An Update on Our Backyard Garden
We added a new banner to the blog this week, inspired by the sudden abundance of tomatoes. (If you're reading this via RSS or email, come check it out!) We wish we could say that we were inspired 100% by the tomatoes in our own garden, but sadly, that's not the case.
We were on vacation last week, taking some time away from the city. Luckily for us, we happened to pick a week when D.C.'s summer weather was at its craziest -- huge storms that resulted in power losses for millions of people in the area, coupled with oppressive heat in excess of 105 degrees. Before we left, we made sure the garden was all taken care of: the timer were set, the water pressure was at the right level, and on and on and on.
While we were away on our blissful beach vacation, we frequently thought about the garden. "Do you think we have ripe tomatoes?" "Do you think the storms hurt the plants?" "Gee, I'm glad not to be out sweating in the garden right now." You get the picture. Once we got home, we were eager to rush out and see what had happened.
This is what we saw:
There's a lot going on in that photo, so let us explain what you're seeing:
Many of the tomato plants, formerly secured with little straps to the poles, have fallen. As the ground softened with a lot of water, the poles holding the tomatoes have fallen over. Not a big deal. They can be resecured.
In the course of one week left untended, things have gotten very overgrown. There are a ton of weeds. That squash plant in the front right is completely out of control (more on him in a moment).
It's not, at first glance, a terrible state for the garden.
But then later, we happened to glance out the window at the time that the soaker hose activates. When it does, twice a day, the garden gets several minutes of prolonged water. Even from the distance of our kitchen window, we could see a huge problem. In the front raised box, water was absolutely gushing. It looked something like this. It was such a surge of water that it had actually created a deep rut in the middle of the bed. (It was so deep, in fact, that we'd initially thought someone had been digging in our garden while we were out of town. Spoiler alert: There's no buried treasure in our garden. Unless you consider compost treasure.)
So the front box was getting completely flooded and overwatered. Meanwhile, the back box was barely getting any water. The problem? We think an animal bit through our soaker hose. For now, we've tried to remedy the situation with duct tape (that's how you know we're professional farmers!) and we're watching closely to see if it holds.
Our chewed-up hose caused a few problems. For one thing, the larger varieties of tomatoes, which were thriving when we left, are now really struggling.
Prepare yourself for a very graphic tomato photo (we apologize in advance).
Ants going to town on our tomatoes.
The larger tomatoes all have holes in their sides. Some of those are under attack from ants. We used Texas A&M's excellent Disorders of Ripe Tomato Fruits website to try to figure out what we have. Perhaps it's Black Mold? Or perhaps just some sort of blight? We're cutting away the diseased fruit, snipping off any dead leaves and stems, getting the water back under control and then just going from there. Maybe they'll bounce back. Maybe.
Meanwhile, the smaller varitety tomatoes are stil chugging along. They're not as productive as when we left for vacation, but they're doing okay.
Although we harvested a ton of carrots for the Moroccan Carrot Salad with Spicy Lemon Dressing we posted about earlier this week, we still have plenty left in our garden. As we need them, we've been pulling them. Our carrots taste great, but they're not nearly as big as they should be. We intentionally bought a shorter variety, but they haven't all fattened up as much as they should have at this point, even though it's well past time to harvest them.
Additional basil plants (and a watermelon plant) have taken the place of the carrots that have been pulled. We're not keen on immediately replanting carrots -- we're getting a bunch from our CSA. But we likely will replant carrots by the time August rolls around, just so we have some this fall.
As we mentioned, we planted a squash plant earlier this year. This was an error on our part -- we assumed it only needed 1 square foot. Turns out they need more like 2 or 3 square feet. That thing is huge. Or should we say, was huge. We pulled it this week because it was killing other plants that we actually want (like peppers). Plus, we'll be getting plenty of squash from our CSA.
The first item we've preserved this year is sage. We have a sage plant we bought years ago that's in a window box. It keeps growing bigger and more productive with every year. We decided to harvest most of the leaves and freeze them, so that we have them on hand later this fall when we're needing sage for a recipe. If you have great sage ideas (sage wisdom?), please share them. We still have an abundance on the plant.
So that's July. Let's hope the tomatoes make it until August. But if they don't, there's always the farmers market...