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Monday, August 15, 2016

The days are getting shorter

After an abundant summer squash harvest and a delightful harvest of sweet corn, the heat wave and rains took over a lot of my gardening enthusiasm. On some day here in Flemington, New Jersey, it became difficult to tend to the garden after 9:00 am due to excessive heat. Out of the five things that I plan to complete in my garden in a morning, three gets done and two are always left behind. I get heat related headaches with too much glare from sunlight. A couple of times I thought of waking up at 5:00 am to get started in the garden at about 6:00 am and finish things by 9:00 am. Never happened.
Summer crops are still growing in my garden. I already planted spinach and cabbage in seed trays for a fall harvest. I am hoping I will get spinach in fall after the disaster it was in spring. I knew what I did wrong. Eggplants have been a huge disappointment in my garden. They are just not producing fruit. A possible reason could be a lot of leaf damage from potato beetles. After trying oil sprays, dust and row covers to protect those young plants, I still couldn't rescue them much. Eggplant is still in the garden but just not growing fast. And for some reason, my Brunswick cabbage plant has been very slow in forming heads. The spring planted cabbage plant, after being rescued from beetles and aphids and butterflies, has lost it's will to grow and is beating itself up in the summer heat. It screams to say 'It's too hot for me !!'. The days to maturity for cabbage is usually 90-100 days depending upon variety. Since I planted my cabbage in May, which was a little late for a spring planting, it is taking it's own sweet time.
And the critters greet me every morning. The rabbit and some groundhog like creature ate away okra leaves and most of my newly planted yellow pepper seedlings. The netting has to be very thorough and tight and dug inside the ground in order for it to be effective. This would require one to dig a trench and secure the net 8-12 " under the ground and then seal it off. I didn't have the means to dig the trench around 10000 sq feet of garden space. Renting a trench digger was expensive. I skipped it altogether. When I started the fencing project, I tied the fence to posts along with perimeter of the garden, I put some heavy sod to keep the bottom part of net in place. My entire garden area is fenced but a little space from cuts in the netting allowed the critters to make their way inside and enjoy the bounty. I will be careful about it the next year when I will have a bigger space to garden (more to come on that later).

Tomatoes are growing and should be ready to harvest in a week or so. A few pods of okra is harvested every few days. Mint and basil are spreading their smell in garden and in my kitchen (Hello, iced mint tea). A few onions have been harvested and a lot more are still in ground.

I took it a little slow in summer and let nature do it's work. A garden however needs regular monitoring. Otherwise, as I learnt, the nasty crabgrass (a kind of weed) can spread itself very quickly. Had I excavated the garden area before putting it to use, the weed problem would have been much less severe. Some weeds are so widespread in my garden that I just can't fight with them. With plastic and cardboard mulch, I have tried to keep weeds at bay from taking over my crops.

This is my first year gardening and am excited to learn about gardening, nature and the symbiotic relation between various elements of the ecosystem.

Happy gardening for the rest of the summer. The days are getting shorter.