Monday, September 2, 2013

Getting reacquainted with the watering can


I had to go water my community garden plot this morning, because 50% chance of thunderstorms isn't enough when there's been barely any rain all week, and I have newly-planted seedlings in there. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's out of the habit of watering regularly this year. There are pluses and minuses to lots of rain, but certainly it's nice not to have to lug hoses and cans around all the time.

It seems that every year has unusual weather in it, so that "usual" doesn't mean much any longer (if it ever did), but gardeners like to dwell on recent anomalies. This year we had a chilly spring and a startling late frost in May, lots of rain, and only a few periods of extreme heat over the summer (one of them came pretty much right after the May frost, if I recall correctly, though I missed it since I was in California, where they barely have seasons).  There have been negative aspects to this weather (so much early blight on the tomatoes!) but everything that didn't suffer and die grew with lush abandon (which is pretty much a description of every year's garden).

For me, those root crops that we are celebrating this year did extremely well. At the demo garden, we harvested big fat leeks in July and August. I'm used to waiting till fall and winter to pull them up, but it seemed silly to leave them in the ground when they were so delectably edible. I do have to acknowledge that half of the same bunch of leek seedlings were planted in my community garden plot and are still half the size of the demo garden ones, so part of that is Magic Soil that only years of adding compost will achieve, but the rain helped. It also helped with fantastic beets and carrots (though some of the carrots were subject to cracking), and with celeriac that, again, I think of as a spring-planted, fall-harvested crop, but is ready to come out now (and will have to, to make room for a new row of beets).

Our Charentais and Asian melons did not like the rain; they prefer to be carefully irrigated while the vines are growing and then remain fairly dry while the fruit is forming, and what happened instead was powdery mildew, one watery-fleshed melon and total disaster. But the watermelons are coming along well.

And while most of our squash plants are dead despite every precaution in the book, the long-vined Tromboncino plants are still going strong (they resist vine borers and diseases) and producing lots of fruit, which some MGs decided to wear as a fashion statement last week:

photo by Robin Ritterhoff
Let me just add as a final note that this coming weekend the Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival is on in Charlottesville, VA; I'll be there, enjoying talks about tomatoes and compost, and if you haven't yet made plans for Saturday it's very much worth attending. I hope it doesn't rain. :)

4 comments:

  1. A reliable squash and fun fashion accessory!
    I wish I was going to Monticello. I have a copy of Peter Hatch's book "A Rich Spot of Earth" about Jefferson's vegetable garden and highly recommend it.

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    1. Two years ago I took his tour of the vegetable garden, as well as Pat Brodowski's, both wonderful.

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  2. I was there the day before and after last year's derecho. Took the garden tour and slave tour which were both excellent. The garden tour was led by Gabriele Rausse, Director of Gardens and Grounds and local winery owner. I tried to get in touch beforehand with Pat but was unsuccessful so please say hello for me if you see her.

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  3. I am jealous!!! I am toying with the idea of going, but from my house it is a nearly 4 hour drive. Not sure what to do, I really want to go, but that is a lot of driving in one day. Just for comparison: it takes less time to drive to NYC.

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