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July 3rd, 2013

Too much rain …

linda_tn … and more in the forecast. When you grow food for a living and the weather is this bad, it sort of throws you.

We had so much spring rain here in Ontario that many things struggled, although it is a little better now. I have had to re-seed lots of crops that succumbed.

Among the varieties I’m trialing for Organic Gardening, the tomatoes, peppers, basil, ground cherries, zinnias, brassicas, and beans are okay. The okra and sweet corn are struggling, and the carrots got washed out. I have had lots of pest problems, particularly flea beetles and leaf miners, but I can’t figure out where the cucumber beetles and squash bugs are. Happy days! All the melons and squash are good too.

The weird weather this year is really making me rethink how I run my business. My CSA started up 3 weeks ago, but some things that should be in the shares now, like beets and spinach, succumbed. The extremes have been too extreme: hot and dry, then cold and wet, then hot and wet. Crops in my hoop houses are thriving—maybe in the future I need to take greater advantage of these spaces where the extremes of weather aren’t as big an issue. It’s a drag to work hard and see things go belly-up. I’m sure you know what I mean.  —Linda Crago, Wellandport, Ontario

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July 6th, 2012

Heat Waves and Hail: Summer in Dallas

leslie_h_tnFor all the weather punishment we’ve been taking down here in Texas for the last 5 years—especially last year—we’re actually getting a much deserved break this year! We had a mild to non-existent winter (which does make the bugs quite happy) and a very, very wet and long spring. Yes, we’ve had a stretch at 106°F already, but it didn’t hit 100° until July 1 here, which is great! Last year we hit 100° by June 1. We don’t know what to think about this kind of mild weather, but after last year we’ll take it!

You may have heard we had a pretty hefty hail storm here in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. Luckily there was little damage at my home. Unfortunately, almost all the plants I put in our display and testing gardens up here at the garden center were completely destroyed by almost softball-sized hail. Who knows what the rest of July and August will hold, but the mild temps and rainfall have so far made for a pretty easy gardening year, all things considered. Not easy to say in Dallas!

Side note: Dallas is under permanent watering restrictions. Twice per week via automated system, but we are allowed to use drip irrigation or hand-water as needed within specific time parameters.

 'Faerie' is a compact hybrid watermelon with a ghostly skin. It's an All-America Selections winner for 2012.

'Faerie' is a compact hybrid watermelon with a ghostly skin. It's an All-America Selections winner for 2012.

I’m particularly in love with this ‘Faerie’ watermelon so far. It’s probably my favorite variety on the trial list right now. Of course, we’ve had such a mild June that who knows what they’ll do in a normal summer. So far, they’ve been very prolific (but I do have beehives and the bees are helping quite a bit). The compact size of the vines is fantastic. I have them growing in my front yard where they are quite the fascination for the neighbors.  And no powdery mildew. I should be harvesting soon—I hope the flavor is just as good as all the other characteristics!  —Leslie Halleck, Dallas, Texas

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August 12th, 2011

A Bouquet of Summer Flowers

gaillardiaI’ve decided there is no such thing as a normal growing season. At least something in the garden does well, no matter what the conditions. But it’s been a tough season for our Minnesota gardens. This year we had a cold, very wet spring that made planting difficult. For the first time ever, we planted some of the early salad crops without working the soil first. If we had waited until the soil was dry enough to till, it would have delayed planting by another month!

Not wanting to upset those of you in the South, I’ll say only very quietly that we are more than 4 inches over normal rainfall for the year. We’ve certainly had ample rain, but the cold was a problem early, followed by unbelievable humidity once it warmed up in July. Of course the humidity and rainfall have contributed to a bounty of fungal diseases. My tomatoes are now around 7 feet tall, but the bottom half of the plants are denuded of leaves from fungal leaf spots of one kind or another. But, hey, it’s a lot easier to find the tomatoes when you don’t have to dig through a riot of leaves.

salviaIt seems like a good time to report on three of the trial flowers we’re growing this year. Gaillardia ‘Arizona Apricot’ (top), which won an All-America Selections award this year, is a very nice gaillardia that has bloomed non-stop since early June. The color is a bit more yellow than apricot, but certainly a different shade than the older ‘Mesa Yellow’ from a couple years ago.

scabiosaSalvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’ (left)—another All-American—is identical to the older salvia ‘Lady in Red’, only much smaller. I like the more compact form, but the taller ‘Lady’ works better when intermingled in a perennial border.

Scabiosa ‘Black Knight’ (right)—beautiful! The flowers of this heirloom annual draw comments from everyone who sees them. —Jackie Smith, Belle Plaine, Minnesota

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