August 25, 2009


Tuesday, August 25, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , No comments
We are starting to harvest the tomatoes and zucchini and even a few peppers from the garden already. Earlier this summer the one raspberry cane that survived transplanting and our heavy snow load produced a surprising number of berries and the new canes are already over 7 ft tall. I definitely need to build something to contain them for next summer and maybe prune the excess cane height to a more manageable 6ft. The thornless black berry, which looked so sad last summer, actually survived also and even has some berries coming to maturity right now. I'm glad the blackberry season is 6 weeks after the raspberry season. It makes it more manageable to harvest, eat and store the berries.

I've done little work in the garden during the summer except water and watch the yellow pear tomato plant grow to monstrous proportions. In fact my experiment of staking and tying the tomatoes(instead of using cages) this year - failed. Once the plants started setting fruit the heavy plant just pulled the ties down. I'm sure they would have pulled the flimsy wire cages down too, so next year some sort of wood tomato trellis is in order. I'd really like to build this pretty one that I found directions for, but I couldn't afford the cost, or space to build one for each tomato plant. Maybe someday I'll have one, as an accent, but build a more communal trellis system that can accommodate 6 plants at a time.

I've learned some lessons from our guerrilla garden experiment this year.
1) The hand-me-down tomato trellis has some engineering flaws that will help me build a more successful one next year. The first rung was only an inch or two off the ground so the second rung was too high to tie the plant to until it had already started creeping across the ground horizontally. Even now the tomatoes aren't tall enough to reach the third rung but have already started producing and getting heavy and our of control.
2) If we use the space again next year, I definitely have to use some sort of weed barrier/mulch because even after removing all the weeds when the plants were young, new weeds appeared and the vegetables are all much to large to effectively weed around. Some sort of climbing weed is strangling my eggplants.
3) The sun is great in the vacant lot, but it is hard to water evenly (especially without also watering the weeds). A soaker hose is a definite must next year. I just wasn't prepared this year with the proper materials - because I procrastinated - and the poor watermelon and pumpkin plants are paying for it.

My sister was visiting this week and I got to spend some time with her on Saturday (my only day off from work & the theatre). She gave me two of her handmade glass cloches for the garden because they weren't so effective in her patio garden setup. I have to figure out what I'm going to try them out on next spring. Maybe direct seeded basil? I tried to start basil inside this year, but right after our last frost date we had a week of scorching temperatures and the immature basil seedlings just fried in a day. So if I can get them started a little earlier outside, maybe they'll be stronger when the rouge weather hits.

Katie also asked about growing garlic, specifically how you get the garlic scapes. This year was the first time I've tried both onions and garlic - and both failed. I didn't water consistently, some of the onion starts got mouldy before I got around to planting them, and guess what, you are supposed to plant garlic in the fall! Well I know better this year. I did a little reading about growing garlic and found two great resources for our area (one in Hood River, and the other in Canada). First, I found that only the hardneck varieties of garlic produce garlic scapes. Softneck garlic is the kind you normally find in the grocery store. So if you want garlic scapes, plant the hardneck varieties, plus it allows you access to garlic that is harder to find. I don't know about you, but that is one of the main reasons I grow food. oh, and harvest the scapes when they've made 1-2 complete loops (but before the flower opens).

I pledge to be on top of things this fall and next spring so the new raised beds are built, cover crops are planted and garlic sown.