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Intrepid Urban Farmer: Decadence in the Garden

It’s been a long, successful gardening season. Each year presents a different set of conditions to deal with. And this year, as always, each positive development has its own back hand.
 
Rain, for example, has been just wonderful this year. I have barely had to water beyond what has been provided by nature. This is where monitoring a rain gauge becomes so valuable. I know if I have an excess or shortfall to correct. Know your numbers! One inch of rain a week is ideal. Knowledge is power. This year, that knowledge gave me a relaxed, serene feeling. The rainfall in my back yard was perfect, if a little excessive. For my particular situation, that was not a problem, at least not on first observation.
 
There is not much you can do with too much rain, but you will find out the back-hand if you don’t have sufficient drainage in your plot. If you have heavy clay in your soil, perhaps next year it would be good to consider a raised bed. Raised beds are, by construct, the perfect solution for poor drainage, and also poor soil.  It is easy to amend and maintain healthy raised beds with accompanying self-evident perfect drainage.
 
Too much rain, while helping with spider mite infestation, and providing fecund benefit, also increases the vulnerability of your plants to blights, mildews and funguses. I had a few problems with these, of course. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away!
 
These  accompanying mildew and fungus problems could have been a real stinker, but I had success with using fungicides. Two that I have had personal experience with are OxiDate and Serenade. These are both available locally and are organic certified. I sprayed my susceptible plants and had very good response. Not perfect, but certainly much better than if I had done nothing.
 
The many good and negative things to balance out about above average rainfall may seem obvious with casual reflection, but the worst thing about too much rain is that it makes you LAZY.
 
Because I have had such a reprieve of watering duties, I have not been as diligent about weeding. Or mowing. I have skipped joyfully among my plants and picked and harvested and weighed with willful abandon. Not having had to have been out there watering daily and physically inspecting every drawn, dehydrated little tendril, I have dropped the ball in a major way. I hate to say it, but there are WEEDS.   
 
Thank God for this past year’s innovation of two layers of newspaper under the straw. Wherever there is newspaper and straw, there are no weeds. If I had not done this, my back yard would look like an Amazonian rain forest. I am not kidding.
 
Now I will say, in my defense, that I have also been very busy dealing with the the extremely healthy yields I have been getting. Canning tomatoes, freezing tomato sauce, making pesto and freezing it; a first attempt at freezing swiss chard and green beans are a few of the projects accomplished.  
 
I also became obsessed with tomato jam. I have tested 3 different recipes. Two are good and the third one (which unfortunately I have the most of) is too sweet, not tomatoey enough, and full of pectin. Yuk.  
 
Eggplant. Did I mention eggplant? I have eaten eggplant every way I can think of. Parmigiana, Baba Ganoush, Ratatouille, grilled eggplant, stuffed eggplant. I am sick of eggplant. And I have a ton still coming on. Since eggplant isn’t readily preserved, I have resorted to just giving it away.  
 
Actually, if I had any sense, I would just give all of the rest of my produce away and start WEEDING. My back yard is quite private and thanks be to providence that I don’t live in a subdivision with bylaws. I would be OUT. This is why I must be an urban farmer; one with a high privacy fence. It’s not deer I’m keeping out, it’s outrage from the neighbors!
 
In any case, pretty soon it will be time to start cleaning up the garden for the season. I’ll be getting everything knocked down and garden refuse disposed of appropriately.  Some will go out in the trash and some will be composted. It is important to know which plants are suitable for composting. If you have had trouble with bug infestations, serious blights or wilts, do not compost those plants. Bag them up and put them out to the curb.
 
It’s all a lot of work, but it’s good exercise too.  And, when I get everything cleaned up, I will have the satisfaction of good food in the pantry (except that sugary tomato jam), weigh a few pounds less, and have my urban wilderness reined in to an acceptable level of weedy decadence.
 
Ginger Dawson is The Intrepid Urban Farmer. Read her column every other Sunday at The River City News. Questions? Email: [email protected]
 
Photo: The author's eggplant harvest/Ginger Dawson  
 
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