Hot and Dry. Dry and Hot. And the garden shows it. With the entire state of Washington officially in ‘severe drought’ and parts of the state in ‘extreme drought’ (that’s us), it has definitely made for a challenging gardening summer. Not only has it been no rain (what happened to Spring?), it has been HOT. July had us setting a new record for most number of 90-degree days in a year! Has anybody else gone looking for the good swimming holes, or is it just us? 

US Drought Monitor – Washington

The expansion on the drip-irrigation system this year was definitely worth it. We’ve been implementing this system over the last couple of years. It took a lot of research and experimenting – and lots of trial and error getting to know our particular site challenges – and we are still working out the kinks, but it is most definitely worth the effort. One of the elements we added recently is the Edyn Garden Sensor. One day soon I will write up a post on what we have learned.

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Edyn Garden Sensor

The two new varieties of hops we added this year { fuggle + zues } are making a run for it but can’t quite keep up with the big boys yet. They didn’t hit the peak of the house this year, but they made it to the deck rail and are even going to give us a little sample crop!

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I can’t wait to start playing with this year’s batch of herbal infused body oil! We will be using this as an ingredient for everything from hand scrub to lip balm. Looking forward to experimenting with several new recipes this year.

herbal infused organic olive oil having its day in the sun

herbal infused organic olive oil having its day in the sun

This is our third year on the conversion to organic vegetable gardening, and I must say… I am loving it! In spite of our plants being drought-stressed with this harsh, hot summer, we have so far had minimal insect pest issues! I am chalking that up to the advantages of a healthy ecosystem and biodiversity. Don’t get me wrong. We have our fair share of bugs and evidence that they have been snacking, but nothing has gotten out of control! Populations have stayed within reason and the plants are happy. That makes me happy.

 

WHAT WE ARE HARVESTING

While a lot of things in the garden have finished for us already and we are on to establishing what we hope will be this fall / winter’s garden, we are still in full swing for summer…

cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, summer & winter squash, ‘king-of-the-north’ peppers –  These heat lovers are all producing like crazy!

beans – trying to keep the green beans (fortex) picked!  We are  also experimenting with a couple kinds of dry beans this year that are looking close to ready.

carrots /  beets – finally a nice crop! (May sowing). No, it does not pay to get these roots crops started too early in the year.

corn – we got a small crop of corn this week (who get’s kissed). We don’t really have the space to grow corn. I think I will be going to the local u-pick Richert’s from here on out. I will be letting them grow our corn.

greens – chard and kale are still going and looking good. The chickens scratched up my latest spinach sowing (no, I didn’t cry, this time).  It has just been too hot to bother with the cool weather greens… lettuce, spinach, arugula.

annual herbs – basil, cilantro, dill

loganberries – first crop from the thornless loganberries we added last year! Not much this time around, but next year…

thornless loganberry

delicata

SOME OF THE THINGS WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO

tomatillos – are being slow. The summer turned out too hot  to be able to keep them covered like I had planned. We will still get some, but not as many as we did last year.

peppers – ancho poblanos, cayennes, jalapenos, and cajun belles are doing nicely.

parsnips – have germinated nicely, let’s see if they can give the moles a run for their money.

brussels sprouts – will we have homegrown brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving this year? This is a new variety, franklin. And so far, I like what I see. Now we are just waiting for them to get big enough to harvest and freeze. So far the pests are staying away.

annual herbs – fennel pollen / fennel seed

huckleberries & blackberries – the wild ones are almost ready!

apples – looks like finally a nice harvest off the multi-grafted apple tree that we inherited with the place.

the pomegranate experiment! – After dropping all its original flowers and fruit, this little guy has decided to try and give it another go. There are three little, developing fruits. Now the question is just if these ones will ripen before the frosts come in October. We can move it to the greenhouse if we need to.

Red Ace Pomegranate

STORED UP FOR THE YEAR

potatoes – the red norlands did great, as did the all-blues, as usual. We got a few german butterballs and other random volunteers from years past.

garlic – three kinds, too bad the labels got lost / disintegrated in the garden.  I need to start using sturdier non-biodegradable markers.

some winter squash – we’ve already harvested a few ‘table king’ acorn squash  and some delicatas… can’t wait to try some!

plum  sauce/jam – the raccoons finally let us get a harvest off the Asian plum tree!

various dried herbs for tea – echinacea, lemon balm, blackberry leaf, mint, lamb’s ear, calendula, lavender, pineapple sage…

echinacea

echinacea

Last year I made a whole-plant echinacea tincture based off of Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe. It works great… numbs your tongue a bit, but it works. Tongue numbing effects not the most pleasant thing we have experienced, we have decided tea is our preferred way to make use of echinacea when we need it. So this year, we’ve been harvesting and drying the various aerial parts of echinacea for this winter’s immune-boosting tea. Last ingredient will be the roots we will harvest in the fall.

This pineapple sage is giving us ingredients for a ‘cold care’ tea blend for the winter cold season. I also have some sitting in an alcohol extraction right now that will soon become a second effort at a natural deodorant recipe. Stay posted!

pineapple sage

pineapple sage

ALWAYS PLANNING & PLANTING FOR WHAT IS NEXT

Between the deer and the chickens – and the deer busting through the chicken’s fence (remember that movie ‘Chicken Run’?) – we will see if we have a fall / winter garden this year, but we are trying. Again.

first of the month sowing to get done

– greens  { lettuce, spinach (again),  cilantro, arugula, kale

– peas { fall peas to replace what the chickens dug up

transplants to get in the ground

– fall/winter  brassicas { I am afraid I am getting at this a little late this year, but the stuff that I direct sowed is looking really good, so maybe we will be ok.

– lettuce

– the miscellaneous  random plants in pots that really need to find a home

purchase

– seeds { I think I shorted myself on a few things… spinach and peas? Take a quick inventory NOW and make sure we have what we need for the coming cool season!

The direct sown brassicas, carrots, lettuce, beets and more that went in on July 15 are looking great! After that great chicken break a couple of weeks ago though, I’m glad I started a flat of seedlings at the same time as back ups. Those will go into the two freshly planted beds the chickens scratched up a couple weeks ago and anywhere else I can find some room.

ON ‘THE LIST’ THIS MONTH

– finishing touches on the last of the drip irrigation system

– check the chicken yard compost { if it’s ready, use it to top dress where needed for the last push of summer

– continue to chop and drop as plants finish or need to be refreshed

– fall/winter crops established { take good care of them, and they will take good care of you!

– plan for sowing cover crops  where possible


That’s what is keeping us busy. How about you? How does your garden grow? What is working – and not working – for you this summer?
   

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