Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Three W's

Asparagus Yard-Long Beans 
It's about 5 p.m. on a Thursday as I sit here and write this. I've got an iced coffee, some water, and my arms and neck are caked in dirt. I haven't showered yet after a day in the garden; I figured I would try and get ya'll an update of how things are going. We've been hot and humid just about every day of July. There have been a few days that brought pop-up thunderstorms in the area, but none directly overhead. Only one day has yielded rain in the past two weeks, and we only got a quarter of an inch that day. But some spectacular lightning. The clouds have been spectacular, as well... those dramatic Midwest thunderheads towering over the green and rather flat landscape. Alas, little rain. There are chances for rain over the next two days, and I really hope we get a good soaking. Earlier this summer I worried about weeds getting the advantage in the rain. But really, this dry weather has been a boon for the crabgrass and the morning glories. Although I love a blue morning glory flower, I hate finding a pepper or tomato plant being strangled by their vines...

Borage, up close & personal
Most every day over the past few weeks has been spent immersed in the Three W's: Weeds, Water & Worms. Weeding in this garden could be a 24/7 job. Since I can't work 24 hours a day, especially when the heat index is 105 or higher, the weeds are definitely getting the upper hand. Today, for example, I weeded six beds rather thoroughly. Pulling up crabgrass by the roots, snipping tougher grasses at the ground level, untwining morning glories. Giving tomatoes and peppers and okra a bit of breathing room and more sunlight. Giving them more sunlight, though, means needing to give them more water. As I weed, I mulch the plants with the weeds I just pulled up (unless it's a morning glory. Those get tossed aside.) And then I water. You may recall that in preparation for the discing that enabled me to plant in the first place, I had to pull out all the old irrigation tubing. I haven't replaced it yet, since the design of the garden is not in long rows. I planted in smallish generally rectangular beds with mixed crops in each. This design has proven to be a nightmare in regards to weeding and watering. For a while, I had been watering with a watering can, figuring that this gets water only on the plants that need it, and not on their leaves to prevent scorching. Last week and the week before, I resorted to watering with a regular sprinkler, not caring about anything more than getting the plants some water. This was when the heat wave was particularly intense. It took five hours to water the entire garden this way. This week, I discovered buckets. I have two large buckets I've been filling with water and lugging to the far-flung reaches of the garden, and then watering heavily and directly, the plants. This is helping the plants by getting them more water than I had been delivering. And it's giving me an awesome upper-body workout! Although I am sore, both the plants and I are benefiting! I have been alternating between watering tomatoes, peppers & okra on one day and squashes, beans and cucumbers the other. Herbs get it every day. This seems to be working. I am hoping to get a good and solid rainfall so I can reset my watering schedule, and instead of watering by type, which leads me all over the garden, I can water one section of the garden daily, regardless of type. This will mean not having to carry water as far. As the buckets fill, I have been getting on my hands and knees and weeding and looking for worms. Over the past few weeks, I have been finding very few tomato hornworms. But the second brood of the season seems to have hatches: over the past two days alone, I have found and killed over two dozen of the fat, green critters. Many of them have been small, but today I killed a couple of particularly large ones. One entire tomato plant has been stripped to its stalks... I am hoping it recovers. But these tomato plants are laden with fruit. I am trying to keep the water even in the hopes of stopping the blossom end-rot I've been seeing on the tomatoes. We've eaten a few of these damaged and doomed tomatoes, and they've been so tasty.
Some curling peppers...
Zinnias adding some color to the garden.

When I haven't been taking care of the three W's, I have been doing a few other things out in the garden: I've been enjoying the quiet. Well, it's not quiet. There are birds and hummingbirds and bees and mosquitoes and cicadas and rabbits and the wind in the grass and the woods lining the garden. On many occasions over the past few weeks, I've been nearly overwhelmed by the absolute bucolic bliss of the garden. I've been harvesting. Blackberries, zucchinis, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, apples, pears, carrots, the last of the lettuce, turnips, potatoes, lemon squash, ronde de nice squash, lemon cucumbers, countless and endless beans, and zinnias. And I've been admiring all the beauty of the garden: the okra plants, especially, with their gorgeous almost-tropical flowers and their snaking fruit. And the huckleberries are ripening and are beautiful. And the zinnias, the marigolds, the petunias and the cosmos. The beautiful borage plants, with their sky-blue teardrop flowers. And I've been selling at the farmers' market. We found out this week that the market is full. Which means for the folks who come on a week-by-week basis, it's first-come-first-serve. Some folks have tomatoes already, but they've either grown them in a hoop house, which is basically covering the plants with a semi-permanent structure directly in the garden, or they've been grown in a greenhouse... everybody else is in the same position: being taunted by the slow ripening tomatoes every day. This past week, I basically sold out of produce by 9 a.m. At that point, Rich & I decided to pack it in and head home to some air-conditioning... Until I headed back out into the humid garden to tackle the Three W's...
Sunflowers against the barn.

Some of the first Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes.
If any of you are in the area and want a little workout, the garden's always open and the weeds seem to always be there for pulling. I'm just saying...


  1. Joe:
    Next season, I will help with your weeding and watering and send you some mulch for your garden.

  2. Any help is welcome, honestly!