Monday, May 9, 2011

Rain rain go away

We have been blitzed with unceasing rain.

While sometimes it means rainbows...

...most of the time it's just plain gloomy. The wheat field is a soggy bog.

So is the garden.

We've had endless discussions on what to do about the garden. If we tried to bring a tractor into that mudpit right now, we'd sink up to the axle. We have tons (literally) of composted manure we need to work into the soil. We need to fence. We need to plow. We need to build raised beds. But we can't do a thing.

The trouble, you see, is we can't do any garden infrastructure work until the ground dries out. And by the time the ground dries out, we have to hurry to get the garden plants in so they'll have enough time to grow... meaning we don't have time to do the infrastructure work. (Circular argument. See Argument, circular.)

Our growing season this far north is very short. We have to be careful to choose only short-season seeds (and yes, they're heirloom). But we've had multiple garden failures due to weather because I keep trying to jump the gun on planting when I should know better by now. Last year, for example, we got fooled into planting corn in mid-May by a brief warm spell. We planted the rest toward the end of May. Then the cold and rain moved back in and the garden literally drowned.

That's one of the reasons we want to put in raised beds. They would at least keep the plants from drowning.

So here's what we've decided to do. We're going to take the long strip of ground where we tried to plant corn last year and manure the heck out of it at the first opportunity.

We'll fence this to keep the deer out. And that will be the only garden I have. The rest of the summer will be devoted to getting the infrastructure of the garden done at least. This way we're not trying to do two mutually exclusive things at once -- planting vegetables versus working on infrastructure.

I already have the onions started. Onions have the longest maturity time (120 days) so I needed to get them started as soon as possible. I planted them on April 25.

I'll start small amounts of some other plants I want to get in -- corn, watermelon, tomatoes, broccoli, etc. These will all be planted along that one strip (which is about 12x150').

Let's hope this plan works!


  1. Save the Canning JarsMay 9, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    West of Oklahoma City, we are experiencing drought and 94 degree temps. Hot and dry! The potato plants are blooming and thigh high. The tomatoes are in and thriving. Please send your excess rain here as the bermuda grass is brown, dry, and crunchy.

  2. Good luck with the garden! We're on the other end of the spectrum, averaging maybe a 1/4" of rain per week. If it weren't for our rain barrels, our water bill would be horrendous.

    We do get the benefit of multiple growing seasons, though. We've already harvested potatoes, green onions, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, and plenty of herbs!

  3. Phyllis (N/W Jersey)May 9, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    Hi Patrice!

    Just finished putting in peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, mustard greens, radishes, carrots & onions in our 8 X 16 raised beds that we made for the first time this year. I'm pooped, so I'll do the potatoes, corn, beets and other stuff tomorrow. The spot that we had to clear was so rocky that we just had to use the beds. (Building the fence was NOT fun either!) If even half of the plants make it, we will be happy as there will still be enough to can this year. Wish we could have a large garden like yours, but we just don't have the energy nor enough cleared land.
    'Hope you had a great Mother's Day!!
    Keep us posted on your garden.

  4. You need to set aside some of that extra money you come across and invest ion a greenhouse! You could grow enough to feed your family and then sell the rest for extra $$. You would recoup your investment in very little time and you would no longer be at the mercy of the weather.

  5. Patrice, Have you considered hydroponics to jump start and give you a hedge on your short growing season?
    The newer energy saving, fluorescent grow tubes that are now used, are quite efficient and they broadcast light radiance in all directions.

    You can also take efficient advantage of any available space, utilize unusual spaces, hanging above lofts, or even on shelves constructed off the side of the barn walls.

    When the weather temps are too variable from day to day to start my veggie sets into the earth, I just go ahead and jump start the growing season and put them in hydroponic trays (4" and 6" diameter pvc pipe with holes cut out of the tops. There are many different growing mediums, to plant them in, I use
    hygroton, (which can be used over and over for years, once washed and sanitized). You could even use a homemade "manure tea" to feed and fertilize the plants, for free!
    The plants can stay in those grow tubes until harvest, but the light must stay on them for at least 12 hours a day. It's more cost effective to just transplant them, and safely wait until the short season allows you to embed them in the earth.

    This would buy you the time you need to still meet your harvest dates of those plant varieties that must grow for longer periods before bearing their produce.

    I also dilute the initial upfront costs for the hygroton and piping supplies, by growing a winter garden. You can get a fifth season
    of growing by utilizing the equipment all year round. You can grow and harvest continuous Fresh salads and greensby stagger date planting, throughout the whole winter!


  6. We're having the same problems here, Patrice, and last week had a several-minute long hail storm replete with lightening and thunder that dropped 1/2 to 1 inch stones. You can just imagine. Things got white in a hurry, and the hail fell for a long time. I've been in a lot of hailstorms and it's very unusual for them to last that long.

    My salmon berry bushes, for example, had many beautiful blossoms before the storm and were left with broken branches and looking pitifully bedraggled in its wake. The good news is, however, being a wild native berry (the bright yellow ones) and the first of the season to bloom and produce fruit, they're already rebounding true to form. They, like some (but not all) of the wild berries here, are responding by putting out a profusion of new blossoms and even more of them than before. Hopefully we'll have no more freak weather events, the bees will show up, and we'll have a good crop.

    I've got some 'grazing baskets' up here at the house, that hang on the deck off the kitchen and are furnishing a nice supply of mixed salad greens and snow pea vines. We've been risking leaving them out at night this week, and so far so good. I've also got tomato plants there and one of them is ready to bloom...if we ever get some sun. Everything else is still in start pots and, like you, I'm not sure how much we'll be getting into or out of the ground this year. Maybe the time would be well spent building up our raised beds and so forth.

