Sunday, August 12, 2012

Crunch Time in the Garden

   So, we all know it is hot and dry outside. I don't know about you, but I have had to actively drum up some serious optimism and a deliberately glass-half-full attitude about this most recent chapter of our 2012 garden adventure. Week after week of triple digit heat coupled with extreme drought conditions have left our landscape crunchy, dusty, and reluctant to yield anything green, much less anything juicy and edible. What started off as a beautifully promising year of growth and photosynthetic magic has deteriorated painfully into a barren classroom. Why a classroom? Because I have learned so dang much this year. Really, the learning and our luscious early summer harvests are exactly what make the optimism possible in the face of this, well, this brutal desert.

   The garden is a brutal desert here right now.

   The once lush and jungle-like cucumber box, where earlier this summer a guinea hen had felt safe enough to lay her eggs in secret, now holds only dry dirt, some withered and tortured squash vines, and that same sad clutch of eggs, now hard cooked by the sun.

This ocean of green lasted a nice, long time and produced LOTS of food,
and I know it will make a comeback soon!

   But the garden is also still a classroom.

   I am learning better watering techniques, better insect control, the benefits of close planting as well as of raised beds, and the stubbornness of okra (more on that soon). I am learning about corn, watermelon, soy beans, and cinnamon basil. We are learning about eggplants and tomatoes, and what not to mulch (squash and zuchinni, believe it or not).

In addition to boasting superior flavor,
homegrown cukes are even green on the INSIDE!
Absolutely gorgeous. I squealed when I saw this for the first time!

   I am actually thankful for these extreme conditions. They force me to garden purposefully and encourage me to appreciate small victories and hidden beauties, every single heat-stroked day.

  And it's not like we haven't had any edible success... Although I never collected enough to sell at our local Saturday morning farmers' market, I did collect plenty to use in our kitchen and share with friends and family.   This makes it all worthwhile, even if Handsome hasn't managed to retire on my watermelon profits. Ha!

This photo represents an average morning harvest right up until the last week in July:
Okra, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, squash, cukes, and eggs.
I feel blessed to have enjoyed so much for so long,
and, again, I KNOW we will be seeing more soon!

   Okay. So what's next? I am still trying to garden organically and to observe a lunar calendar. It not only provides some structure to my long list of good intentions; I believe, looking back, that it has helped in spades this year. (LOL) I have had excellent luck with seed germination by planting during the fertile weeks, and I have had almost zero re-weeding chores to do after removing the beasts during barren weeks.

My veggie garden's own private Boing Boing Spider, Rachel.
She took up residence in late May and has grown steadily,
building her thick web and trapping dozens of unsuspecting bits of flying protein daily.

   Yep, the garden is crunchy and the sun is still high and hot, but the season is Not. Quite. Done. Yet. Here in Oklahoma we still have at least three, probably more like four additional months of growth and health to enjoy. That's like twelve weeks, you guys! And thanks to hurricane season, our much anticipated weather shift should make these coming months fabulous. More like the season's beginning than its middle.

While preparing for our friend Rebecca's wedding back in May,
a new friend and gardening blogger Dee
suggested I plant zinnias for quick color and cheer.
They have always been a favorite of mine,
and now that they have proven their earnestness in an Oklahoma drought and heat wave,
I shall never garden without them again! 

   Garden on, friends. Don't give up. Just rest your soul a little bit and let your soil rest a little bit too. Remove those weeds at the right time. Feed those plants if they need it. Lighten their loads by trimming leaves and vines that sap too much energy. Deal with pests. Water, water, water. Offer shade. Plant new seeds and seedlings when it's safe to do so. Keep a long term view of this dangerous adventure, like so many things in life, right?

Love your garden even when it's ugly and suffering. 

   Most importantly, in my humble opinion, take note of your experiences this year, both your successes and your failures. Count your blessings and plant them like seeds in your heart and water them so they grow into gratitude and joy.

   Later this week I will be posting a list of garden tasks for this unusual time and a schedule for August and September. If you too are watching the moon and suffering some crazy weather, it may be interesting to you. In the mean time, will you please give some thought to the idea of friendship? I am also working out some ideas on friendship in childhood versus friendship in adulthood and would love your input. When is it easier to make friends? What are the merits of friendship in each phase of life? Super interesting.

   Garden well, friends! Best wishes! I hope you are still loving the science and magic of it all, despite these temporary challenges. And treasure your friendships, both silver and gold.

"Gardening is a Matter of Your Enthusiasm Holding Up
Until Your Back Gets Used to it."



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