I can’t tell you what a joy gardening has been for me over the past few years now. As a child, my parents and grandparents encouraged gardening summer after summer, but I simply never took an interest.
The spark finally came a few years ago, when we were still living in the center of downtown and only had the space for a few containers. Those first few sprouts though, and the first harvest, really have a way of pushing you to do more and more over the years.
This year, I expanded our garden by two raised beds and several containers, and it’s been twice as challenging and a hundred times as rewarding. (Check out my posts from June and July!) I’ve learned so much and taken so many notes this year. We’ve been harvesting crops left and right, and the sheer amount of goods has forced me to finally step out of my comfort zone and try canning for the first time.
That being said, it was really hard to get around to writing this post. I want to be as transparent as possible in this space and the truth of the matter is, the past couple of weeks have caused me to feel a little disheartened about the garden.
A few weeks ago, I started to notice powdery mildew forming on some of the larger plant leaves (squash, zucchini, melon.) You can read more about thishere. This is completely normal and I didn’t grow too concerned right away, as I’ve seen it come and go every year. Even if it sticks around, usually the plants are strong enough by then to continue producing despite the dying leaves. However, with more plants comes more crowding, and with more crowding, much more opportunity for this stuff to spread… like wildfire. I’ve been tending to it with a homemade mixture of baking soda, water, and dish soap (recipe can be found here) and it really seems to have helped. Even still, the stems of our melon plants really weakened and, although the cantaloupe are still hanging on and growing (we even harvested one this week!) the watermelon looks like it’ll be a goner. The squash and zucchini plants don’t look the prettiest, but, knock on wood, they are still producing healthy crops and I’ll likely be picking a few spaghetti squash in the next few days – earlier than expected!
The morning after first treating the affected plants(which took me hours into the night to complete) I woke early to see if there had been any change. There was change, yes, but not to the leaves. See, the risk of gardening in the middle of the city isn’t so much about mildew or bugs or animals getting to your plants – it’s people. Our squash vines rather quickly grew up and over our fence, out into the alley, with several squash and pumpkins forming outside of the yard. As I walked around inspecting the garden, I noticed that the squash vines appeared to have thinned out overnight. I opened the gate and, to my horror, saw two huge vines ripped away from the plant and tossed out into the alleyway, beginning to wilt, and having been driven over a time or two. Missing from the torn vines was the biggest spaghetti squash – one that I had been checking on day in and day out for weeks and that was almost ready to harvest. My heart sunk and, for a few days, I felt like all of my hard work was going down the drain.
I snapped out of it though,when I realized that we’ve still had, and continue to have, more produce than we’ve ever been able to grow before, that this whole summer has been a bigger learning experience than any other, and we already have a better plan in the works for next year.
Additionally, I’ve continued onand kept thinking toward the future by researching how to transition a summer garden into an autumn one, and have already done some rearranging and some planting of crops that should be ready just before the first frosts of fall.
I’ve also been looking into the many ways all of this summer produce can be preserved – from drying herbs to canning to freezing – so that none of it goes to waste. I’ll plan on sharing more about these topics very soon.
So, there you have it,the August update! I’d call this year’s garden a success overall, and, after having had some time to process the damages, am very thankful that these are the only two issues I encountered along the way.
Now, I should probably go take care of some weeding that is long past due!