Thursday, June 14, 2012

Garden Update, Mid-June

For the last month the weather has been cool and damp. I was able to get tomato and pepper seedlings planted on June 2, but the ground was too wet until a couple of days ago to get my dry beans in. The tomato seedlings that I grew this year were set back too far by the cold weather (and my carelessness in keeping them outside in temperatures around fifty degrees), with the result that for the first time in as long as I can remember, I had to purchase tomato seedlings and be satisfied with what was available. For paste tomatoes I prefer Bellstar, but the only paste tomato seedlings I could find in the places like Agway were Roma, which are subject to late blight here--and which all ripen at about the same time, which can be inconvenient. For slicing tomatoes I was able to get Jetstar, which I grew last year from my own seedlings and which did well. I'm nursing along a few my own seedlings of Sungold and Polbig in hopes that if I plant them this weekend they may grow large enough to bear and ripen before blight or frost. 

This year's tomato seedlings were a double embarrassment. First, I'd agreed to swap some with a friend; and when I gave him my puny little Cosmonaut Volkov a month ago, I had to make many apologies, especially as I received a large and healthy Black Krim in return (sitting in the garden now). Second, I was embarrassed in the Agway store buying the seedlings, but somehow the clerk who took my money didn't notice. I trust they won't be a triple embarrassment going forward--we'll see.

The spinach and lettuce is growing well; if slowly; the early broccoli plants I set out in mid-May caught a hot spell shortly after I set them out and immediately brocolated, sending up edible but small shoots which I harvested earlier this month. I set out others a couple of weeks ago and they've been growing more normally, along with cabbages. No brussels sprouts this year--the deer were too much attracted by them last year. The potatoes practically drowned in the rains and cold, with a spotty stand--only about 2/3 of the seed potatoes came through the soil a couple of weeks ago. It's possible a few more may pop through in the coming week or two, but soon it will be time to hill them. The onions and shallots are growing well. The Progress #9 peas did fairly well, but the Sugar Sprint had a very poor stand. They are blossoming now. 

This weekend, with the weather warming, I'll plant squash and cucumbers. It's about two weeks later than usual for that, but the soil wasn't warm enough before now. And a couple of days ago I managed to get in the dry beans, after rototilling the soil even though it was still damper than I'd have liked. For a main crop I'm growing the usual Black Coco, Jacob's Cattle (the so-called gasless variety), and Light Red Kidney. In addition, to keep the seed going I planted out partial rows of Red Mexican, Maine Surprise, Dot Yellow Eye, and Montcalm Red Kidney. For snap beans I planted partial rows of Black Valentine, Slenderette, Provider, Indy Gold, and Masai. I had a few Levi Robinson seeds left over and planted them as well, hoping to keep that fine variety of snap bean going. About four years is as long as I can keep a bean seed before it will not germinate. 

The smaller apples in the cluster will
drop off this Liberty apple tree 
And as for the apples, the blossoms have long since fallen and it's time for the June drop, which I've written about here before. The rains and damp weather probably induced more scab than usual, and usual is not much. I receive email bulletins from the University of Maine's Extension Service for apple growers, and these are given over chiefly to strategies for combatting insects, scab, and other disease. I am content to live with the little damage that these antagonists do here, and I truly believe that the more one attempts to kill the insects with poisonous sprays, or to set back the scab and other diseases with other poisons, the more one needs to spray in the future. That is because the killing sprays unbalance the ecosystem and while they may temporarily prevent the bad in so doing they also kill the good; and the following year the bad is back tenfold. It is the same with mowing the tall grass in the orchard. Leave it alone, I say, and let the bugs dwell there instead of in the apple trees. Which they are content to do. Then mow in mid September when the lifecycles of the insect pests are in a more dormant stage. 

Now ready for the June drop, it's the same
cluster shown with its blossoms, just below
Each year some of the vegetables do well and others not so well. But different ones do well in different years, which is why mixed farming is a better bet, a hedged bet, than specializing in a single crop--unless, of course, the government pays you not to grow it, or rewards you with a lump sum if your crop fails. 

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