Summer is undoubtedly here. Unlike last year, when it remained ambiguously cool from the summer solstice until the autumnal equinox, the summer of 2010 is shaping up to be the real deal: hot, sunny, and dry. While this makes for terrific beach and vacation weather, it poses some challenges to the garden. Many of the cool-loving crops are petering out earlier this year: the peas are drying on the vine a good week or two before they did last year, and even crops that normally survive the summer just fine may be looking ragged.
It's important to irrigate your garden--especially if the dry weather continues much longer. Our normally moist silty soil is drying out more than we've seen in our three years on the site, and we are now spending large amounts of time dragging sprinklers from spot to spot. The beneficial effects of the water are quickly apparent: small seedlings grow quickly, and wilting older plants revive.
It's also time to begin sowing for the fall garden. The fall garden is one of the most satisfying endeavors a gardener can undertake. Many of the plants that we all rush to start in spring suffer and disappear as the weather moves headlong into summer. Those same crops, when sown at the proper time for fall harvest, will last for weeks--even months--in the fall garden, all with less weed pressure, fewer pests to deal with, and no scorching sun and requisite watering. Plant some Piracicaba Broccoli now and have fresh picking for most of October and November. Plant snap peas--and keep them well-watered or even shaded for the next six weeks--and you'll have crunchy peas to munch on while you behold the fall colors. Plant zucchini and cucumbers, and you'll have good, young, healthy crops until frost. While enthusiasm may wane for gardening in the heat of summertime, be diligent now and you'll be rewarded with endless delicacies during the cooler months to come.
What are we up to on the farm?
- Isolating peppers. Peppers cross-pollinate readily; in order to harvest seeds that produce crops that are true to the variety, they must be isolated from other varieties. We do this with bent 1/2" EMT conduit and row cover.
- Harvesting our first flush of seed crops. We've harvested mache and chervil seed, a small batch of chive seed, and garlic. Over the next week we anticipate harvesting winter wheat (Arapahoe variety), parsnip seeds, and various peas. Seed of radishes, arugula, garden cress, Chinese Cabbage, and lots more is soon to come.
- Starting our fall crops. We've started plenty of fall cabbages for our own eating and are starting all remaining brassicas this evening (except tatsoi and bok choy, both of which grow so quickly they are best started a little later--a sowing today would give great results, but more in the late summer than the fall, so we'll probably re-sow in late July or early August).
- Stringing up tomatoes. Tomatoes love this dry heat, and the results are apparent in the suddenly very robust plants most of us are seeing. We have found a little early blight in our fields already--on the most mature plants, generally--but this is a type of alternaria seen nearly every year and is a far less destructive disease than last year's late blight (which is caused by a different fungi: phytophthora infestans). So far, we've seen few reports of late blight in the northeast, and the hot, dry weather makes a serious outbreak more and more unlikely every day. Let's all keep our fingers crossed that this good luck continues, and soon enough we'll be awash in tomatoes like we are most years.
Hope everyone is enjoying the summer and the steady stream of good eating coming in the from the garden these days. Remember: it's important to keep on sowing in order to have your garden be healthy and productive into the fall. So brave the heat, ignore the weeds if necessary, and get those seeds planted to keep you in fresh food from now until the winter solstice.