in the heat and the flower is progressing nicely. To eat them you’re supposed to cut the flower before it blooms, but if there’s only one I’ll probably just let it open. I don’t see the point in harvesting a single tiny artichoke.
I had to cheat on the tomatillos. The one on the left was grown from seed. There was another that was keeping pace, but it died. Unfortunately, with tomatillos, one isn’t enough. Flowers on one plant cannot pollinate another flower on the same plant, so I needed to purchase a new plant which I found on Etsy (Lazy Ox Farm). Like the peppers, it just has a lot of flowers right now which are on the verge of blooming. If this keeps up I’m expecting lots by the end of the summer. I noticed that the leaves on the two plants differ and I wasn’t sure if they’d be able to pollinate. This is actually an old picture and since it was taken the flowers on both have closed and the husks are expanding which is a sign that pollination was successful and fruit is growing. Since the plants have different leaves this will probably be a crossbreed and be different from the type I bought in the store. I’m very curious to see how they turn out.
The picture of the cabbages was taken during an overcast day when they looked healthy. In reality they’ve been struggling. In the early morning and late at night the leaves are rigid. Around noon they flop down and look more like a green mat. I’ve kept the crabgrass around them in hopes it will provide some shade but it isn’t tall enough, and in some spots even the crabgrass is turning brittle. I’ve changed the watering schedule so they get water in the hottest part of the day which seems to help cool them down and keep the leaves somewhat firm so they can keep folding in and forming a cabbage head. That seems to be enough to keep them clinging to life for now.
The potatoes have finally started to bloom. I was worried about them for a while since they had buds which fell off before opening into flowers. This year has been difficult for them, but I have high hopes that they’ll prove to be bountiful once I upturn the containers.
The main project this season was the 3 sisters in the raised bed. This included 2 kinds of corn, 2 kinds of pumpkin, and 5 kinds of beans. From a distance it looks like it’s doing great. The bed of leaves on the big pumpkin is covering most of the ground and providing shade for the beans which are climbing high on the tall cornstalks. However, only the big pumpkins are crawling across the bed. The pie pumpkins (on the far bed) are more like bushes than pumpkin patches. Strangely, while the pie pumpkins are not providing a lot of shade, they are more fruitful than the large variety. Right now there are seven pie pumpkins in that bed but I’ve only gotten one big pumpkin. As for the beans, they’ve produced a ton of leaves but hardly any flowers. Like the others, the corn is performing well but is presenting complications. There are lots of ears with a healthy amount of silk sprouting out the ends, but when I feel them, they seem soft, almost like there’s no cob inside. I’m hoping they just need more time for the cob and kernels to fill in. Even the ones that do feel strong, I’m leaving on the stalk until late in the season to give it as much time as possible to develop.
Finally, the smallest of the raised beds. I plant yellow beans every year and they are always a high producer. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do them this year because the yellows are bush beans which don’t perform well when using the 3 sisters method because squash leaves are too high and block too much light. I found one option to get around this problem is to plant grains with beans. In my case I planted spelt, which has an advantageous growth pattern. The narrow leaves of the spelt start close to the ground, forming a ring of narrow spear-shaped leaves. Like the squash leaves, this provides shade to keep the ground cool and help the beans grow. The trick I to plant a fast-growing crop with them because once the spelt leaves grow upright they can block a lot of sunlight. I’ve grown yellow beans enough to have an idea of their rate and got them in the ground early enough for this method to work. By the time the spelt was producing grains the beans were already forming pods. I already have a little more than 4 ounces worth and it’s still early; I’m expecting a lot more before the end of the month.
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