What a welcome relief it was to wake up early Sunday morning to the sound of rain. Many gardeners and farmers had been expressing concern about how dry their gardens are and whether we were heading for a repeat of the drought of 2012. Sufficient water is the single most important ingredient for growing a successful vegetable garden. A minimum of at least an inch of water is required every week for most vegetables whereas average rainfall in Ottawa is about 3 inches a month in the summer and we have had barely one inch in the last five weeks by my records. There can be lengthy periods in mid-summer without rain however it seems to me that a drought early in the growing season is much less common. In 2012 this stretched to eight or more weeks with virtually no rain. It makes me appreciate just how vulnerable we are to the vagaries of the weather gods.
All of a sudden summer is here and my completely unrealistic expectations and plans for gardening are now colliding with the limitations of my energy, budget and the number of hours of daylight in a day. It’s time to step back, say enough and glory in the bounty and beauty that is all around this time of year.
I try to do absolutely all I can do in the fall to prepare my vegetable garden for planting in the spring. There just is not enough time in the spring to do everything that I want to do especially if I want to combine it with another pastime such as birding where the peak migration period is right in the middle of spring gardening season.
It has been great weather for planting the vegetables that like a lot of heat and that are very sensitive to colder temperatures. This week I have planted peppers, eggplant, basil and sweet potatoes. The pepper in the vegetable bed is a medium size pepper called North Star. The amazing thing about peppers is they are edible at every stage of growth of the pepper. If left on the plant many peppers that we pick as green will eventually turn red.
The Sweet Potatoes are planted about two feet apart on a raised bed staggered on the bed. Once I’m able to get another bale of straw I will cover the whole bed with straw. This prevents the vines from rooting at every node (where the leaves join the stem). The objective is a central group of large tubers rather than pencil-thin tubers at every node.
I have been inspecting my potatoes very carefully for any sign of the dreaded Colorado potato beetle. The adult beetle overwinters in the soil and emerges early in the spring looking for potatoes or its relative eggplant. However it is not going to eat the plants. They will mate and lay their eggs on the underside of the potato plant leaves. When the eggs hatch the pupae are voracious and can strip the leaves off a plant in short order. The easiest stage at which to eliminate the pest is when the adults are first spotted. I hand-pick them and toss them into a bucket of soapy water. It is also worthwhile to flip over the leaves to see if any of the yellow eggs have been laid. These can easily be squished. I find that I have the most success when I patrol the potato patch every few days to check for the adults and the eggs. The pupae are small and extremely numerous and by far the hardest stage at which to kill the pest.