This time of year is my favorite. I’ve always been a fall weather girl. I like the colors in nature and in fashion. I love the cooler weather. And cozying up with soups and stews is right up my alley. But it is also the hardest season of the year for me. The warm season vegetable garden is not only hanging on but much of it is downright gorgeous right now and the cooler season vegetables need to go in. So where do you draw the line? When is it time to call it quits on warm and move to cool?
And that’s where I have trouble. I HATE pulling out anything that is alive. At the school garden the other day, I physically could not pull out a tomato plant that was still alive. I had to ask another volunteer to do it for me. She just laughed, counted down and yanked it out. I had hemmed and hawed for weeks about whether I should do that. But here we had it, an empty patch of dirt now just waiting for the lettuce seeds to be planted by lots of tiny hands. A perfect time to plan to give them warmth and moisture with no danger of frost.
But I am determined to become better at it, watch the calendar, not hang onto things because the might still produce. Make way for better things and start my seasons off strong. And why not, if it gives me fresh lettuce for my salad to accompany that delightful chilly day pot roast!
It’s the end of summer and a lot of the warmer season vegetables are winding down here in Texas. The constant heat sometimes gets them, giving them little time to rest, even at night. Or the hot and dry weather often brings on infestations like spider mites that stress out the plant.
But one of the nice things about living here is that we have TWO warm vegetable seasons- one from March-July and another starting in August until it freezes. So right now is a great time to re-plant those warm season veggies. Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, green beans, peppers…
And once the stress of the summer heat lets up a bit, those fall crops can really take off and produce like crazy. If my tomato plants are still going strong, sometimes I will cut them back by half and they’ll get more energy for the fall. But many times, the plants are so stressed and spent by August, I find it best to just replace them
And who can say no to another crop of tomatoes?
Stopped up at the Titan Garden today and I was immediately struck by how much movement there was in the garden. Then I noticed it was all centered around the Blue Mistflower plants. I found a perch and sat really still and soon enough, I had wings flying all around me. Queen butterflies. They love the blue mistflower. Monarchs do to but they are not on their way back from Mexico yet.
There were about 5 Queens on our mistflower at one end of the garden. Then I walked to the other end and saw 6 butterflies all around the mistflower at the other end. So happy they have found our garden and decided to make it their home.
So amazing to wake up and find August almost here. This summer has been a breeze compared to the horrible drought of last year. My god, I even have pictures of my kids playing in the rain this summer. But it doesn’t mean Mother Nature hasn’t turned up the thermostat and blasted us. In fact, the last few weeks have started that icky feeling I get when the humidity has dropped way too low and everything starts to feel like a tinderbox.
But now that we are almost in August, it is time to get ready for Fall. Tomatoes need to be cut back by half or replaced to give them new vigor for a fall crop. Perhaps some new cucumber plants will go in and the pumpkin sprouts are coming up. The school garden got a little work this weekend with weeding and pruning to get it in tip top shape for the beginning of school. Check out some of our flowers in the native garden there:
The vegetable gardens are doing incredible:
The lawn recovered nicely with the last rains a few weeks ago and is actually growing. That means I can replenish the grass supply in the compost bins. Get that temperature to climb back up with a fresh supply of “green” in the bin.
I’ll be contemplating some new designs for my backyard- really more structural but it will mean some big changes in the long run. We keep toying with the idea of a porch or arbor, but summoning up the energy to deal with a project like that is hard with the heat and kids around. But that will all change soon…
This morning, I stopped by the Titan Garden to see how the garden is faring under this 100+ degree heat. Everything looks great but I was especially impressed with how the native garden is holding up, looking colorful and content! AND standing out above all were the zinnias that the Kinder and 1st grade classes planted this spring, splashing all their colors and brightening our habitat. Here is a sampling.
We had a family of cardinals in our home garden in June. We had watched the mom and dad build their nest and soon discovered the eggs in there. Before we knew it, we heard tiny chirps. For a week I would go out and take a picture every day.
We talk a lot to the kids in the Titan Garden about how our garden supports more than just plants. It supports an entire food chain starting from plants and worms and moving up to larger animals like coyotes and hawks. Even though we may not see these big animals, what grows in our garden and the habitat we have created supports their food chain at the bottom. And the kinder and 1st graders know that a food chain without a strong bottom of the chain just falls apart. (Remember playing the Food Chain Game, guys? When we needed to have more worms and beetles?)
So while we focus a lot on the plants that grow in the garden, I’d like to share some pictures of the birds that may also be living in our school garden habitat, like the ones that were born in my home garden.
Day 1: The babies just have light peach fuzz. Only one is awake enough to start chirping for mom to come and feed it.
but mostly they just sleep.
Day 2: HUNGRY!! Feed me, feed me now.
Day 3: Everyone else seems to be settled, but “Chubby” seems to always want food.
but even hungry birds have to rest.
Day 5: Feathers really coming in now and not as much manic crying for mom and dad.
Day 6: OK, so Chubby is still the one who cries. But he also just likes to look out a lot.
The next day, the little birds were gone. They were fairly well protected in our climbing rose, so I hope they just began their life out of the nest.
The veggie beds at the Titan Garden are going strong, thanks to our wonderful families who have adopted the garden for the summer to care for it. This week, thanks to the Ferguson family (Ben is a second grader) for taking such good care of our lovely garden.
There are lots of cucumbers just getting started and tomatoes as well. Our glorious chard is still going strong. Sadly, it was time to pull out the snow peas that were planted by the kinder classes and some of the kale was ready to go as well. But we are also watching our squash and peppers right now. Check out the slide show below!
These hot days and evenings can be very rough on the vegetable plants giving them very little time to rest and recover from the heat of the day. And when plants are stressed, they are more susceptible to diseases and insect damage. Warm season vegetables are also strong feeders and need regular doses of fertilizer to keep them going strong. So I’ll be giving them a dose every few weeks and along with our awesome adopt-a-garden families, we’ll do our best to get a great summer crop.
Miss you all in the garden and hope you’re having a great summer!