Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Midsummer Garden

Its August, the heat is on high...  Time to protect the plants from drought conditions.  Over the past few weeks I have been clearing out the weeds, and mulching extensively.  Fruit producing plants need a stable water routine to develop their fruits, and yes this includes Chiles, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and anything else you might want to eat.
For instance Napa Valley, California has a very stable climate.  Frequent rain, and no freezing conditions make it ideal for food production.  Texas on the other hand had wild temperature swings from freezing conditions to blazing hot summers.  Plants here need extra protection to make it through the summer.
Strategically place trees can shield the garden from the relentless afternoon Sun.  Mulching helps hold the water in the soil, and make infrequent watering more effective.  Water conservation is important.  It would be best to only water with garden with rain water, but in the Summer we have to resort to using city water.
A thick layer of mulch surrounding the plants can help the soil retain any water it gets.  The mulch I am using this year is compost from lawn clippings, leaves, and expired garden plants, but not weeds.  I planted these Brussels Sprouts in April, and they are starting to produce sprouts, some up to an inch long.
Feeding the Plants in the heat is important also.  You have to remember that they are growing rapidly now, in the heat, and fruiting, and they need an extra nutritional kick.  I found some organic fertilizer at the Home Labyrinth store, surprising, and some Fish fertilizer. The Organic stuff you sprinkle around where you need it.  While I apply the Fish fertilizer with the Liquid fertilizer sprayer.  My garden smells great now...
I have a hugh amount of compost, so everything gets a thick layer of mulch.  The Chiles plants are especially moody when it comes to water.  In the really hot Sun their leaves will droop, as though they are water starved, but when shade arrives, they quickly come back.  Some say that the Summer Sun is what gives the Chiles their heat.  Some Chiles won't produce fruit if they don't get hot enough, like Habaneros don't even start to grow significantly until it gets to the upper 90's.  In the above picture the Habaneros are the middle row, while the Bhut Jolokia, Cayenne, and Serranos are all much larger around them.
Usually my Spring Tomatoes don't last past July.  They get all dried out, and die off in the heat.  This year I let the Tomatoes sprawl on the ground, no cages.  This location started with thick mulch, and it has protected the Tomatoes well.  Here it is, middle of August, and my spring Tomatoes are still going.  They won't fruit again until the weather cools off, but I think they will fruit again because they are still vibrant, and doing well in the heat.
I have harvested quite a few Cabbages from the Cabbage patch.  I've learned that you can cut the Cabbage off the root, rather than pull the root, and the root will grow another Cabbage, sometimes many.  There is one on the lower right.  There is another stem, freshly cut, just to the left.
Here is where the mulch is coming from, the compost heap.  I recently broke down the old compost heaps, and mixed them with the newer compost.  Then spread the mixture over the entire composting area.  This give the mass a larger surface area, for more Sunlight exposure, plus I can mix it easier.  When I get tense, and need to fork something up, I can go to my compost area, and fork up the compost, LOL!  There are stages to the compost from dried clippings, to partially composted, and then fully composted where the stuff breaks down into dirt.  The dirt that accumulates at the bottom of the compost heap is organic gold, use it where you have plants that need an extra kick...

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