Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Transitioning through the Season

This spring/summer growing season has been a mixed bag of victories and defeats. On one hand, I was able to successfully set up and grow a potager garden. (Many thanks to Hubby’s help!) This style of bed allowed me to diversify my crop yield. I was able to get a decent yield of long Japanese eggplant, cucumbers, green beans, beets, sunflowers, five different varieties of peppers, and some very prolific San Marzano sauce tomatoes. My basil suffered however, with a strange brown fungus appearing on the underside of the leaves. I believe I accidently bought diseased plants from the nursery and subsequently spread the disease by placing the plants too close together in the garden beds. Once I realized the problem, I completed a mercy killing of the plants and started fresh with a new set of seedlings from a different nursery.

The potager in transition
Spacing was a big issue this season for the tomatoes. Since I planted them closer together this year, they were more susceptible to each other’s ailments. My squashes spread powdery mildew to the closest set of tomatoes and then the wind and close proximity carried it to the rest. I have to seriously rethink my squash placement next year, or simply not plant it any more. I am too close to the coast for the weather to be hot enough to eliminate mildew on squash.  I have also been experiencing diminished soil fertility. While my San Marzanos were prolific in one part of the potager, my other tomatoes failed to thrive. Blossom drop has been a huge problem. Heavy amending of the soil is in order with focus on introducing lots of natural calcium. I may need to let some beds take a break from tomatoes next year in order to build up the soil, planting nutrient rich cover crops instead.

I am transitioning the garden over to cooler weather crops. If my seedlings are any indication, I just might be successful with a fall garden this year. The kale and Swiss chard have already been planted and the broccoli, cauliflower, lettuces, cabbage, and collards have been started from seed. So far, so good.

Swiss chard 
Kale seedlings in foreground, mature kale in background
My saving grace for the tomato season has been my unruly wild patch of cherry tomatoes. It spring up every year next to my tangerine tree. We used to have our compost heap here, so the soil is very fertile and all the seeds tossed out with the compost the year before have now blossomed into the hardy cherry tomatoes. They do not have the complexity and deep flavor of my heirlooms, but they are sweet and bright and beloved by my co-workers and their children. (I am not a stranger with candy; I’m a stranger with vegetables!) They make wonderful salsa and are the perfect fruit for my favorite salad, panzanella (recipe forthcoming). I need to stop being such a tomato snob. Sometimes the garden gives you awesome heirlooms, sometimes it gives you sweet cherries. Appreciate the fact you got something worth eating from the fruits of your labors. Even with hard work and diligence, the home gardener can end up with zilch. It makes every bounty, expected or not expected, big or small, a blessing from the earth.

The prolific yet neglected cherry tomato patch
The second string heirlooms have been besieged by gophers and plagued by blossom drop.

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