Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Garden therapy - A backyard garden update (August)

This is my very first summer garden. Yeah, can you believe I started that first 4x4 garden last October? Now we're up to 250 square feet!

As you can probably guess, summer gardens in Texas can be tricky. When others' tomatoes are starting to ripen, we're completely out of season. In fact, I tried to do some planting in the weeks before I went on holiday and just about everything died. It's just too darn hot.

Of course, other things are flourishing like weeds - the sweet potatoes, the greens (which are more of a cool weather veggie), and the lambs-quarter are all out of control (the lambs-quarter you can see in the above photo, way at the back. It looks like a big bush). And although I lost three of my 8 indeterminate tomato plants, the other 5 (having been cut back in early July) are now growing again and even blooming (although no fruit will set in this heat). Even the gogi berries are looking beautiful, although we've lost all but one of the apple trees.

Obviously, with it still so hot and no hope of it letting up for at least another month, I won't be planting for the fall until September. But we still have plenty of goodies to show off in the meantime.

Bed 1: Nothing but the sage and the lambs-quarter were doing well, so I ripped everything else out and am waiting for fall planting (probably green beans, cucumber, and spaghetti squash). But the plants there are still doing well. The sage, I've been harvesting and drying in the dehydrator for hot tea this winter. The lambs-quarter, I'm eating up as fast as I can. Anyone want some? I have plenty to share...

Bed 2: I've already pulled out the 3 determinant tomato plants who have run their cycle. I cut all the indeterminants back in July and as you can see, I lost 3 of them but the other 5 are beautiful! The green peppers in the front two rows are starting to grow up nicely and I'm planning on adding some "mexican heather" to this bed. We're desperate for bees (I think that's why the peppers didn't produce and the cucumbers produced poorly this spring) and the heather is supposed to be great for this climate, do well year-round, and are a great bee-attracter. Sold!

Beds 3 and 4: Of course these are our sweet potato beds. Looking healthy, no? At least we know they grow well in the summer. I just hope the potatoes are as healthy down in that soil as the leaves up top. If so, we're in for a wonderful winter of potato goodness - fried sweet potatoes, sweet potato pie...

Bed 5: I tried to put in green beans over the last month, but everything just dies. The sun and heat are charring them, no matter how much we water, so we've given up for now. But still alive and well are the green peppers (they're wonderfully healthy, but I sorely need some pollination), chard, basil, and green onions. (that's bed 5 in the foreground of the very first photo, up top).

Bed 6: Again, I was trying to grown green beans and black beans in this bed, but just like Bed 5, everything gets burnt by the sun. Maybe next month. In the meantime, I still have half the bed full of chard and collards. I just can't seem to eat this stuff fast enough. Anyone want to offer to help? I've tried the neighbors, but they aren't chard fans.

The Orchard: My poor orchard. Three of the four apple trees haven't made it, but I think we've learned a few lessons along the way and when the supplier replaces them next spring, I have no doubt they'll do better. In the meantime, we have a few bare spots where the trees were. The gogi berries, though, are doing wonderfully and I was happy to see, when I returned from vacation, that they had doubled in size. That just HAS to be a good sign, right?

Pshew! I have a lot of work ahead of me come September when I'll try to plant all those empty spaces in the garden, and a lot of eating to get done on the veggies that are flourishing now. Hope you're having luck in your gardens, wherever you may be. It's been a tough summer, but there's still nothing like heading out back to select the ingredients for a meal.

What are you growing this summer? Is the weather cooperating in your neck of the woods?


Beany said...

Wait...was I mistaken? I thought there was a flood in your general area when you were in CA. And your plants still died?

Although it is no where close to a 100 degrees, my tomato plants are getting fried. Leaves are just roasting and dropping like dead flies. I'm going to be a farmers market visitor for a long while

Heather @ SGF said...

Beany - some of the plants are doing great, others just couldn't take the heat. Water or no, 6 weeks of 100+ degree weather is burning the heck outta things. :(

Nick said...

I found this info on tips for drying herbs . It seems alike a good primer on how to get started.

There is also some interesting info on how to dry herbs to make tea . Are you sure about that sage tea idea?

Heather @ SGF said...

Nick - Thanks for the links! I usually use a dehydrator to dry the herbs since I have it, but I've heard people have good results just hanging them up to dry.

What question do you have about the sage? I steep some in hot water all the time for tea and love it. It the sage alone is unpleasant, you can do half mint, half sage. VERY good!