Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Too Hot for Vegetable Gardening

Here's my harvest of the last couple of days. I am very thankful for ANYTHING. Yesterday, Dallas/Fort Worth reached the 100 degrees F mark for the first time.

We have been having unusually hot weather since before Memorial Day. Normally, the high in early June is around 90 or 91. Also, there is no rain in sight.

Very soon after the heat set in, the lettuce and spinach got bitter. I had to give up on both.

My cucumbers seem to be hanging on nicely, the peppers as well, and I got a few tomatoes. For the tomatoes, though, when the really hot weather hit, they were affected badly. When you have over 95 degree days, tomatoes quit setting fruit.

Also, I planted my tomatoes just a little late in the first place.

I do, however, have good tomatoes, even if they're a little pale. I believe that the Celebrity hybrid turned out the best. I like an acid-y, tangy quality in tomato taste, and mine are great.

I'm encouraged to try again in the Fall. The second go-round of tomatoes begins the last week of July. You put out new plants, which grow rapidly in the hot weather. About the time they are ready to set fruit (September), the nighttime temperatures cool off enough that this is possible. At least in theory! You need everything going your way.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

All New Square Foot Gardening: The Book That Started it All

How did I find out about square foot gardening? In a roundabout way.

I was looking at posts on a survivalist web forum, and one of the posters said she never thought she'd have the room on her small property to be a gardener -- then she found square foot gardening.

At this point, I became curious. I didn't have any experience, but gardening in small spaces appealed to me. Mel Bartholomew had a program on Public Television for many years concerning this subject. I wonder how I missed that?

So I went to the bookstore, and found the newest version of Barthomolew's book, All New Square Foot Gardening. It seems that, originally, Mel created a system of intensive gardening, but he incorporated the soil in the boxes with the existing dirt space.

That changed with his most recent system of square foot gardening.

Currently, boxes on the ground have layers of weed blocker under them. The boxes are filled with "Mel's Mix", Mr. Bartholomew's custom soil that you mix yourself using vermiculite, compost, and peat moss. None of your property's soil gets into the soil mix. That's the difference between old and new.

But virtually everything else is the same.

In this 271 page book, you'll learn everything you need to know about the SFG system. The author is thorough, patient, and though he's an engineer by training, he never assumes that you know how to do the simplest things. For instance, he gives you lots of pictures and detailed instructions on how to build your boxes. The thoroughness of his work is impressive here.

When he starts talking about various vegetables, their suitability for the SFG system, and how many squares you should plant to feed two people, he's on less steady ground. These are areas of knowledge you will build over time, based on your own observations, abilities, and the unique climate where you live.

But there is plenty here to inspire the most clueless, dumbfounded, purple-thumbed novice gardener. Some of the things that would frustrate the dickens out of a new gardener don't exist in the square foot gardening system. How beautiful.

After more than a year's experience, I still consult this book frequently. It is a wonderful buy for its price.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

When You Can't Be Organic

This has been a terrible, dreadful year for stuff sprouting up where I don't want it.

When Spring arrived, I started seeing a certain sprout many places -- even in my pond! Eventually, I searched on the web and discovered that these were maple tree seedlings. They're easy to pull up when they're only 5" tall.

The bad part was, I had a few growing among my shrubs and didn't know it. They were already at least 3 feet tall. I could tell that it would be very difficult to dig them up, because they were in some difficult to reach places, or in beds with decorative rocks.

You don't want maple tree seedlings taking hold in your yard. Believe me. You don't want an unplanned tree in a spot where it is likely to spread its roots and do damage.

Nothing against maple trees, of course. The silver maple is very popular here, and I suppose that there might be a Japanese red maple around my area, throwing its seeds into the air.

I determined that the only reasonable thing to do would be to buy some strong Roundup. I haven't used any in years, but Monsanto does have a version that is strong enough to kill poison ivy or shrubs.

I got some, and sprayed it on carefully, taking care not to get it on the other shrubs. I've now got some dead maple trees, although it took about a week to see that they were truly dead.

I'm also having more difficulty with vines that grow in my yard. I've had to dig some of them up in the front yard. They tend to send out horizontal runners, but not too deep. My front yard has a huge live oak, so the grass does not take hold well at all. This gives invasive plants a good foothold.

Once in a while, you have to do something you don't want to. I'm going to tolerate the dichondra which has invaded parts of my lawn, because it's not too objectionable. However, I can't have maple trees coming up on my property.