    Mother Nature consoles a bit with wild foods to gather and we've enjoyed some good fresh nettle, but even the wild nettle seemed to come on slowly and be a little puny-looking this year. I'm going after some mustard greens and dandelion and we'll see if there are enough to put up. Mostly they just get eaten fresh-cooked.

    I like notutopia's methods and appreciate the shared information, and, as Gma-T says, a greenhouse is a very wise and productive investment...and here in the north can be a vital necessity.

    Michelle, I'm just plain jealous. I'll put a stamp on one of my overflowing rain barrels and mail it to you if you'll send me some potatoes and cucumbers! LOL

    Phyllis sounds set for the season with those big raised beds, and Can-Jars I'll send your rain barrel via priority mail. Crunchy potato chips are good, but crunchy Bermuda grass, well, not so much. lol

    Has anybody seen Anonymous Patriot recently? She seems a mite scarce.

    A. McSp

  7. If you think this is gloomy Patrice then I would advise you not to not look back. Your native CA is about to come under some terrible times. In spite of their messiah obama. This will happen.

  8. lol, we live in n.e. mississippi..and yep, if the water dont get ya the heat/humidity will. it is like a box a chocalates..ya never know just what your gonna get at any given time. right now i am "testing" two topsy turvy thingys with far, so good. then we have an old burned out stump where we planted a couple squash, bell pepper plants and lots of marigolds. i picked cherries today and looks like a bumper crop of raspberries and blueberries soon. i don't use raised beds or the typical garden plot anymore. if something grows well among the roses or the pines, or elsewhere we just plop it into the ground, say a little prayer and let it be. nothing like walking around the homeplace and finding surprises and treasures. :)

  9. Tomorrow will likely break a very old record here. Short blasts of heat followed by days of below normal temps. I can't complain. Today felt like early morning July. It was a nice change.

  10. Send some rain Texas way! We're in the worst drought since the dust bowl. Hasn't really rained here since January, and the flora is living on morning dew alone. The deer and other critters are camping around the watering troughs at work...

  11. Patrice, can you spare some hay bales? The smaller square kind. You could make some raised beds out of them then just layer your manure and soil into them wherever you like. Won't cost you anything either, other than your time (but what doesn't lol). If you like where you've put them and they're working out well you could put a greenhouse over the top next winter. That way you'll have all season to source the materials for your greenhouse and it'll buy you time to work on the infrastructure for the larger garden beds.
    If you do think you'll get into hydroponics then check out aquaponics too. Fish and salad yum yum! The only thing I don't like about these systems is the constant need for electricity and pumps. If the power or pumps fail everything dies. I found this man to be really informative - I watched the DVD which was brilliant

    Yes, I'm a bit of a everything everywhere person too but it helps not having livestock roaming the yard :)
    Being in the southen hemisphere we've got winter coming on too early. My poor tomatoes just went berserk with a bumper crop then the frosts came. I threw a bit of greenhouse plastic over them in an attempt to help but they're still dropping :(

    A. McSp now you mention it Anon P has been quiet for awhile. Hope you're ok out there!


  12. I'm thinking like Grandma Tillie...I've always thought that a move north would have a greenhouse on the must-have list. Yeah, I know, all it takes is money. But I've seen a few that were cobbled together from salvaged windows and frames too. I'm just wondering about your thinking and conversations with Don on this issue. (I know you don't miss a trick.)

    Jeff - Tucson

  13. I use Victory Seeds too! (The first time I ordered from them, online, I didn't know until my seeds arrived in the mail and I saw their return address that the company is based in the small town where I went to high school, and where my grandmother has lived for almost half a century. Sometimes it's a very small world!) My garden -- such as it is, a few raised beds & lots of containers in the miniscule backyard of a condo -- has the first bits of greenery poking out of the soil. So far I'm seeing growth from the radishes, spinach, beets, carrots, peas, potatoes, turnips, and lettuce. I have lots of seedlings indoors waiting for the spring to warm up a bit. Unfortunately at least half the seedlings I tried to harden off and plant a couple weeks ago have died; I think it was too soon to put them outside. And I'm having no luck with herbs this year...

  14. Sounds like my garden last year. This year, I am watering. You never no what Mother Nature has planned. A friend of mine built their own little greenhouse. (Here is a link ) I was impressed with how they did it, but don't know if it could handle your winds. Something to think about though. Hope your weather improves.

  15. We are also having a slow start to the garden this year, while building more beds at the same time, I was feeling overwhelmed until your post. LOVE the idea of going with what you have for now and working on the intrastructure along the way instead of everything at once, thanks for your post!!

  16. I have never had any luck at all with growing food. My wife and I have tried, and our gardens sometimes struggle through if the hogs don't get them, or the chickens don't scratch them up. But they never produce enough to justify the work and the expense. We live way up in the mountains and that may be part of the problem. I have had some success in growing corn for feed, so I stick to that. Sorry about all the rain, this has been a really strange winter and spring.

  17. I said before that it's been cold early here in the southern hemisphere and today we have our first snow of the season - about 2 months early! Usually, if it's going to snow it does so in late July and August.
    We're out getting more firewood whenever we can, I think it's going to be a long winter.


  18. Maybe you should get a few inflatable rafts and have raft rides in the wheat fields....the money can offset the odd weather garden woes......

    This is just crazy weather, this year....

    (if it can't be thought of humorously, it would make me panicked....)

  19. Try putting black plastic over your garden area. We needed to kill off some grass in a new plot, put plastic over the area and planted through the plastic (tomatoes, peppers, green beans, peas, melons, etc.)and mulched around the plants with bark. It was a very wet year last year, and while everybody else's tomatoes and peppers were doing very poorly - ours were doing great! I think the plastic kept the soil from getting too wet, and the black pulled in the heat.