Hard to believe it’s the first of August already, the garden season is advancing quickly. Our summer here in the land of the Huguenots remains very hot and dry, like much of Europe. Fortunately, the gardens that I use have deep wells, so the daily watering has not caused them to dry up.
The past few weeks have been stifling hot, with temperatures often reaching 36-37 °C (97-99 °F). This has been good for some garden crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, but disastrous for others, like onions, broccoli and cauliflower. Our zucchini is doing well in the E-Garden, where it is partly shaded during the hottest part of the day, but poorly in the L-Garden where it sits in the scorching sun all day.
I left our early potatoes in the ground a little longer, hoping they would grow longer. This proved to be a mistake, when I dug them up last weekend I found dozens if cutworms munching away at our crop. I estimate we lost at least half of our early potatoes from the little buggers. I showed no mercy when I found one, squishing them to death as I dug.
I am now considering digging my main storage potatoes before they fall prey to the hungry beasts. It would be nice if I could have chickens in the garden, they love to eat cutworms.
The L-Garden has mixed results. The zucchini is off to a good start, we have been eating some this week. Growing next to the squash is rat tail radishes, the first time I have tried to grow this.
The onions seem to be growing extremely slowly, I’m not sure if it is the heat or that they don’t like the soil. I need to check the PH in these beds.
The tomatoes under my makeshift roof are doing very well, the first tomatoes should start ripening soon. I actually need to thin them out a little bit so they get more air.
The cucumbers are also producing, the plant on the right was planted a few weeks before the others.
It is hard to see in the following picture, but the row of tomato plants along the back wall are looking very poorly, this section is shaded most of the day. I am considering moving them into the E-Garden.
The small kitchen garden on the side of our house (not shown) is bursting with Rucola and Lollo salad, a variety of herbs, and soon cocktail tomatoes and spinach.
The garden is starting to burst with fresh produce, this past week we enjoyed the first zucchini, cucumbers, peas and early potatoes of the season.
I also harvested the red currents last weekend, here is a “before” picture:
The potatoes are looking good, despite an extremely dry year.
The early potatoes that I harvested are not shown in the picture above, rather they are wild potatoes that grew in between my squash section:
The area where I had buckwheat is now planted with Hokkaido and Butternut squash. I covered the wood-framed beds with fleece the first couple weeks, as the birds were eating my plants. Shortly after this the neighbors ripening cherry trees lured them away, and they haven’t been back. Now if only the slugs would leave.
My minibed test beds are doing really well, we have been eating lettuce and kohlrabi from these beds for several weeks. This weekend we want to pick the first cabbage and pointed cabbage. The chard in the back is also ready to eat. I have started adding shredded leaves as a mulch, the beds have been drying out too fast.
I planted garlic last fall on some straw, I think this will be ready to harvest soon.
I also placed 30 strawberry runners in plant pots, I want to plant them in the bed shown once I have harvested the kohlrabi, brussel sprouts and other vegies.
I also have a “wild” potato patch, from not cleaning out all of the potatoes from last year. These are early potatoes, so I decided to leave them and plant my pumpkins in between, we’ll see what happens.
I also cut the buckwheat and added a row of raspberry shoots. The rest of the area will be used for squash, pumpkins and maybe honeydew melons.
Last week I was on a business trip in Switzerland for a couple days and we also had several days of rain. These two factors left me scrambling to get the garden back in order on Saturday when the weather cleared.
I did reduce the slug population significantly during a couple of the rainy days. I use the time proven, but by some considered brutal, method of walking through the garden with shears and severing the life of the little beasts. On my first stroll, I found 219 slugs, the second day 53, last night only 14. I guess I won round one, but I’m sure they set out lots of eggs, so the battle is not over.
Last year I had very little problem with birds, but this year they are a real problem. The first time I sowed peas and spinach, only a couple seeds grew, the others are gone, highly likely from birds. The second time I sowed peas I covered them with fleece and almost all of them are growing. The cabbage, kohlrabi and other leafy plants that I planted were all eaten, I thought at first my slugs, but a watchful neighbor informed me the birds were eating the plants. The second time I set out the plants I put them in my minibed area and covered them with fleece, they are doing fine so far.
Our red currents, raspberries and strawberries are all starting to ripen, on Saturday I want to add bird nets over these areas, otherwise I think the birds won’t leave us any.
In our smaller L-Garden I have only lost one cucumber plant, everything else is growing fine. We have already begun eating radishes and claytonia, the kohlrabi should be ready in another week or two.
It has been an extremely dry springtime, requiring almost daily water in many of the beds that aren’t mulched heavily. I also had to water the minibed test beds, which theoretically don’t require much water. I owe this to the fact that we have not had a good rain yet this year. In any case the plants are growing reasonably well, the biggest problem being slugs and snails.
