State of the garden July ’10

Garden July 4, 2010Well, it’s July 4th and the garden is chugging along. Rain has been plentiful, but not threatening to swamp us; weather has had some pretty hot, some kind of cool, but a lot of 80-degrees and sunny. So, can’t complain about the weather so far this year.

The usual suspects – kale, potatoes, peas, and beans – are doing well. It was a decent year for strawberries, though we need to tear it all out to get the grass out of the bed. The Other usual suspects – carrots, parsnips, beets – are giving me the usual amount of trouble and promising their usual mediocre yields. The tomatoes are doing FAR better this year than last. We didn’t get blight last year, but the tomatoes didn’t really grow, either. This year’s ‘maters are huge and robust so far, setting fruit and flowers, though nothing is approaching ripe yet.

In a pleasant surprise, I had a very nice crop of turnips (greens and roots) with no sign of root maggot this year. Let’s hear it for floating row cover!

Cabbage starting to headAlso growing my first cabbage this year. The stuff out in the open (and in the bed with the slugs) isn’t doing so hot, but the stuff in the screen house is starting to head up. It’s so cute!

I’ve had some annoying surprises, though. The Purple Peacock broccoli that was so wonderful last year was just pathetic this year. The Happy Rich broccolini that wouldn’t quit last year…quit. I ripped out eight or ten plants of the two and planted rutabagas, because the rutabagas also are doing very poorly this year. A large part of this is due to slugs and earwigs (I think), both of which came in on the straw I used to lightly mulch the seeds. Never used overwintered straw (a.k.a. “slug nursery”) for anything but compost.ย  Duh.

Yellow beans and cornThe other curiosity is my three sisters garden. Everything is yellow, and I’m not sure why. My best guess is lack of nitrogen. This garden is just sheet mulched- sod + cardboard + 12″ composted horse manure. The horses were bedded on wood shavings, not straw. So I’m thinking the wood is binding up the nitrogen.I also didn’t inoculate the beans, so they’re suffocating and also not fixing nitrogen for the corn.I just hope it’s not some weird de-worming chemical or something from the horses that’s “poisoned” this batch of dirt.

I did some remedial inoculation today, along with adding some blood meal and greensand; we’ll see if that helps at all. I don’t usually plant a bed the same season that bed was built, but this was pretty well composted so I thought what the heck. I hope next year it will be better once the worms have had a chance to work their magic and mix the compost and clayey subsoil some more.

If anyone has ideas, I’d love to hear them…

And finally…WHO ATE MY WHEAT?? I went out today to see if it was ready to harvest and found nothing but stubble!

Wheat stubble

There will be posts later this week about baby trees and my first permaculture “guildlet.”

Published by Emily

I'm an instructional designer and gardener based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Free moments find me in my garden or the forest, hugging trees and all that jazz.

14 thoughts on “State of the garden July ’10

  1. Well, that’s interesting — I started new garden beds this year with composted horse manure/stable bedding (pine shavings), and my beans are not doing much either. I think you’re right about the nitrogen being bound up. Looking forward to a better bean crop next year.

  2. Deer, man. It’s ALWAYS deer. (Well, at least it is around here….)

    I haven’t gotten nearly so heavily into vegetable gardening as I have plants, but I’m eager to see how your guild comes out–it’s one thing I’d try, except that I don’t really like squash (except as an art subject!)

    1. Squashless guilds are prefectly legal. ๐Ÿ™‚ Or perhaps your guild should center around a giant, multicolored metal squash…

  3. My beans are not up at all. No horse manure or anything exotic.

    It has not bean a good season.

    I applaude the way you keep up your blog reports. An example to us all.

    1. I’m sorry you’re in the same boat, though it is a bit of a relief to hear others are having a bad bean year! It seems one or two crops fair each year…and it’s a different crop each year. Last year it was tomatoes…this year beans and rutabagas…

    1. There are tons of people selling straw on Craigslist for under $3/bale, and they’ll often deliver. I used it for paths one year, and the straw was fine. Degraded by fall and added organic matter…though it started to get expensive. Now that all my beds are raised, the paths are either stone (my favorite) or sod (lots of weed whipping). If using straw for paths, lay it down in “flakes” or it’ll disappear very fast. These days, I only use straw to mulch the potatoes…trying to reduce my inputs as much as possible.

      1. Hmm, perhaps I’ll try a season of leaving the path rows turf and mow them for green material for the compost pile. See how that works out and whether the paths hold up to the concentrated walking. Regarding spuds, do you bother hilling them or when planting them jeavons style spacing does it block out enough light to prevent greening?

          1. At the end of the season, I’ll add some combination of greensand, bone meal, and compost. I determine amounts “by feel.” The beds that were built from pure horse manure (not really recommended, but cheap and easy!) need the most minerals. Beds that have actual dirt get their minerals from the dirt.

        1. Turf paths will hold up to walking just fine – see the top picture (those are my oldest beds, 8 yrs old – they get mowed along with the lawn). If you are putting boards around your beds, you should keep the grass from encroaching into your growing soil. Though it may infiltrate at the corners a bit.

          I plant potatoes as deep as my hand trowel (8″?). For spacing discussion, see

          After planting the potatoes, I water thoroughly, then lay flakes of straw over the whole bed like floor tiles. This mulches them about 4″ deep. The potatoes grow right through the straw, but the weeds are essentially blocked out.

          If we have a normal rainfall year, I won’t do anything to this bed – not even water it – until I harvest the potatoes. This usually yields 1-1.5 lb per square foot.

          1. Wow, that really is a minimal amount of work! I’ll be planting out 300 squares of potatoes this year. This will be the crop I really am after. All the rest will just make the yard look pretty and give me something to do. Hah. Side Dish for the potatoes perhaps? I hope I can manage something close to those yields first year out the gate. I guess half of that wouldn’t be a total bust either….

            Do you find your Kale isn’t bitter like store boughts?

          2. I work 40 hours a week and teach cooking and food preservation classes on the side. I just don’t have time to fiddle with the small stuff. Heck, last year, I didn’t even grow tomatoes – instead, I bought/bartered for boxes of them on the days I wanted to can! It worked out well. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve even reduced the size of the garden some. I still grow to give a lot of potatoes and squash to Food Gatherers, but if I have to downsize the garden (when we move in the spring), I could grow all our veg (except carrots and cabbage) for 2 adults in about 600 sf, I think. And that includes 1/3 of the garden in legumes at all times as a cover/compost/feeder crop.

            Homegrown kale is a dream! Not bitter, not tough. It needs protection from the bugs (Want to buy my screen houses? ) but between fresh, greenhouse, and frozen, we almost never buy any from the store. And don’t believe what they tell you about needing to pull it out and replant in the fall. Planting in late April or early May, those plant will be good until December. (If you want to overwinter, you’ll have better luck with fall-planted plants, though.)

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