August 12, 2012


Peas and Potatoes in July

Well, its already mid August and I haven't given a garden update since sometime in May!

The spring rains went quite late into June which gave the soil a good boost in soil moisture. Except for one weekend in early July and another bout in early August, we have had very few days with temperatures over 90. The plants generally like this and so does the gardener!

The primary shift in growing strategy for the annuals this season was planting most of the crops all at once as opposed to successive plantings. The primary advantage to successive planting for the home gardener is a steady harvest of peas or carrots or lettuce throughout the season. While this strategy works wonderfully in many climates, here on the dry side of the Cascades this strategy translates into a water-intensive strategy. For the further you extend plantings into June and July the more young plants need to be nursed along with irrigation instead of relying on natural soil moisture from the spring rains.

Mangel Beets (back) and Sugar Beets (up front). Its easier to tell the difference once they are harvested :)
Planting all the carrots, for example, in April means investing less water, energy and time as well as higher rates of germination and survival. The only potential downside is that the harvest is not as continuous through the season, but since spring crops like beets and carrots can be harvested at many stages of their growth, the single planting only really impacts the duration of pea and bean harvest.

The other change I made this year was to drip irrigate with only 1 1/4" PVC pipe. In previous years I had tried various black plastic irrigation tubing, but found that they too easily clogged with particulate matter from the liquid fertilizer (aka duck pond water) that we use to water the garden. The PVC remains clear, and therefor actually watering the plants, with far greater reliability. This shift has notably reduced time and energy spent watering and making sure all the plants were getting water.

I am really rather pleased with how the carrots, sugar beets and mangel beets are producing. The pea crop was large enough that enough made it out of the garden and into the kitchen and even into the freezer.

I am also pleased that the effects of general soil improvement combined with a rather "hands-off" gardening technique have enabled several annuals to seed themselves. Chamomile, arugula, spinach and cilantro are examples of crops that have started to propagate themselves, which of course means more abundance without any more work on my part. While this is common in moister climates, I had been doubtful that this would be possible with our dry Mediterranean climate. But I welcome the surprise.