On the Brink of Fall

September 14, 2011


      As wildfires burn to the east and south of us, I think everyone is hoping for the rains to come. The weather has recently shifted from highs in the 90s to highs in the 70s, and there is even a chance of showers forecasted for this weekend. Oh please rain, do come.

Italian Plums almost ripe for the picking

      This late summer heat is indeed taking its toll on the plant life. At this point in the season, any residual moisture from the snow melt and the spring rains has dried up and every ounce of water available to the plants is what we give them. In early August we lost all the water out of the our main tank. It's the overflow from this main tank that feeds the holding tank for the irrigation water, so while we did not lose our immediate source for irrigation, it did take almost two weeks to refill the main tank to the point of overflow. The result was that we had to ration the water for the gardens and trees.


      The annual gardens are lowest on the priority list for water. Behind human, animal and perennial food bearing plants. We live in a seasonal desert and so it is understood at the beginning of each planting season, that, if for whatever reason, we are low on water, there is a bit of triage that needs to happen. We save what we can, but ultimately some things might need to be lost. It is sad, but a reality that we face--and an impetus to continue to find and grow food producing plants that require minimal water. While the loss from the main tank did make us scramble for extra water, fortunately we only really had to sacrifice the plants in the beneficial flower bed. Most of these however, were still able to go to seed and so I am hopeful that they will still grow back come the spring.

Volunteer Chammomile - great for sleepy-time teas

      Most everything else made it through. Some crops may not be as productive this year, but we are still bringing in plenty of vegetables in to the kitchen. The green beans and beets, carrots and summer squash have been regular and steady producers.

Hubbard squash growing in with the beets

      The tomato burst has finally come, for which I am grateful as I was concerned cold weather would come before the harvest began. I am pleased to see that the loofah plants are flowering, though they have yet to produce fruit. These heat loving plants were really stunted by the cool spring, but I am hopeful that with all the busy bees we will get some fruit.

Loofah vine spreading out of its tire

      This past week the broom corn shot up its flower heads, also delayed because of the cool weather early in the season.

Broom Corn flowering tops

      At some point mid summer the squirrels took an interest in the broccoli plants, but for a reason unknown to me they decided to leave a few--lucky for us, the most vigorous--and we are still harvesting little broccoli heads on a regular basis.

Cabbage, Broccoli and Tomatoes

      The winter squash and pumpkins are doing fairly well. My suspicion is that the irrigation line has suffered from some clotting from algae from the duck pond. The combination of drip irrigation and "green water" (fertilized water from the duck pond) overall does not work reliably unless the drip holes are regularly (e.g. after every watering) cleaned out. This is unfortunate and the systems deserves some more tinkering. The most ready solution to me is bigger holes in the irrigation lines--but then "drip" might not be the best name for it.

Sugar Pumpkins

      The grape vine gifted to us in the spring has done well for its first year in new soil. It has taken to the trellis-arbor nicely and seems to know that it should grow up and over it. There will be no fruit this year, but that is expected as its move was rather traumatic for it, and perhaps next year we will be able to stand under the arbor and pick hand fulls of deep purple grapes.

Concord grapes climbing up the arbor

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 71