Thursday, July 10, 2014

July Gardening Update

This has been one amazing growing summer. It was a warm spring so I was able to plant early, and the summer has been warm interspersed with fairly regular rainfall. My garden and greenhouse are about 4 weeks ahead of schedule, which is about how much early it has been all year. For those who find my gardening updates interesting, here you go!

The greatest development of my garden this year has been my strawberries. Last summer I got rid of a flowerbed that the weeds had taken over. There were some strawberry plants mixed in that I managed to salvage from the weeds--maybe 10 plants. I threw them in my raised bed--a space that I have not been able to get anything else to grow in--not even spinach or lettuce! They have gone bonkers. They immediately started sending out shoots last year, and now it is one solid mass of plants as you can see from the picture below.

My bird-proofing system for my strawberries
We have been getting many amazingly sweet, luscious strawberries
 Because we have lots of robins and other birds in our yard, I knew once the blooms started turning to berries that I would need to fend them off. My system is simple: I pounded 3 stakes into the middle of the strawberries and laid chicken wire over it, one section per side. To pick we just gently lift of the wire and reach in. It works like a charm. These are some of the best strawberries I have ever had--very sweet, even when not fully ripe. I can't tell you what type they are unfortunately!

The potatoes are bushy and already beginning to flower

Amazing having broccoli so early! In the background, spinach going to seed and onions
My kale is ready to be used now and I planted almost a whole row of it so I need to start harvesting it. The spinach is ready to be eaten as well. The two zucchini plants outdoors are tiny but both have blooms and little zucchini on them despite that. The beets are coming along. The onions are the one thing that have suffered: I think it has been a bit too warm for them and I neglected to water them when we had some short dry spells so the tips of the tops are turning brown (as are my chives).

My aunt gave me some miscellaneous, unknown starts after I had my garden planted, and rather than turn them down I threw them in wherever I could find space in my flowerbed and greenhouse. I'm still not sure what they all are, but some are for sure kohlrabi, which will be a treat as I didn't plant any this year.

I always plant things close together in the greenhouse, thinking there is NO WAY the plants could get too big for the space, and things are always crowding each other. The lettuce always goes in the back, in a row behind the main plants, which becomes a pain to harvest once the plants get large, such as the lettuce behind the zucchini. Ah well. No big trouble to have 6 months of fresh lettuce! 

Plants are squished together in my greenhouse, with my cilantro, bok choy (I think!) and parsley shown here

The indoor zucchini are going nuts, with lettuce tucked in behind it
My tomatoes are already ripening, I am harvesting zucchini (if all the females get pollinated, I will have a bumper crop!!), we've clean out the cilantro, and whenever we need some we have parsley, basil and bok choy. A new development this year in the greenhouse is that I was able to grow spinach for the first time!! Usually it is pathetic and tiny and I pull it up and throw it in the compost, but this year the spinach went nuts in the greenhouse, and the same kind is not growing well outside (but a different kind is growing great outdoors). My green beans plants are gigantic bushes so we'll see how those come along. I'm expecting them to start blossoming soon. I guided the cucumber plants onto tomato wire forms yesterday because there was nowhere for them to go with all the plants squished in (those extra starts I threw in) so now they are going to go UP! The little cukes are forming so we shall have some in the next week or so.

When it is sunny the greenhouse needs to be watered every day, but when it is cloudy every other day is sufficient. I collect rain water and use that as much as possible, but depending on how often it rains, that may only last me a few days. Fertilizing is necessary in a greenhouse, and I have been using some every couple weeks. That has been a key that I just started doing last year and it has made a difference in my yields.

I have given my compost a bit more attention this summer, stirring and watering it and paying a bit more attention to the mix of carbon and nitrogen items in it. It compacting nicely and I think I'll have a nice batch of compost to go on the garden next spring. This year's batch wasn't very composted because I hadn't stirred it, though I managed to get a couple wagon-loads out of it anyways. And the soil in the garden is finally looking less like a mucky, clay-like morass and more like soil, which even my non-garden husband noticed when he rototilled it this spring.

I've done 2 full weedings of the entire garden this summer, which is more than usual by this time. Nice weather helps the weeds grow too. I am being more aggressive about keeping the nearby weeds down so that the seeds don't blow in so over time I think the weed situation will be more under control.

I love being able to run out to the garden or greenhouse to get my dinner makings. I am always astounded that I throw seeds into the ground and....they grow and make food! It seems I do so little work for the bounty, and yet I do, just not as much as some uber-gardeners I know. I feel like I do the minimum to make it happen. But I do talk lovingly of my plants as I walk by them and I like to think that helps make it a more conducive growing climate for them as well!

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