It’s been kind of a crazy summer for me so far. Dad died of liver and bladder cancer on June 8. He’s had cancer for a while now, but in May things got unexpectedly aggressive. Growing up we had a big garden, and we canned and froze things we grew ourselves. Back then I found working in the garden and canning tomatoes to be a monstrous example of horrific child abuse and I resented every minute, but now I see that I learned a lot (albeit against my childish will) and that is what planted the seeds, as it were, for my lifelong love of playing in the dirt. He was a decent human being, and I’ll miss him every day. I’ll eat as many Brandywine tomato sandwiches as I can in his honor, you can count on that.
Climate change is real here in zone 6B, southwest Michigan. It’s been unusually hot and humid and I’ve spent way too much time dragging the hose around to keep everyone happy, and weeding is a task for the cooler evening hours. It’s still sticky and gross, but it’s got to be done. The wild blackberries suffered the most from the lack of rain, but I’m still hoping for a fall turnaround. I got about a dozen eating-sized berries earlier this summer. My blueberries did not flower much this year either, but the foliage is still healthy, so they’re not dead, but they were definitely hobbled by the heat. Strawberry production was down, too. I’ve gotten a pint or so that I either ate out of hand or cut up and put in a salad. My lettuce has really required vigilant watering so it doesn’t bolt in this heat, but it’s worth it. Fresh lettuce is one of the tastiest things you can grow, and it’s really easy, as I note here.
Most of my tomatoes are doing okay, but something is eating the tips off quite a few that are not enclosed in a fenced area! My first thought was the deer were enjoying them, but after putting in flags that usually deter them, the damage continued. My next thought was tomato hornworms, which can defoliate a plant overnight. Checking for them involved getting up in the middle of the night to look for them using a black light app on my phone. Tomato hornworms will glow green under black light, and that wasn’t it either. Whatever it is, it’s taken a lot of out my cherry tomato baskets hanging on the garage, my Brandywines in the drum planter in the yard, and I discovered Friday while weeding that there’s damage to the cherry tomatoes out in the herb beds! That is fenced in, so I’m at a loss. I refuse to spray or dust anything chemical on my plants, so I’m just going to deal with the loss.
I’m not growing as big a variety as usual this year, given the circumstances occuring around planting time. In the northwest raised bed I have several varieties of tomatoes, some zuchinni, and four watermelon plants. The northeast bed is laying fallow this year to rest the soil. I’m letting weeds take it over and I’ll double dig it in the fall to let things decompose over the winter. This organic matter will build up the soil. The southeast bed has just three volunteer watermelon plants from last year, my asparagus, and some volunteer strawberries. I did not actively plant that one, either. The southwest bed has zucchini and a pepper plant, and that’s it. Not nearly as much as I usually pack into four beds, but this year is a good year to let the soil rest. I plan to put cowpeas in as a cover crop this fall. They’re nitrogen fixers, and while I haven’t tested the soil, I’m pretty sure it’s lacking.
The herb beds have been fenced in, as I noted in the previous post. Cucumbers are starting to produce, squash and sweet peppers look happy, and the tomatoes are holding their own, just barely. The herbs have really exploded this year, finally. I have anise hyssop, oregano, lemon balm, parsley, dill, and a little thyme. These perennial herbs are easy to get established if you’re patient. I also have Thai basil and Genovese basil in pots, so my pizza nights have been very much improved, for sure. The potatoes have gone wild! They seem to like the partial shade back there, which surprises me. Isn’t the foliage for the Molly Mae blues pretty?
The perennial flower bed in the front yard has come on stronger this year. It’s still about three years out from filling in, but I’m happy to see so many things are still there. The yarrow and comfrey was particularly gorgeous this year, and I have great hopes for next year. It’s hard not to buy more plants, but I’m trying to wait until I can better envision how things will fill in. I chose varieties resistant to deer and rabbits, and so far, I’ve been lucky that they have left my plants alone for the most part. I have a surplus of baby rabbits this year and they have had their way with much of my raised beds and porch pots, but there’s enough for everyone. I was plenty irritated that they decimated my first planting of Little Gem romaine, about two days before I planned to pick some, of course. I’ve planted more and will be more attentive to screening the planter as they grow. Besides, how do you get mad at these sweet creatures?
The bees are happy, out at the Portage Apiary of the BSE and Gadgetron. One of the BSE’s hives swarmed, and she was able to put them into a fourth hive! Freebies, as it were. I had to put another hive box on my hive, which is lagging behind the others, but otherwise healthy. I do love them, but I do not love getting geared up with it’s hotter than hell and twice as humid. The BSE can be very persuasive (read: forceful) when I balk at doing so, and thanks to her I have not yet been stung this season.
It is supposed to storm this afternoon and I wish it would rain for a long period to really give things a soaking. I’m using the rain barrels, but a good rain would not be unwelcome. It’s going to be cooler next week though, so I’ll take it! Has it been unusually hot where you are?