Two words. Chickens. Wind.
Frankly I can’t tell which force was most destructive to my garden though I will say that the wind did its work much more quickly.
About a week ago, you know just when I was going to have the gardens photographed in all their splendor, a terrific storm hit us and the wind was so strong & rain so heavy we worried for a minute if we were being hit by a tornado. The kids lost their trampoline to a tumble across the yard, the chimney pipe is bent, and my garden was nearly flattened. I’m thankful that the beans were left standing, probably supported by the asparagus. I’m not going to try to put the tomatoes back up thinking it will do complete damage to the plant… as they are laying down though they do give the chickens better access to their snacks.
Those chickens have been SO destructive! It’s shocking what a difference there has been in my tomato yields… over 400 pounds last year, this year I don’t think we’ve hit 50 pounds yet! When the Ranger broilers found the garden the destruction increased greatly. Fencing the garden with deer netting didn’t deter them and so we built a hasty pen and are officially done ranging broilers. At this point, with our current infrastructure, I can’t afford to lose the investment I’ve made in the garden. It’s not the ideal situation, it’s not how I’d like to raise them, and I don’t think their meat will be quite as good, but give it a year and I won’t be able to compare. Garden fresh tomatoes are totally worth the sacrifice.
But the Lord has provided none the less. Just differently. Zucchini aside, green beans are steadily coming in, there are over 10 pounds of dry beans, kidney, cannellini, and Jacob’s cattle. Two heaping bushels of butternut squash came in last night. The onions look beautiful and are the largest ones I’ve ever grown! The grapes were gorgeous, abundant, and the shelves are full of jam.
And potatoes. Over 350 pounds of potatoes! Can you believe it? My goal was 250 pounds to feed us for a year!
You know what else is exciting? I haven’t had to weed my garden in over a month! And I haven’t needed to! The hay mulch looks like it could use another layering, but at this point, I think I’ll do it to each area as I finish harvesting and clean it out. I’m also experimenting with cover cropping and have planted daikon radishes in a couple areas. (I bought a few other varieties to try but ran out of time to plant… There’s always next year!)
The plums were lost to brown rot once again… 3rd season in a row. Organic methods of aggressive thinning and pruning have been to no avail. So I’ve decided that we’re going to do something I never thought I’d do… I’m going to spray the plums next year. *gasp* Apparently the fungicides that combat the rot are sprayed when flowering so I figure we won’t be eating it, but hopefully will be able to destroy the fungus that overwinters in affected branches and fallen fruit on the ground. Hopefully, a fresh start will allow us to move forward using holistic management and still gather a harvest.
We’ve also done really well (10 pounds and counting) with the jalapeño peppers. I think that 1-2 bushes would be adequate from now on, but what if those two plants don’t do well? Then I need a back-up plant or two. But what if all four do well? That’s the reasoning that gets me into the quandary of wondering how to preserve jalapeno peppers. A good predicament.
Especially when it leads me to master a new skill. Or leads me to explore new recipes like Slow Cooker Jalapeno-Lime Shredded Pork Tacos from a book called Crock’d. Beautiful, bright, fresh, and delicious! Really a wonderful garden-fresh dinner that can be made will very little fuss in the morning and even less at dinner time. I think it would be darn skippy with chicken too and will try it next time since we’re all out of pork roast till winter.
I’m especially excited about the gardens going forward… we installed plastic over the hoop house and I’m eager to see how my first *real* winter garden is going to go.
Putting up the plastic was an adventure in and of itself! We read that it usually takes something like 6-8 grown men… and it was just Bill, Jared (17), and myself, along with a bunch of kids, 12 and under, who proved there was really nothing they could do to contribute. I’m not sure which of us was the clever one to start the project without checking the weather forecast, but I do know it was me who planned it for that Saturday a week ahead of time, and Bill who opened the package that afternoon. Place the blame where you will.
Pretty much once we got started a gentle breeze picked up… and not long after it started to lightly rain. Something that hadn’t happened in weeks (at that time). With only a couple hours of daylight left, we worked through the rain tying ropes and tennis balls to the plastic and throwing them over the frame. Everyone manned their rope and it was quickly evident that we collectively didn’t have enough muscle power to pull it over. The next several hours, well past dark, Jared & Bill shimmied up over the wet, metal poles pulling it one section at a time while I pulled the ropes and secured them tightly as they went back and forth. Meanwhile, storms skirted all around us, bringing bursts of wind, but thankfully no more rain or lightening. Eventually, it was covered and Bill secured each round end hoop with wiggle wire thinking it would be sufficient, hopefully until Monday, but at least until morning. (We were eager to get to bed so we didn’t fall asleep in church the next morning!)
Overnight, storms did hit. Bringing with them plenty of rain and wind. I couldn’t look, knowing there was nothing I could do about it and didn’t want to lose sleep fretting, but Bill said that the middle was lifted 30 feet above the structure, sides flapping furiously in the wind.
When we got home from church and inspected the damage, we found that the sides had been flapping and slapping against the t-posts of the garden fencing on the one side, slashing up through the sides. We would need to repurchase more plastic for that apron.
Work continued Monday & Tuesday, just Bill & I working to pull and install the wiggle wire to secure it. Bill really wanted to throw in the towel on Monday as we continued to find holes and struggle to adjust it straight and secure it, but I kept pushing him, thinking that even if we got only one lousy year out of it, it would be better than scrapping the project and losing all the money we invested. We pushed on, eventually it was finished, and pulled tighter than we ever could have hoped.
We still have to install the aprons and trim up some loose ends, but it’s been about 90 degrees here for the last week so there don’t seem to be any volunteers to work in there.
The back half was tilled early this morning and after another pass, I’m hoping to plant later this week when the weather cools to something more seasonable.
Do you have any fall gardening plans this year?