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What's Happening? -- July 2021

RAIN RAIN AND MORE RAIN!

The rain started on July 1st and did not stop for over two weeks. Some plants thrived while others did not. Our berries and tomatoes did not like all the water. On one wet afternoon I watched a slug dangle from the grape arbor by a strand of its own slime extending over a foot long. Fungi blooms were ubiquitous with great harvests of oyster mushrooms, chicken of the woods and milky’s for dinner side dishes. Seeing the multiple blooms under fruit trees and other perennials reminded me of the symbiotic relations underground.


Mushrooms Among the Blueberries
Mushrooms Among the Blueberries

The blueberries were abundant and huge before the rain. Their sweetness dropped considerably during the weeks of rain and the ripening trends were disrupted. While many gallons were put up, not nearly what was expected prior to the rain. The rodents, birds and poor weather put a dent on this year’s crop. The voles constructed a super highway with a major exit below one of my largest blueberry bushes, berries suspiciously and quickly missing from this usually heavy producing plant as well as many from a neighboring bush. My garlic spray, which has been most effective at protecting my peaches, was not utilized. I watched a chipmunk climb another bush, snag a perfectly ripe berry and scamper off with it before I even had a chance to comment. The chicken wire netting arrangement that I have had up for about fifteen years has done reasonably well. I have opted for a different scheme around my new blueberry patch which was easier to install and worked well. Something to think about for next year.


One Inch Diameter Blueberries

The raspberries were just about to explode before the rain started. They ripened quickly, but did not last, many were lost. After the rain subsided the remaining fruit was plentiful enough for grazing and lasted for the entire month. I was only able to gather a quart for the freezer. These are a twice fruiting variety with the canes poised for a good second round in September.


Potatoes Growing Nicely

The potatoes seemed to handle the rain well and exploded in size when it stopped, flowers continued to bloom throughout. Both my early plant and later patches are growing strongly and harvesting from the early patch has begun. Growing an annual supply of these amazing vegetables is both delicious and satisfying. For any given space, potatoes provide the largest volume of food of any vegetable that I can think of. Populations have survived on these beautiful tubers! Potato salads with fresh herbs from the garden is a treat of the first degree.


Potato Flowers
Potato Flowers

The tomatoes had just pushed out their first set of flowers at the end of June, 12 per cluster. Expectations of a great yield were anticipated! The July rain seemed to inhibit the transition from flower to fruit though. No more fruiting occurred for two weeks. Only after the rain did they begin to flower again. The resulting fruit is sparse. Foliar spraying with a phosphorous rich amendment (vinegar extracted bones) may help with flowering, but July was not good to the tomatoes.


The beans are doing very well and have expanded in size. Like so many other plants, they were slow to grow during the rain, but have blossomed densely since it has stopped. They look great and we are excited to see how far into next year we can get this crop to last.


Young Green Bean Plants
Young Green Bean Plants

The insect population is still a mystery. Mosquitoes didn’t show up until after the rain and in very small numbers (though since have become rather voluminous)! The solitary bees disappeared entirely after a strong presence in late spring. The number and diversity of pollinators visiting the clusters of dense flowers seen regularly in past years was only seen twice so far this year. Honey bees were scarce for the entire spring and into the month of July. Where the insects have been scarce, the rodents have thrived. The rabbit and vole populations have exploded! The rabbits have been content eating the weeds around the edges of the lawn, which I purposely leave for them in exchange for staying out of the garden.


Mature Green Bean Plants
Flowering Green Bean Plants

The toads and frogs around the lawn seemed to enjoy the rain. Several species, and many of some, grace the entire lawn. While digging holes for pavilion piers one large toad moved in under a rock in the pile of soil removed. It was interesting to watch its color changes as it’s rain-soaked skin dried out during the morning. This one was hanging out on a step.


Toad
Toad On My Step

The garlic was harvested at the end of the rain. Despite all the wet, it was in great shape and good sized and with a very strong flavor. It is now curing in the garden shed. The garlic left over from last year will be simmered on the stove for six to eight hours (1 pound garlic to 1 gallon water) and jarred for future use. This is an amazing product for the garden that I will reference next month.


Garlic Bunched
Garlic Bunched
Garlic Hanging to Dry
Garlic Hanging to Cure
This Years Garlic

Now that the rain has (finally) stopped, harvesting and drying herbs has become possible. Thyme and oregano are bunched and hung. Tulsi, mint, basil and stinging nettle are sent to the dehydrator and then into labeled, airtight jars for the future use. This marks the full swing of the herb drying season.


Venus is higher in the evening sky making her easier to see. Jupiter and Saturn are high as well and may be seen for most of the night. In the east after sunset and in the west first thing in the morning, Jupiter is easier to spot being so bright. During August, you may be able to see Venus at sunset and Jupiter at sunrise in about the same location in the western sky. See if you can spot one of these heavenly bodies.

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