Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Oh Garden Woe...

Oh my! Well Jeremy and I returned from the beach we found our garden ravaged by thunderstorms and rain once again! Ahhhhh! This is the third or fourth time this summer. Our weather here in Charlottesville has been unusually cool and wet for a Virginia summer and the garden has paid for it. The first time this happened we got 5 inches of rain in a little under one week. This caused early tomato blight which we had to treat with a natural fungicide and pruning. Its conservative to say that we freaked out... we were both pretty bummed. If you don't have a garden, tomatoes like sun and heat and watering in moderation. Then it happened again!!! Four more inches of rain in a short period of time!!! We were equally bummed, on both instances we spent two full days in the garden working really hard to re-stake the toppled plants, prune the affected leaves, and clean up the situation. All of this was advanced by the fact that we had put down straw earlier in the summer (thinking it would not rain or be so cool) and that held in the moisture and encouraged the moldy blight. Geez! So we finally had a spell of hot weather, things started to dry up and ripen, and look better. We went to the beach last week... and guess what happened!!! You got it. (we had an awesome time at the beach!) Our plants were toppled, black and blighted, things were straight up rotting on the ground. (insert cuss words here) But there was one difference this morning as we surveyed the damage...We sort of gave up resistance. This is part of being a gardener... the unpredictable, rewarding, frustrating, amazing process of trying to grow food. We have been so lucky in the past years with our gardens here and in Virgina Beach that we sort of forgot that sometimes stuff gets messed up and theres nothing you can do about it but pick up the things that DID ripen and eat them with a grain of salt... literally! So this morning while checking things out we did harvest some amazing things, including: two dead sunflower heads which we are drying for seeds, a bunch of green beans (also reserving some for seeds for next year), some chioggia beets, green peppers, jalepeno peppers, and a variety of heirloom tomatoes (green zebra, mr. stripey, cherokee purple, garden peach, yellow pear, etc.) We also discovered amongst the wreckage that our cantaloupe and newer young tomato plants were doing very well. And our cover crop, german millet, was doing great and is nearly a foot tall now. This whole experience, our summer garden, has been hard and at times really stressful but we have learned a lot about gardening and our particular plot of soil. Our garden soil is very heavy clay - its bright orange! It can get super hard, to the point that when we grow things like radishes and onions they push so hard against the soil that when they get bigger they literally pick themselves! Also, the drainage in certain areas of the plot is not so good. For our fall garden plan we have decided to experiment with some raised beds on top of our garden plot so that we can do things our garden soil would not accomodate, like growing leeks! Our garden at Jeremy's Mom's house is a raised bed and it is doing much better this wet weird summer, mostly because the drainage is good and we worked really hard to make the soil rich. Hopefully this means that we will have a little more control over the fall garden... not accounting for the weather! (nervous laugh here)
Shortly after the second blight episode, we read the news headline about blight messing up farms and gardens all over our country (we posted this link a couple posts back if you want to read it) and felt a sense of solidarity with other east coast gardeners... At least we are lucky enough to live in a temperate area where there is more than one gardening season. So if you have a garden this summer and have had some of the same troubles... keep your heads up!

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