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Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

A Mid-summer Day in My Garden Time to water, mulch, and harvest
by Carolyn Singer
July 18, 2009

nasturtiums are edible flowersEarlier this week, before temperatures rose into the nineties, there were mild summer days that were a gift to gardeners in the foothills. I seized the opportunity. Often, working in the garden provides inspiration for writing, and Monday was no exception.

Forewarned that it would be hotter later in the week, mulching continues to be my highest priority. Cool season crops already have decomposing straw mulch at least four inches thick, spread in early May. Sweet peas are rewarding me with plenty of flowers for picking and sharing. Without mulch they would have stopped blooming with the first summer heat wave. Before starting work, I pick a fragrant bouquet.

Checking the mulch around other crops, I discover that raccoons have come in the night in search of earthworms. Decomposing straw needs to be pushed back into place around the lettuce, bok choy, and broccoli raab. These crops definitely like cool, moist soil. Before the sun is too intense, leaves are harvested from these plants, and the kale, mizuna, tat soi and arugula. Just enough leaves to provide crisp greens for lunch and dinner.

I picked my first ripe tomato Fourth of July weekend, a delicious heirloom variety, 'Black Crimson'. Now the 'Early Girl' and 'Amish Paste' tomatoes are ripening. I'll pick some today, but allow their flavor to deepen as they sit on the window sill of my north-facing kitchen window.

The tomatoes are just now being mulched. The past few weeks I have been weeding aggressively, this year hoping to eradicate some of the perennial and annual weeds I could not control last year when smoky air kept me out of the garden. Now the tomato plants are over six feet tall, and as I pull the few remaining weeds under them, I notice that the tomatoes have lots of fine rootsclose to the soil surface Mulching is overdue!

A few earwigs have discovered some of the decomposing straw I use for the mulch. They seem to prefer oat or wheat straw rather than rice straw, perhaps because it decomposes more easily. The same reason I prefer it. A shallow dish of beer will catch most of the earwigs before they move into the greens.

My greens are damaged by other visitors. A family of quail with about twenty babies has been going under the light shade cloth I threw over the plants for protection from the sun. There's quite a commotion when I open the garden gate and walk in early in the morning! Fortunately, I don't mind sharing some of my harvest with the birds.

Deep watering of the larger plants is critical now. I'm not concerned when my tomatoes wilt during the heat of the day. If they perk up by morning, I know they have enough moisture in the soil. With mulch, the plants are now watered deeply once a week.

'Raven' zucchiniThe squash, eggplants, peppers, and beans are all mulched too. But they do better with deep irrigation every three days. I've already harvested from all of these vegetables, and with the number of blossoms and small fruit I see, there is an ample harvest ahead.

Newly planted carrots, beets, and greens are shaded, and watering every other day is the optimal schedule while they are so young.

Spending some time in my garden everyday gives me an opportunity to observe when plants need more mulch and more water. There are plenty of rewards for my efforts in the harvest. In addition to all those vegetables, each day I have been enjoying a quart of very ripe raspberries, my favorite fruit of summer.raspberries

©2009 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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