Sunday, June 23, 2013

June Garden Update

It's about time for another garden update. Things are . . . patchy. Performance in some areas is far better than expected, but other areas are severely underperforming. We'll see what happens.

The biggest change is that our front landscaping finally got done! The towering butterfly bushes of destruction (translation: the branches fall on my car and scratch it up) are gone - instead, we have miniature butterfly bushes and an assortment of other easy-to-care-for flowering shrubs. But at the end of that lovely flagstone cul-de-sac, my friends, is the best part: my new herb garden. Now with full sun.

The herbs have been in their new home for about two weeks now and they're doing beautifully. My thyme is actually beginning to flower, which it never did in its three years in the back. And I'm really enjoying striding out my front door in my apron and waving to the neighbors as I pick herbs for dinner.

In the raised bed in the back, things are looking really great, too. This is surprising, since this is the area I've taken to calling my shade garden. Yet, this year, everything seems to be thriving, especially my tomatoes and cucumbers. If everything finishes as well as it has started, we'll have more cucumbers than we know what to do with. I've had some pest problems in this back bed. I used organic pesticide (mostly rosemary oil) to fend off an invasion of whiteflies on my collard greens and killed two separate waves of caterpillars munching holes through them. The greens looked pretty awful after this treatment, but have since developed new leaves and begun to flourish again. There was also a burgeoning potato aphid infestation on the tomatoes, but some baby praying mantises seem to have taken care of it for me. Go beneficial insects!

The squash patch next to the raised bed is looking great. The two big pumpkin vines had some trouble with mildew, but they seem to have recovered. The yellow summer squash plants are huge and I can't wait until they start producing! I've also acquired two mystery squash plants - they came up on their own at the edge of the patch and I just let them be. By the size and shape, I'm guessing they're acorn or carnival squash.

The mobile raised bed in the driveway has been the biggest disappointment. My peppers refuse to grow (there are seventeen pepper plants in this bed - trust me). I replaced some of my seedlings with Italian frying peppers from the farmer's market, but they're not doing well either. I'm not sure what's up. I'm going to have to test the soil. I'm also planning on planting new things (like carrots) in between the peppers (which I refuse to give up on) to make better use of the space. So far, though, this has been a big bummer.

None of the driveway plants are doing particularly well (except, perhaps, the potatoes in the bucket - they seem to be chugging forward as planned). My best explanation is that they were stunted in that post-Mother's Day frost we had, but I would have expected them to recover by now. Most surprising is that the squash in the GrowBox look absolutely pathetic - they're not dead, but that's all that can be said. It's designed to wick water up from the bottom section to provide plants with even moisture, and yet it has the same problem the rest of the pots do. I'm just scratching my head. At least the middle tomato plant seems to have made some progress recently.

The driveway greens are also a mystery. I planted the same greens in the same pots last year, except they were on the deck. Last year, the spinach did nearly nothing and the chard looked great (although stayed rather small). This year, the chard has barely sprouted and the spinach was small but productive (until it bolted the other day). I've moved the chard pots up to the deck to see if a change in location will help them out a bit.

The peas behind the lilacs are also doing poorly. When I planted them, before all those other plants got big, the spot seemed to get a good amount of sun. Now, not so much. The few peas that have gotten big enough to peek out above that iris are starting to produce, but it will be to hot for them soon. I think that one's going to be filed under the crop failure category.

I'm not sure anything can really be distinguished in this picture: there's a row of carrots at the bottom, some radishes (which refused to develop roots) behind them, and two tomato plants in cages on either side of that post. Those tomato plants look ok - they just need to get a little bigger to escape the crush of other leaves and they will be fine. This has proved to be a great (albeit crowded) spot for tomatoes in the past, so I have high hopes. The front row of carrots also looks promising - no roots yet, but very healthy greens.

The last tomato plant, hiding among the daisies, will also do well as soon as it can outgrow its competitors. The strawberries that are hidden among these did really well this year. The raspberry bush on the other side of this patch is also flourishing. The blackberries, despite having a million blossoms, may not do as well as I thought - the berries are developing really unevenly, so I'm not sure how many we'll really get.

Overall, I've been a bit disappointed but I never lose hope. I'll be testing my soil sometime soon to see if the ph is balanced and I'll be replanting some disappointing areas with fall-bearing crops. I've been heartened by some of the things I've learned, like that arugula does nicely in the shady raised bed and how to effectively deal with several pest infestations. This accumulation of knowledge has to pay off some time, right?

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