The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

archives for 08/2020

Aug 2020
Summer asparagus

July and August are always the months when I look at our garden and despair. Not for the usual reason --- weeds. But because perfection was not achieved.

This year, we're trying out drip irrigation, set on a timer to water for three hours twice a week. When I got the first monthly water bill, it had skyrocketed up $55. Yikes! Was the haul worth the sticker shock?

On the one hand...very much! All of that water has our asparagus sending up enough spears that we're harvesting a meal weekly, figuring we might as well pick the spears since the canopy is already completely full of happy, older fronds. At organic, summer prices, that pays for about half of our water bill right there.


And the cucumbers! I always succession plant in case bugs and disease get the early crops, which means we've been rolling in cukes. We eat about six a day and I've still been having to gift grocery bagsful to the neighbors.

Oh, and did I mention lettuce? Mark's gotten into the habit of making us salad for lunch every day, which can be tough in the summer. But drip is keeping leaf lettuce soft and delicious as long as I plant a new bed each month.

So what's the problem?

Summer garden

The walnut trees. We have a couple of largish black walnuts about fifteen feet from one corner of the garden and they never caused problems in the past. But I suspect irrigating strips of garden beds tempted walnut roots to concentrate their attention on my growing area. As you likely know, walnut roots produce toxic juglone. When many garden plants come in contact, they go kaput.

To cut a long story short, the first to wilt were the tomatoes. Then the summer squash --- we only got one zucchini! The pepper plants look okay, but they're barely producing. Even the green beans appear to have been hit.

And the walnuts are sandwiched right between the garden fence, the electric pole, and the road. I suspect we're going to have to hire a pro to cut them down. Expensive!

Carrot germination

Hopefully that will be a one-time fix. The other issue, not so much.

The photo above shows my carrot bed. Notice how the only sizeable plants are right along the drip line? I started some more carrots inside (the tiny plants closer to the bucket) to fill in the gaps. Lesson learned --- drip irrigation isn't sufficient to get fall crops up and running during our parched summers up on the ridge.

Brussels sprouts under cover

Okay, enough about drip. How about Mark's caterpillar tunnels?

On the one hand, they are awesome! Look at those brussels sprouts --- thriving under their covers!

On the other tulle is so very, very tender. I swear, our caterpillar tunnels sprout holes even when they haven't been touched.

I've been mending these gaps at least once a month, but even that wasn't enough to keep caterpillar worms out of one tunnel. On the other hand, the real fabric intended for this use is $300 and up per roll, so maybe I'll learn to enjoy mending.

Ripening cantaloupe

In other news, while I've had lots of unexpected garden failures this year, I've also had one unexpected success. I've never managed to ripen melons previously, which was mostly due to viral diseases caused by bugs. But research turned up the tidbit that melons are very sensitive to cool soil, so I held my horses and planted a disease-resistant cantaloupe (Divergent) outside on June 4 (after starting the seeds inside a month before).

How's it doing? The vines are taking over the garden! There are lots of big fruit hiding under those leaves, the skin crackling and starting to yellow!

Which brings me to the garden lesson I never seem to learn --- for every unexpected loss, there's an unexpected win. Now if I can just figure out when cantaloupes are ripe...

Posted Wed Aug 5 16:18:05 2020 Tags:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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