It's a jungle out there! Regardless of how long I've been gardening, each season I marvel at how quickly and easily the plants grow. And despite the years of backyard miniature-farming in arid Colorado, I'm still experimenting and learning. New approaches in 2009 include drip irrigation, a cucumber trellis and red plastic mulch under tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. I last reported on the progress of my backyard vegetable garden in late June.
Mid-July to early August is when I typically run short on my gardening enthusiasm, due to heat, weeds, birds and mosquitoes. The springtime joy of gardening seems to whither in inverse relation to the rising temperature. Fortunately, during mid-summer, vegetable gardening usually requires less work than in spring and early summer. The mid-season activities are centered around harvesting, pulling mature plants, weeding and planting late-season crops.
During the summer heat, I tend to garden early morning or after dinner, but those times can be when mosquitoes are at their fiercest. I'm not inclined to douse myself with DEET to forage in my almost-organic vegetable garden. Yet, we live in an area with West Nile Virus, so mosquito protection is important. I keep lightweight nylon pants and a shirt near the backdoor and slip them on over my shorts and tees when the mosquitoes get too thick. Even with cloth protection, I usually don't escape without a few bites.
In late June, the birds ate all the strawberries. (OK, there's some fruit in my so-called vegetable garden.) And they did some damage with this year's beans, plucking freshly planted seeds. In spots, I replanted beans more than once, but the rows are more spotty than typical years.
Despite a few setbacks, I am pleased with the effects of my newly adopted methods. The drip irrigation system has resulted in fewer weeds. I am attempting to compare growing season water bills from this year and 2008, but we have experienced more moisture in 2009 compared to last year, so I'm not certain anything conclusive will come of the analysis. None-the-less, I cannot complain about lower water bills this summer, whatever the reason!
The cucumber vines are creeping up the trellis and small cukes are starting hang down. The vines are providing needed shade for my third lettuce planting. Look closely for the lettuce seedlings in the picture above.
And what of the red tomato mulch? I think I could remake the movie, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I have never grown such big tomato plants. The fruits (yes, more fruit in the vegetable garden) are numerous, large and healthy. And the eggplant and pepper plants seem to be thriving as well. One hitch with the tomato mulch, that, unfortunately, I learned after installation and planting: The red mulch is not an effective weed barrier, so bind weed is flourishing beneath the plastic, puffing up and poking through the mulch in spots. The solution is to place a layer of black plastic beneath the red mulch. That's an intended improvement for next year's garden. I had hoped to use the red mulch for two years, but it has ripped so sufficiently, due to weeds, that I likely won't be able to use it again. Another lesson learned.
One experiment failed miserably this year: In an attempt to thwart spreading, I planted cilantro and dill seedlings in containers, rather than directly in the garden. I left my half-barrel behind at our previous home, and this year's planters were not large enough to hold adequate moisture. While the plants managed to flower, the leafy portions grew feebly then invariably dried and wilted. I either need to obtain another half-barrel or dedicate a raised bed section to herbs.
So far this season, we've harvested walking onions, sugar snap peas, leaf lettuce, spinach, radishes, turnips, green and wax beans, chives and basil. We'll soon be enjoying tomatoes, eggplants, poblano peppers, cucumbers, beets and rutabaga.
If you're interested in more details of this year's garden journey, check out my earlier season posts: