Sunday, June 28, 2015

Downward Dog Gardening

We have spent a lot of time this week with our butts in the air while weeding this week.  With the ground this damp from incessant rain, it makes more sense (and is easier) to pull a weed and grass clump out of the ground by its roots than to use a hoe, which just mixes the weeds with the mud.  Also, pulling a weed and grass clump out by its roots increases the odds that it will not return.    Granted, we are not keeping most of our weight in our hands when we do this – like the proper yoga pose – but calling it rag doll or forward bend gardening does not seem so catchy.

Because it was supposed to rain all Saturday morning, I headed over to the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden mid-Friday afternoon to conduct our food pantry harvest.  Then, I decided that I wanted to take advantage of the predicted rain by getting the new food pantry plots planted as much as I could.  So, I spread the soil and compost that the OSU Young Scholars had dumped into the plots the prior morning.  I then transplanted some bell pepper seedlings that I had been generously donated by Strader’s Garden Center as well as some tomato seedlings.  Then, I thinned out the cucumbers and winter squash from my plot and transplanted them into the western food pantry plot.  I also transplanted some kale from the original food pantry plot into the center plot.  Finally, I planted several rows of bush green beans in the food pantry plot and a sweet potato in my plot.

With that done, I could harvest some lettuce and berries for our food pantry donation (as well as some sugar snap peas that John left behind).   I took them (and the berries harvested by the OSU Young Scholars and some that I picked on Wednesday evening) to the St. Vincent de Paul pantry late Friday afternoon (well after it started raining).  It was pretty deserted by then.   I was so tired when I left that I forgot to close the trunk of my car and the neighbor girls had to stop me as I turned into the alley.

With all that work being done, I was greatly looking forward to a rainy Saturday
morning so that I could stay home, exercise, practice some proper yoga and clean house.  However, despite all of the predictions of a rainy Saturday, the rain had moved far east by the time I woke up.  So, it was back to the SACG I went.  Having received 1.5 inches of rain the prior evening, I decided to initially focus on things which did not require digging.   It was muddy and chilly, so I wore jeans, a rain jacket and my wellies.  I reinforced the fence and put more books in our free little library.  Then, I liberated our tomato cages from beside the shed and caged the tomatoes in the new food pantry plots and reinforced them with stakes.  I even found a cage for cucumbers. 

Next, I pruned back some of the raspberry brambles in my plot (and behind the
neighbor plot) which were overtaking my potatoes and onions and threatening to re-root deeper into my plot.  I thinned out my kale and swiss chard seedlings and transplanted them to the western food pantry plot and put in a few more tomato seedlings (before donating the my remaining tomato seedlings to the Kimball Farms Community Garden next door).  I liberated a sun flower from the compost bin (where the YS had placed it after inadvertently picking it despite my admonitions) and replanted it back in its spot.  Who knows if it will survive the shock.   I also pulled a few weeds before spending the next hour picking berries.  Neal stopped by to switch out a tomato cage in his plot and I pointed out that he had numerous ripe cucumbers, which he promptly picked.   He mentioned that he had been picking berries in the southeast corner before realizing that our bee balm flowers were infested with bees.  I assured him that he need not worry.  In my experience, bees are so intoxicated with bee balm that they rarely move from a flower for anything, let alone a hulking presence a foot away.  I’ve always been able to take close-up pictures of bees in bee balms because they could not care less about me or my camera when they are feeding there.

Neal also asked about pruning tomato suckers (i.e., those growths near the bottom of the stem below the first flowering branch).  Yes, that’s probably a good idea, although I admittedly rarely do it.  He also noticed that his zucchini plants are suffering from powdery mildew and some actually had growths of white mold on them.   This can happen if they are planted too close together and do not get enough sunshine and air circulation.    It is contagious and can infect other leaves.  I suggested that he buy some spray to treat the infected and non-infected leaves to keep it from getting worse and spreading more. I’ve used copper mixtures on my tomatoes before.    Usually, my bee balm and white phlox get powdery mildew when it is hot and humid.  I’ve seen zucchini get it before, but it has not been a major problem at the SACG in past years.  Of course, we’ve never had a summer quite as wet as the last few weeks have been.   I’ve also used a spray mixture of 1 quart water and teaspoon of baking soda to treat symptoms and to prevent further contamination.  Some sprays work well to eradicate the  mildew, while others are only effective at preventing.

I then harvested beets, turnips and more lettuce for another food pantry donation and took them along with a pint of berries to Faith Mission.  On the way back, I stopped by the Friends of the Homeless Community Garden on Main Street across from the Salvation Army to see if any of the seedlings donated this week were still there and viable.  Sadly, there was not much to pick from, but I found some thyme and greek basil, which I took back to the SACG and promptly planted in our herb garden.  Barb was busy across the street pruning the flower beds and I placed my squash egg leaves into her yard waste bag (since it was going down the street and eventually miles away).  Neal was back picking berries.

I stayed around to plant some contender bush beans in my plot.  More young children stopped by to pick berries and run around in the Block Watch lots.  Then, home for a shower and nap.

As our berry season draws to a sad close, I will be spending more time pruning back
England has its Forest of Dean and the SACG has our Forest of Dill
the new bramble branches to keep them from devouring our entire lot.   I’ll also be keeping an eye on my squash transplants, which I doubt like this cooler weather as much as I do.  I’ll have to mark their roots so that I will know where to aim the watering can (if it ever stops raining).

My gardening tip this week is to fertilize peppers and tomatoes with Epsom salt, which is not really a salt.  It is a combination of magnesium and sulfer.  It helps the plants absorb other nutrients, promotes flowering and growth and will green them up quite a bit.   It’s an organic gardening trick that actually works.   You can add it to the soil directly (as I generally do during planting), as a side dressing or spray the plants with a mixture of water and Epsom salt (which is particularly important during a drought).

No comments:

Post a Comment