Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gardeners' Holidays 2017: Cornucopia

Summer is off to a disappointing start in our garden this year. Normally, by this time of year, we've already started harvesting our sugar snap peas, and we might even be getting a few early green beans. This year, though, both those crops have been a disappointment. The snap peas, for some reason, didn't come up at all when we first planted them early in April; when we attempted a second planting at the beginning of May, only a straggling few plants appeared, and none of them have even flowered, let alone produced pods.

As for the bean plants, they came up just fine, but then several of them mysteriously disappeared. Some of them were chomped off an inch or two from the ground, while others seem to have been pulled out entirely and spirited away. We might suspect that our resident groundhogs had somehow managed to find a way through the groundhog fence, but our lettuce hasn't been touched, so clearly that's not it. The only critters that can make it into the garden, as far as we know, are squirrels and birds, which shouldn't be interested in our bean plants. So far, our best guess is that we have an infestation of voles—the groundhog fence wouldn't keep those out, and Brian did recall seeing some sort of small tunnel in the dirt near the missing bean plants. But it's only a guess, and we'd have to set out traps to verify it—which didn't work so well with the rat last year.

Other crops are looking disappointing as well. The lima beans we planted this year were seeds we harvested last year, intending to eat them, but planted instead when we realized we'd forgotten to buy more. Apparently, this didn't work well, as not a single bean plant came up. We also got only three cucumber plants from the eight seeds we planted, even though some of the seeds were only a year old. And even our basil, which is normally one of our most prolific crops—so much that we've sometimes had trouble figuring out how to store it all—is coming in small and patchy.

Fortunately, there are a few bright spots in the garden as well. The squash plants are all thriving, and the zucchini are already displaying their first blossoms, which means the actual squash aren't far off. (We've already taken the precaution of covering the stems with dirt, in the hope that we can preserve our plants from falling victim to squash vine borers again this year.) And the butterhead lettuce has grown in thick and luxuriant, so it can now take over on salad duty from the winter lettuce that's finally bolted in the summer heat.

Best of all, our raspberry canes not only continue to produce, but actually seem to be ramping it up as the summer progresses. Yesterday, I went out and picked a whole colander full, giving me a generous portion for that day's lunch, another for today's, and enough left over to dress a couple of green salads for tonight's dinner. (We've also managed to get the berries up on a trellis of sorts—just a couple of stout cables running the length of the bed, attached to posts on either end—which we hope will make it easier to harvest them in future. More details on that project in a future post.)

So even with all the disappointments in the garden, we still have much to be thankful for. Indeed, with organic raspberries costing about $6 a pint at the farmers' market, I'd say we owe at least $20 worth of gratitude already—and there's more where that came from.

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