Fall Came Early 9/9/2017

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey our area has seen a dramatic drop in temperature. It’s September 9th which ordinarily would continue to be in the triple digits. We’ve been dropping into the 80’s -90’s and the 50’s at night! that’s a HUGE change from the 104 daytime and 88 night time temperature I’ve grown accustom to this time of year. With that shift I’ve decided to get that fall garden started. Last weekend was the weekend of transplanting out some leggy looking seedlings and and direct sowing some bush beans, carrots, bunching onions, radishes, mustards, beets, and chard.

Probably sounds like I have a lot of space. Nope. Im trying to learn how to squeeze everything I can into a tiny plot. I’ve just started to focus on annual gardening rather than planting fruit trees and bushes in the backyard.

This was my old garden when we lived in Washington State:

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14×20 foot space of glorious garden. I had enough room that I had an entire section of perennials just so I wouldn’t have to plant it all every year. Enough room to provide us with produce to fill up our counter space:

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One week of food from Washington

Flash forward to Austin Texas where the additional raised bed I’ve just completed this year  gives me two to work with that are just barely 4×8 each (Thanks HOA) and a skinny raised bed that runs along our fence.

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IMG_9258This was the first year I’ve tried to do an annual veggie garden seriously here. And spring was a learning curve. The middle picture above was the newest larger garden and supposed to produce so much food. I carefully laid out plants according to the square foot gardening requirements and alternated root crops with leafy and fruit producing for optimal interplanting spacing. I was so excited about it. And turns out that everything was drastically wrong. I planted things next to each other that stunt the growth of their neighbors without even realizing it. Beans were next to onions which stunted their growth and ultimately killed them. Onions were supposedly that of the bulbing variety but never received enough daylight to produce bulbs so they stayed like little pencils, carrots well…..IMG_9052Yeah… that’s it. No bigger than my thumb nail. The tomatoes and peppers were struggling too. Although, they performed a little better than the beans at least. I learned a LOT this spring:

  • You can’t plant things closely together without looking up if the plants you are putting in the same space are companions or foes.
  • The newest raised bed probably performed so badly because I and filled it with tree clippings. HEAPING piles of branches from a live oak tree we thinned last fall.  I believe the rotting wood locked up a lot of the available nitrogen in the soil and confirmed this when reading hugelkultur blogs where year 1 is generally terrible and year 2 shows marked improvements for this reason.
  • This new bed is much more shady than originally thought with the side closest to the house is only suitable for leafy vegetables.
  • Moths lay caterpillar eggs that eat tomatoes – check plants often for signs of caterpillar damage and manually remove and dispose.
  • Birds eat tomatoes – bird netting works, (still need to try tomato decoys & rubber snakes).
  • Eggplants are ripe even if they are small. If they start turning yellow they are over the hill.
  • Peppers can get blossom end rot just like tomatoes – plant with extra calcium also.
  • Chard actually tastes GREAT. But late in the season around May other caterpillars figure that out too.
  • Cutworms are LARGE – check for them in early morning and late afternoon and manually remove. Also fish in the pond don’t eat them (I think they are too big) so don’t expect the fishies to solve your personal dilemma with squishing things. They are 2ish inches long and snip off the tops of seeds that just spouted. You can protect against them by putting a ring of almost any material to protect the stalk of the seed at least 1 inch above the ground. I ended up making rings out of tin foil instead of using a toilet paper roll like the picture below.
  • Leaf footed bugs and their larva that will suck the life out of your melons. Get rid of ANYTHING that looks like the pictures below! In their red nymph stage they are usually hanging out in clusters on fruit or unopened flower buds they suck dry. Normally you can see an adult or two around the cluster as well.
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An already dead leaf footed nymph on a not-so-hot looking eggplant leaf.
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Leaf footed bug

Armed with this new-found knowledge I carefully planned out what-goes-where for this fall garden. So far things look like they are going ok. It’s always encouraging to see little sprouts making their way through the soil. So far, so good.

 

Crossing my fingers that they do well enough to be able to make some dill bean pickles! And looking forward to trying my hand at kimchi for some of the mustard greens that are starting to sprout. Well that’s all for now. Here’s a picture of a baby lizard eating a fly for you.

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