Our potatoes are starting to appear, a couple weeks behind last year, again probably do to the lack of rain.
In our other garden the onions are also suffering from the fast drought conditions. Last weekend I added some zucchini and eggplant plants, so far the slugs have not been a problem in this garden.
This weekend I focused on slug and snail hunting, as more than half of the vegetable plants that I set out last week have been eaten by the little beasts. My perferred method is to walk around early in the morning, just after the sun comes out and slash the litte pest with my garden knife, a very satisfying method.
I also thinned out the raspberry plants, adding a new row on the edge of the buckwheat patch.
I also planted three rows of peas among the bark mulch. I am hoping the slugs will have a hard time reaching the plants once they start to grow. Probably just wishful thinking, but we’ll see.
Today its finally raining, hopefully this will spur growth of what I have planted to date.
This weekend I finished cleaning up the area around the new Espalier fruit trees. This involved removing the top layer of grass (and weeds) and digging up a large pile of roots from the many bushes that were located here. The result was quite pleasing, and hopefully I got rid of most of the weeds. Afterwards I seeded it down with some buckwheat, I find this a good way of building up the soil after removing the sod.
I also replenished the bark mulch in the two beds next to this area. Wood chips are not available in my area of Germany, so I have been trying bark mulch, which is similar. These beds will be used for cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale.
The garlic and red currents are looking very good. On the right under the fleece covering, is a row of peas, which are just starting to sprout.
I also set out some plants in my Minibed test garden. From front to rear, cauliflower, pointed cabbage, green cabbage and celeriac (celery root).
After planing I added some schredded leaves as a mulch, and covered them with fleece to keep the birds from eating the young plants.
I was recently inspired by Serina at one of my favorite Youtube channels “You Can’t Eat the Grass” to plant some espalier fruit trees. After seeking permission from the landowner where my garden is located, I started researching and looking for trees. It is possible to buy espalier fruit trees that have already been trained in the right shape, but these are generally quite expensive. I am in no hurry, so I decided to purchase four semi-dwarf trees and prune and train them myself.
The first step was to find a place in the garden, as I share garden space with two other families, I didn’t have a lot of choices. However, one end of my garden area borders a stone wall, is well-drained and gets sunlight most of the day.
I removed the old bushes that were there and dug out the many roots that were present. I ended up with an approximately 5 by 5 meters L-shaped growing area.
I set out three wooden poles that would eventually support the espalier trees and dug my four holes for the trees. I left about 60 cm spacing between the stone wall and trees on one side and the fence and trees on the other side of the “L”. In the space behind the trees I covered the ground with the black plastic that I had left over from my Minibed garden, and spread a layer of bark mulch over this.
I planned on planting 2 apple and 2 pear trees, but my local source didn’t have any pear trees at the moment, so I ended up buying 3 apple and 1 cherry tree. I am not sure how well the cherry tree will work as an espalier tree, but decided to give it a try. I added a generous amount of compost to the holes as I planted the trees. Next weekend I only need to run wire between the posts and finish cleanup the area in front of the trees.
The weather has been warm and sunny the last 4-5 days, so I decided to plant two beds of early potatoes and a bed of onions. I also chanced on a row of peas, covering the row with fleece to protect them from the birds and any late spring freezes.
On Saturday I built the remaining 6 wood sections for my Minibed garden. The weather improved throughout the week, and by Saturday afternoon I decided it was dry enough to set up the Minibeds. Here is a set of pictures the (hopefully) illustrate the process.
I first raked out the beds, breaking up any large clumps, and removing any stones that I found. I then rolled out the 5-mil plastic.
Using a string to try to keep the rows halfways straight, I began setting up the wood sections. I decided to use a spacing of 40 cm between each box.
Mr. Kimball used steel rebar in three of the corners to secure the wood sections. Rebar is expensive, and I had a large number of approximately 50 cm long wooden pieces left over from another project, so decided to use these. After adding the wood sections, I used a long board and a hammer to dry to level them out best I could. I then used a hammer to drive the wooden stakes in three corners into the ground. This proved to be more difficult then I imagined, I kept hitting stones and other objects, which ended up moving the wood sections around a bit. My neighbor mentioned to me once that after the war(s) people used to bury the debris in their gardens to get it out of way, a fact that I confirmed when I tried to double-dig this garden last year. The rows ended up being not quite as straight as when I began, but close enough for me. As a last step I place a piece of wood along each side of the inside of the wood sections as a straight edge and cut away the plastic.
I added a little compost to each bed, they are now ready for planting.