Drought!

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It’s more than a little ironic that I’m writing this post on a drizzly, overcast day. Today’s rain has been a welcome relief from the blistering heat of the last two months. You don’t need me to tell you that it has been H.O.T  so far this season!

For Arcadia Farms, being in a region of severe drought (according to the U.S. Drought Monitor) means several things. The most obvious repercussion is that we’ve been doing lots and lots and lots of watering (and lots). (I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t invest time and money into the fancy rain-catching system I was hoping to install this year!)

The other most noticeable effect of the drought for us has been diminished yield. Some of our plants (especially squashes) have been pretty sickly through the heat. Some are thriving still, especially in our fence-line garden. A handful have died. Of those that have survived, most are yielding an unexpectedly reduced amount and/or size of fruit because of the heat. This is true of our tomatoes, zinnias, squash and cucumbers. The beans can’t seem to make up their mind as to whether they are happy or not.  For weeks they were producing like crazy and then they just… stopped. These are provider beans that are supposed to have a yield all season long, so long as you keep them well picked (which I have). The drought strikes again…

Zucchini squash in the Fenceline Garden

Zucchini squash in the Fenceline Garden

These zucchini squash in the Main Garden are only one or two weeks younger than those in the Fenceline Garden.

A few weeks ago – during what has so far been the hottest week of the year – our neighbors were gone on vacation and asked if I would tend to their garden while they were gone. Even with watering every-other day (I’m watering daily) I was amazed at how HUGE, beautiful and productive her garden was! It got my wheels turning – what was she doing differently than I was? It took me until the end of the week to think of the magic difference: Shade!

Zucchini in Fenceline Garden

Zucchini in Fenceline Garden

My neighbor (Hi Carol!) has her garden in an area where a tree partly shades it during the day. In the spring when she put the garden in, she expressed concern about whether or not it would be too much shade. However, I think the shade may have been a key component in making her 2012 garden especially amazing! With that theory in mind, I surveyed my own gardens. The Fenceline Garden is dotted with moving shade patches as the sun moves across the yard. Sure enough, my healthiest and best producing plants are found here. The Main Garden (with a small exception) gets full sun all day and that’s where I was having production issues, even when the plants are relatively healthy.

To test the theory, I started using shade covers – even on ‘sun-loving’ plants. The results are promising! Though production hasn’t increased, the plants themselves look healthier.

Green Beans

Green Beans

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe

Onions

Sweet and Red Onions

Potatoes

Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

This part of the main garden gets a wee bit of shade during the afternoon.

In other news, we’ve started some fall seedlings: Cauliflower, kale, lettuce, chard, leeks and carrots. A few of the Roma tomatoes are starting to blush and I’m just waiting for all of the green beefsteak tomatoes to start reddening up! A few (literally a few) green peppers are developing. The development of our eggplants has been especially stunted by the heat, but they look like they’ll finally blossom soon. Lastly, the fall squash (acorn, cucuzzi and honey) and the melons (watermelon and cantaloupe) are coming along beautifully!

Beefsteak Tomatoes

Beefsteak Tomatoes

Blushing Roma Tomatoes

Blushing Roma Tomatoes

Busy Bee

A busy bee in a squash blossom

Cucuzzi

Cucuzzi Squash climbing a trellis

Eggplant

Eggplant

Young bean plants

Beans for Fall

Have you had production issues with your market or home garden this year? Are your plants stunted in their growth? What are you doing to combat the drought? Please leave a comment – I’d love to hear any creative ideas or tips you have!

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