Dried Out

By Roger Erpleding
Contributing Writer

The hot and dry weather is taking a toll on the garden. As a result, I have several crop failures.

Last Saturday morning I went out to the garden to pull some weeds in the area where I had planted lettuce, spinach and onions. I dug up the onions. Some were soft, all were small. But the small ones that are firm will make good fried onions; or a grilled treat in foil on the charcoal grill. My beet crop was a total failure. Blame it on hot weather, not enough rain in July, and perhaps being planted a little too thickly. They are all pulled up now, and the roots I found weren’t much bigger than a pea.

My second crop of beans is also doing poorly–again blame the heat and the drought. But there is a more important factor here. I could hardly find them among all the weeds. The weed seeds germinated without the benefit of any rain, and got a head start on the beans. The beans that did sprout are spindly and wilty. They may still make it, but now they won’t have to compete with the weeds, for a while anyway. The next time I weed, assuming the beans grow, it will be much easier.

It was time to dig a few potatoes. I started on the north end, near the apricot tree. These are the ones who got sacrificed when we picked apricots on July 2. So I didn’t expect much of a crop. And that was a good thing. Much of the north row was dug, yielding only a few small potatoes. The soil in this area is probably some of the poorest in the garden, and its proximity to a pine tree, lilac bush and the apricot tree didn’t do the soil or the potatoes any favors either.

The tomatoes and peppers are stagnant. Perhaps when it gets a little cooler, and we have some rain, the peppers will set. I hold out no hope for the tomatoes.

However, all is not lost! One of the joys of planting a diverse garden is that something usually does well, despite the weather–cold, hot, dry or wet. And this year is no exception. I planted 4 eggplants in the north-east corner of the west portion of the U-shaped garden. They are healthy, and are setting fruit. The skins feel smooth and glossy. I’ll wait a week, and if the biggest eggplant has stopped growing, I’ll pick it. Several babies are also set. They like hot and dry weather.

Many were predicting a hot and dry La Nina summer. Several things could have been done to maximize my crop. For example, this would have been the spring to plant Norland potatoes, not LaSoda. LaSoda have a longer season, and although they may yield a better crop, they are not a hot and dry weather crop. The Norland would have been dead by around July 4, as I got them planted April 17. And while we’re talking about potatoes, a healthy flat of sweet potatoes from a local garden center would have also fit the bill this summer. Collards would have also done well. Next year? Well, probably not. This was the hottest July since 1955, and the odds of a repetition are pretty small.

The carrot tops still look green and healthy. I’ll dig a few just to see how they are doing after the next rain. And the potatoes in the interior of the garden, although they are dying rapidly, hold promise to decent production. Again, all is not lost.

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