Since our garden has been hit with everything but a flood this year, I feel blessed to have gotten anything out of it this summer. The drought and the continual onslaught of triple digit heat has taken a toll on all of the vegetation at our farm. Above is a picture of what our tomatoes look like. (Click on the image to enlarge.) Notice how many of the leaves are curled. Ideally, I should create some shade for the plants in the afternoon, but our garden is too large to make that feasible. Another issue is that we have had many nights where the temperature does not get below 70 or 75 degrees. The tomatoes don’t get a chance to cool off and rest. As a result, the new blossoms on the plants are not producing additional fruit. I haven’t noticed them dropping; they just sit there day after day. I don’t know what to do to make them take the next step.
To add insult to injury, last week a horrendous wind storm blew in and beat up the tomatoes, watermelons, and zucchini. Below is a picture of how the wind snapped the tomato branches. Unfortunately, the weather forecast calls for more triple digit heat this week. The poor garden just can’t catch a break!
Watering plants in this drought is a challenge for those of us who do not have a hydrant near our gardens. Carrying buckets of water has become my aerobic exercise regimen. Buckets have been working okay for all of the veggies but the sweet potatoes. The thin soil they are mounded in does not lend itself to easy watering. Water runs off without soaking in and the soil erodes around the roots. So what’s a gardener to do?
I wasn’t eager to spend any more cash on garden gadgets, so I looked around the house to see what I could use. I found a couple of empty plastic apple juice bottles and some half-gallon milk jugs and poked holes about the size of a pen point all along one side of each bottle and jug. (Click on images for a magnified view.)
I filled the bottles with water and carried them with their hole-side up to my sweet potato plants. I laid them hole-side down near their roots and let the water seep through the holes. I harvested zucchini and pulled a few sneaky weeds while the sweet potatoes soaked. I had no problem with water running off and away from the plants.
I suppose I won’t truly know how successful these soaker bottles are until harvest time. But with a drought and weeks of triple digit heat, I won’t be blaming the soaker bottles if the sweet potatoes don’t produce!
Like half of the continental United States, we in northern Missouri are suffering from a severe drought. According to the University of Missouri Extension Office, last month was the 6th driest on record here in Missouri and the driest since 1988. The average June 2012 rainfall statewide was less than 2 inches. At the end of June, our triple digit heat wave began. The lack of rainfall and relentless heat has continued in July with no relief in sight. All this means is that it’s tough to be a gardener or a plant this summer.
Watering tomatoes is tricky. Too much or inconsistent watering is one of the causes of “black bottom.” The plant doesn’t extract nitrogen efficiently from the soil causing the tomato to rot and turn black on the bottom. So far, I’ve avoided this affliction but I’m not confident that I will totally escape it.
The raccoons left us a few stalks of sweet corn. I now know why. I wasn’t able to water the corn sufficiently so the ears were not even close to being full. You know they were worthless if the raccoons didn’t bother with them!
Our Yukon Gold potatoes were not as large as usual, but I had to dig them a few weeks earlier than usual. Because of our clay soil, the potatoes were baking and in some cases, rotting. I wasn’t upset about digging them up early. I love new potatoes—especially Yukon Gold.
Actually, I’ve been amazed that the garden has done as well as it has considering how severe the drought is. And it has absolutely nothing to do with my skill as a gardener. The plants are growing in spite of me and weather! This is why I’m so fascinated with gardening. Sometimes plants act like people and become determined to grow and produce no matter what obstacle they must overcome. Or perhaps sometimes people act like plants and…
Anyway, I think this picture of the sunflower depicts how we plants, animals, and people feel in this drought. We may look a little weathered, beaten, and dry but we’re hanging in there.
By now, zucchini plants should be in full production and gardeners everywhere are wondering what to do with all of their zucchini. After all, there is only so much bread a person can make! One of the great things about zucchini is that it takes on the taste of anything you wish to put it with. So chop it, shred it, slice it and add it to your spaghetti sauces, your soups, your casseroles, your pizzas, and even your brownies. Brownies???
Here is a great zucchini brownie recipe that came from The DeKalb County (Missouri) Sesquicentennial Cookbook that my mom gave me back in 1994. Enjoy!
2 cups zucchini, shredded 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour 1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 sugar 1/2 oil
2 tsp vanilla 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt 1/2 cup nuts (optional)
Sift all dry ingredients into a small bowl. Combine zucchini, vanilla, and oil. Gradually stir into dry ingredients. Add nuts. Lightly spray 10 x 15 jelly roll pan with cooking spray. Pour batter into pan. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.