Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mid-Summer Garden Update

Fruits of our labor...ok, veggies...but you
get the point. Watermelon, squash & cucumbers.
I can empathize with the heat wave moving across the country this summer. We have a "heat wave" every year here in the Arizona desert. Temperatures of 109 degrees settle in for many weeks and it is just considered the norm around here.

I didn't expect much of the garden to last through the heat and since we're still relatively new to gardening, I was curious to see how the different crops fared. The corn has been picked over and is already dried up, withered and brown. I'll be pulling it out of the ground in the next few weeks.

I'm leaving the potatoes in for a little while longer. I'm not sure when they come are ready to harvest but I've read that I should leave them until the part above ground withers and looks to be near dead.  I pulled some a week or so ago and they were little golf ball size potatoes. About eight of them were dangling from one root.  I microwaved them for about five minutes and served 'em up with butter, cheese and salt. They were tasty and I was now sure that in times of need I could grow potatoes for food.  I'm hoping that they grow much larger as I leave them in the ground to grow.

The butternut squash and cucumbers are producing nicely.  Wifey has learned how to bake the squash into what I'll call long squash fries.  They are quite delicious with a little butter and salt, similar to a mashed potato consistency or maybe a baked yam. We've had one sitting on the kitchen counter for a few weeks now and it doesn't show any signs of going bad yet. We're still learning the shelf life of different organic items. Wifey's homemade bread starts to mold in under two weeks. She made a batch of eight loaves a few weeks ago so some actually sat around for a bit as opposed to her usual four loaf batch that gets eaten in four days.

The cucumbers are growing great but I don't really have a taste for them. Never have. That is, not until we recently started to juice produce.  Now, for breakfast, Wifey goes out to the garden and picks a fresh cucumber and tosses it into the juicer with apples, plums, kale and broccoli or celery and I'm able to enjoy a smorgasbord or fruits and veggies in a refreshing morning beverage. I'm thankful for finding the joy of juicing as it allows me to consume the things I normally found unpalatable but yet wanted to grow in my garden.

Growing fewer than I thought based on
all the vines & smaller than I expected too.
The watermelon and pumpkin are growing but don't produce as much as I thought they would. I mean, these things vine out all over the place. You'd think I'd be able to feed half of our block with the amount of leaves and running vines that are busting out of our gardening area and running onto sidewalks and non-garden areas.  But it seems they are producing few and far between.  We got ahead of ourselves and picked a watermelon that we THOUGHT was ripe.  Turns out...not so ripe. A little bite indicated it was certainly sweet enough but the pinkish color just hadn't quite settled in yet.

We only have a few pumpkins that are in the grapefruit size range.  The rest a just little golf ball sized fellas.  I was hoping that my Halloween we'd be up to our knees in pumpkins and each child would be able to carve their own as well as having plenty for pie making.  Not so sure it's going to work out that way. We'll have to wait and see I guess. At least they're growing. I'm happy about that.

Strawberries have made it this far so they should continue to grow. They sprout out a little red gem every now and then.  I pick them whenever I see one in hope that the plant can focus it's energy on growing stronger for next season, as some have suggested.  Out of five strawberry plants purchased from home depot, three remain and one had a runner creating a daughter plant. So I still have four plants growing. I'm happy with that ratio too.

This watermelon wasn't quite ready yet :-(
Grandpa Neff's Beans are flourishing wildly but no bean pods yet.  The French horticulture beans looks like the took a beating from something. Either they went without water unknowingly or the sudden heat blast that is our desert summer was too much for them.  I've lost an estimated 70% of that raised garden bed.  Some are still struggling though. So we'll be waiting a little longer on any bean harvesting.  I should note that my Neff beans are right next to a sheet metal storage shed. At the beginning of our hot summer I noticed they were taking a turn for the worse.  Gardening neighbors advised us to put up a trellis with a vine type plant to help absorb heat radiated from the shed.  I draped a blue tarp down the side of the shed and the Neff beans made a terrific comeback.

All in all, our gardening experiment is proving to be a success.  We've learned the beginning stages of what it takes to grow our own food (tilling, planting, watering, hand pollinating, pruning, predator proofing, heat shielding) and found it to be both entertaining and enjoyable.  The children ask to be involved and have picked their own corn and planted seeds. We set out to add self sustaining skills to our knowledge base this year and gardening certainly leads the pack in usefulness. Now if I could just find some affordable farm land.

How much land do you think is enough to support your family's gardening needs?



  1. Picking watermelon at the ripe stage is a skill I fail at alot myself. I am not sure why I thump them and they sound ripe but it is still too early. Mine are still going strong but the squash bugs are moving in.

  2. I'm glad your garden is doing so well. Given the conditions you are working with, I ought to do ok here. I think maybe my problem is that I don't put as much effort into gardening as I should. Also, I have feral hogs and my own flock of chickens to deal with. They do a lot of damage unless I keep a chicken wire fence around the beds and the hogs can get under it by rooting at loose spots where the wire is not buried deep enough. This year I just didn't bother except for some corn. But I should at least have planted potatoes.

  3. LOL- you had it right the first time.

    Your vegies are fruits. They are the seed bearing portion of the plant. Tomatoes are also fruit fyi.

    Veggies are leaves, stalks, undevelopeed flowers, roots: lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery, etc.

  4. gardening is enjoying specially if you have time to check every day :)


Don't you spam me...I'll just delete it!