by David Hinks
Last week we were starting to see the results of more than two weeks of very hot weather with virtually no rain. Vegetable gardens were dry and lawns were starting to show signs of stress. Lawn sprinklers were becoming a common sight. However this changed drastically on Friday afternoon with thunderstorms that brought up to 40mm of rain to the region. As one of those foolhardy enough to attend the Almonte fair on Friday afternoon (with a grandson who wanted to stay for ‘just one more ride’), I can attest that the rain was heavy and came in wave after wave that never seemed to stop.
While the precipitation was welcome, the problem with such a downpour is that much of the water will not be absorbed into the soil but will instead run off of lawns and gardens into the street and then into water courses. My preference would have been for a slower, steadier all-day soaking but then again no one was asking me. With this kind of heavy rain, the benefit of proper soil preparation with lots of organic matter (compost) added is apparent. The improved structure of the soil allows it to hold much more water as it will resemble a sponge. Surface soil that is loose or friable will prevent run-off in a heavy rain and absorb more water. As well a substantial layer of mulch will absorb the rain.
It appears to be a bumper year for onions and garlic as they appreciated the cooler moist conditions of June. While it is probably three weeks before I will harvest my garlic I was curious to see what was going on down there. As the following photo shows there appear to be really large bulbs this year. This variety is called Music and is one of the more commonly available varieties available at local Farmers’ Markets and the Garlic Festivals in Carp and Perth. I have always had great success with this variety. While garlic that is pulled early will not store well, it is certainly a fantastic treat if you plan to use it right away.
The cooking onions that were grown from onion sets are doing exceptionally well this year as the following photo demonstrates. I would not ordinarily harvest them at this stage if I planned on storing them but they are certainly ready for immediate use. I will wait to harvest the bed of onions until the tops are mostly dead and the skin has gotten tougher. I will then lay them in the sun to dry for several days. This is probably three to four weeks away.
One of the tastiest early crops is potatoes. The tops on my bed of Irish Cobblers, a very early potato, were mostly dead. While I had planted these the last week of April, they had taken a long time to emerge so I’m not sure if they had reached full maturity or if unrelenting attack by potato beetles had caused their early demise. Nonetheless I dug a few hills as shown in the following photo. While this is not a huge harvest, I am happy with the results particularly as I was growing these for the earliness of the harvest and immediate use – not for winter storage.
The bush beans that were planted May 19 are loaded with beans and will be ready to pick in a day or so as shown in the following photo. The seed catalogue indicated that this variety, Oceanis, would produce a crop in 53 days from seeding. In my case it will actually take more like 65 days. Should I sue them? In my case the beans were slow to germinate because of cool soil and growth, I believe, was slowed down by a cool June. In any event, the seed company notes that results will vary with weather conditions. The lesson to be learned is that we can do all the calculations we like and plan our first, second and third crops, but we do not have the power to control nature. Oceanis is a French filet bean which is harvested at a thin ¼ inch size. I find that they have a stronger, more appealing flavour than the standard American beans.
If you’re in the neighbourhood of the Mills Community Support office on Industrial Drive in Almonte drop in and check out the raised Neighbourhood Tomato growing boxes.
As the following photo shows, the potatoes are growing tall and proud with nary a potato beetle in sight. How can this be? The good news is that the larvae of the potato beetle do not travel and the adult appears to have limited flying ability particularly when they first emerge from the soil in the spring. So if you are growing potatoes in an area where potatoes have not been grown recently and you are far from the nearest grower you may escape from this scourge. Of interest, there are no potato beetles in Great Britain and something akin to a national emergency is declared if any should happen to drift over from the continent on a strong breeze.
However the raised beds have much larger predators to contend with. As the following photo shows, white-tail deer have been feasting on many of the plants including tomatoes and zucchini. White plastic bags which are meant to replicate the warning white-tail of the deer have proven ineffective. What we are trying this week is a commercial deterrent that I have found effective in the past. Its ingredients include putrescent egg solids and garlic. It comes in concentrated form and I have to stifle my gag reflex when I am diluting it and mixing it up. I sprinkled it on the ground surrounding the raised beds rather than directly on the plants. The recommended application is once a week for two weeks and then monthly thereafter. I find the scent unnoticeable after a couple of hours but apparently this is not the case for deer. I will keep you posted on the success of this approach.
Come and see the Augusta Park and CommunityGarden Wednesdays in July. There is musical entertainment this week featuring Barry Buse and Redneck Limousine. This Wednesday there will be a potluck dinner starting at 6.