Jun 25 2015

A July Garden in June

Given the heat of 2015, our yard and garden is rapidly approaching end of July appearances, for better and for worse.

First, the “for better”. Everything, when given enough water, is blooming, lush, vibrant, and tall. The dozens of tomato plants are all flowering, some have green fruit, and we’re anticipating (barring unforeseen disasters) a tomato crop that could rival a small farm’s (a very small farm!). The peppers aren’t that far behind, and lately, after a quiet month in the ground, all of the basil transplants seem to be doubling in size daily.

The most noticeable growth is on the front yard’s scarlet runner beans. I planted these last year and loved them for their verticality and density, as well as the amazing array of colorful flowers. In fact, many people use this variety of beans for a privacy screen on porches and decks. In the front yard, I’m attempting something similar. We live a house down from a pretty busy road, and though we’ve worked to create a vegetative oasis in our yard, we can’t stop traffic noise or car sightings. But I hope that for a few months this summer, we’ll be able to buffer ourselves with these beans. It’s a large wish to pin onto one crop, but so far these beans appear up (quite literally!) to the challenge. I enjoy going outside each morning and seeing the new leaves and buds.

Also in the “for better” column are how happy and productive the various bees in our yard act. I planted bee’s friend flower and I’ve since joked to Justin that while these plants are certainly a friend to bees, the plants have grown so much, and are such a popular destination for said bees (bees are literally around them from 7 in the morning to 8 at night), that the plants aren’t much of a friend to me. Anytime I get close to the other plants nearby, like tomatoes I need to prune or lettuce I need to harvest, I’m met with agitated buzzing. Clearly, I need to venture out with a headlamp while it’s still dark to perform gardening tasks anywhere near the two raised beds with the bees’ friends!

We’ve done some minor plant rotations so far. I pulled out the last of the lettuce in one of the front beds and replaced the back of that bed with bush beans and the front with a second sowing of cauliflower. I harvested beets – our favorite and most beautiful crop to date! – and replaced that area with lettuce. In the back side beds, I dug around for potatoes and then replaced that section with more cauliflower and calendula starts (yet another flower that has exploded in the garden). Last year we spent most of our summer hauling loads of debris from the backyard. This year, instead of a debris pile, we have a wildflower patch that’s insanely gorgeous – even though it’s mostly green stalks and stems right now. (We’ve cycled through Chinese Forget Me Nots, Scarlett Sage is blooming, and the best is yet to come: nasturtiums, lupines, and coneflowers.)

As far as “for worse”, it’s mostly a constant struggle against the heat, especially with temperatures continuing to rise. We switched our irrigation to turn on twice a day for a shorter amount of time each cycle, in an effort to help the plants with a nighttime “bath” too. We drained our rain barrel weeks ago, but attempt to be efficient with watering the backyard containers and front yard perennial bed.

Perhaps the single most horrific thing in the garden thus far happened in late May. I had started two sunflower plants really early in the season, and the sunflowers were tall and literally hours away from initiating their final nod to the sun. The squirrels had other ideas, though. We didn’t see the action, but we had to clean up the results: they’d scaled each sunflower stalk and snapped both in half. Both! I was shocked that they didn’t just scale one, snap it, and run away. I’ve replaced those dead flowers with three new seedlings that are around four weeks away from blooming. We have nets around the seedlings, and hope that it won’t happen again.

I’m curious to interact with the garden during these anticipated hot months. Everything is so far ahead of a predictable schedule that it’s hard to know what a late August garden will look like: will there be anything left in bloom?