Community Gardening Interview Part 2

                                                                                 

This week I asked my brother Tom to provide an update on his church’s community garden in Kansas City, Missouri.  Back in February, he provided us with a brief overview of the planning and preparation involved in it.  Today he recaps how the garden handled the drought and tells us what they plan for the fall.

Terry:  How did the garden fare this summer?

Tom:  It has been a very rough summer for the garden.  It began with so much promise but as the heat and lack of moisture continued on the plants were stressed.  For example the cucumber plants soon gave up their struggle and produced only 3-4 fruits.  We had to pick them very early also as they became very bitter if left on the vine to grow to maturity.  The Yukon Gold potatoes produced probably half of what we expected and the soil came up in big clods and were more like rocks as the potatoes had pulled out all soil moisture.  We were able to get beets, turnips and summer squash before the intense weather struck.  The green beans produced one big harvest and then were done as they stopped blooming and setting on beans. The collards have done well as they have deep roots and I have harvested them 4 times thus far and expect to get at least one or two more before frost.  We deeply mulched the tomatoes and peppers putting down first newspaper and then at least 6-10 inches of straw.  This plus frequent watering saved them.  The hot peppers have done well but the bell peppers have produced small peppers with very thin walls to the fruit.  Our tomatoes are loaded with blooms and some are approaching 8 feet tall in their cages so we should have tomatoes up until frost.  The zinnias and marigolds have survived the summer though they do not look their best.  The okra is producing but only reached about half its normal height and production is about half of normal.  We won’t know for a few weeks just how the sweet potatoes were affected but expect the yield to be less than usual.  We will have to get rain or water them heavily before being able to even dig them.

We have a few winter squash that are reaching maturity and I think they made it only due to the shade of a pear tree that stands close to the garden. Insects were not surprisingly too much of a problem apart from some grasshoppers eating ripe tomatoes and squash bugs on the zucchini.

Terry:  Any plans for a Fall Garden?

Tom:   We have done two different plantings of turnips and the first planting a couple of weeks ago is up but only half the seed germinated.  The second planting just done this past weekend is up and looks good. I first made a row, watered it, then planted the seed in the moist soil and covered lightly with a rake.  This seemed to help the germination and I feel accounted for the difference between the two plantings.  Lettuce planted at the time of the first turnips planting has not come up.  Regular red radishes planted then have come up.  I noticed this morning that the Daikon radishes planted this past weekend are beginning to come up though the Buttercrunch lettuce planted at the same time has yet to appear.  I will plant Black Seeded Simpson leaf lettuce in a couple of weeks when it is hopefully a bit cooler. It only needs about 30-40 days to maturity.

Terry:  Overall comments or observations?

Tom:    Gardening this summer was not for the faint of heart but it still had some rewards.  When dealing with Mother Nature you soon learn that she controls the season and you can only react.  Hopefully fall will still give us some produce before the frost arrives.   It will soon be time to evaluate the season and decide what to plant for next year.

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