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Monday, July 23, 2012

How does your garden grow?

It's been raining here for weeks.  Which is very unusual for July.  Usually we will get a stretch of hot mosquito ridden weather, where we turn on all the fans in the house and dream of air conditioning.  But July has brought us nothing but overcast skies, a cool fall time feeling days, and heavy rains.

Which has affected my garden immensely if you can imagine.

I was gone for almost a week to attend and sell my wares at WEIO in Fairbanks Alaska and just got home yesterday so the change in the plants was pretty noticeable to me.  I had the most amazing time visiting and chatting and general hob-nobbing.  I forget how much I like to talk! I also forgot to take photos, I even left my camera behind in the rush to get there.  It was awesome to meet some of you all!

 I thought I would just do a run down of what all the plants are doing so that those who are curious can enjoy the update and maybe offer some advice! 

Plants that are doing extremely well despite the weather are: green peas, oats, cabbage, and potatoes.  Though I suspect their growth is slowed down a bit.  They are all green and happy and growing, and they almost glow in the gloomy weather.

So-so plants: My tomatoes are probably the best fighters in the arena surprisingly.  The early variety and the spoon variety both have grown flower buds and now they are just beginning to open, which has me so excited! They are protected a bit from the rain, as they are under a small amount of leafy willows and are positioned to get all the morning and afternoon light.  My echinacea plants are steadily growing, though they do look like their leaves are not as green as they should be.  The garlic is doing okay, we actually dug one up because we had a garlic emergency situation and though the bulb was small it was tasty! The pepper plants have probably suffered the most from all the rain, and we have actually taken to covering them up in the heavy downpours.  I suspect it has something to do with the box I have them in also, which is small.  They have started creating flower buds and some new leaves though which is good and bad.  My carrot sprouts are growing slowly, and I wonder if they will actually be able to produce anything with the weather misbehaving.  The oriental peas have started showing signs of unhappiness, they stopped growing and started yellowing a bit, which is a huge contrast to the other green peas.  The corn are about six inches tall at most, and I doubt they will mature if the it continues with the weather trend, we also cover them up a bit when it gets chilly out.  My lettuce plants are still tiny, about 1 1/2 inches tall, and are growing very slowly.  

Meh plants:  the squash still look horrible and stunted.   I'm pulling them this week completely.  Next year I think I will put them in better soil.  The radish bolted, with only half the plants producing a big enough bulb to pull and eat.  They are also being dug up this week though I think I will try and see if I can plant another round before frost since they grow so fast.  We were able to dig up and eat about two dozen of them and they tasted wonderful.  My tiny little spinach plants are the most interesting.  It looked like something came along and nibbled the tips off though I haven't been able to figure out what.  What plants are growing have already developed what looks like flower buds...which look odd on the small 2 inch plants.  The weather is doing a doozy on them I think. 

I have also noticed a huge amount of brown golf tee looking fungus (cup fungus?) growing happily in the boxes.  I carefully scoop them out with the edge of my trowel as I find them.  For some odd reason they kind of gross me out, with their slimy surfaces and disease looking growth patterns. 

I did add a little bit of blood meal to the nitrogen loving plants and some kelp last week to everyone to try and help them survive me, but I can't tell if it worked.  I have started saving stuff for this fall to try and help add nutrients and organics to the soil, like fish bones and egg shells and veggie leafy left overs.  I put them all in our freezer for now in plastic bags, hoping the temperature will help break them down a bit.  I plan on grinding and smooshing everything up and burying it in the garden boxes before the freeze up.  Hopefully if I time it right it won't attract animals.  A man from the Fairbanks area said it worked well for him, though he says it probably made it too nitrogen rich for his tomato plants to make fruit.

happy peas

oat plants, they about a foot tall.  I hope they make it!

poor little spinach plants.  you can also see the weird little alien looking fungi growing in my boxes. 


  1. Spinach does poorly in Alaska unless you plant them very early or very late. The excessive daylight hours cause the stalks to bolt and the leaves to not grow. I see your spinach has the stalk top on it. When that appears, you won't get any more leaves.

    1. A couple of other plants are larger and haven't grown the little stalk yet, so I'm hoping they do better! Thanks for the info!

  2. I saved a bunch of compost and put it into some of my boxes this year, too. It really helped out my carrots! (They're a small, round variety called "Parisienne Carrots", perfect for a not-too-deep box.) It also seems to help squashes out a lot, because of all the nitrogen.
    Don't feel bad about the squashes. They tend to go in every-other-year cycles for me, and this is an off year. I only have five zucchinis when usually by this time I'd be shredding and freezing the bulk of them by now!
    Good luck with everything. I hope it all produces lots of food for you!

    1. I planted the same carrots! I don't think the soil was good enough to get a good crop this year though but now I know what to look for and I'll have nore time to putter around and tinker with it.

      I'm thinking the squash will love better soil too...for some reason I want squash to make it!

  3. I live in Connecticut and my spinach bolted too, so don't feel bad Nasugraq. My kale and chard on the other hand are growing really well. So are my onions and Husky Cherry tomatoes. I can't wait to see what your oats do. I've never tried growing that type of grain before, only buckwheat and amaranth.

    1. My grandmother in California absolutely loved to grow and eat chard! I would love to try it next year.

  4. Crazy summer for weather, isn't it?
    My climate here in the Tongass Forest area of Southeast AK is distinctly different than yours so everything you are doing is new to me. :-)
    The records we set for cold and wet in May and June, usually our driest and often warmest months, sure took the stuffing out of my garden plans for this year.I had had hopes of using that time to speed up things which normally do not mature here with the added boost row covers can provide. Pffft! on how that turned out for slow stuff.
    Row covers did help get lettuces and spinach and other greens to edible size about on a normal schedule though not without a fair amount being lost to mildews- which is unusual for me.
    Peas which normally flourish along a fence germinated poorly and are short and unhappy. Peas I started early under row cover (and left cover on til almost July) are beautiful and happy and making lovely healthy peas. Spuds are almost as tall as me now- in their cages, kales doing well- 3 varieties. Broccoli, turnips, and chard are doing a lot better since July brought daytime temps up some .
    Spinaches do really well here though middle of summer I plant a different variety which doesn't bolt as soon as the temp gets over 60. They do well in a part shade environment - which is easy here but might not be in your area unless you can use your house shade ...?
    For all my whining and disappointment this year, I have realized the row cover routine has given me fresh food since the middle of May. Not as bountiful as some years but definitely ahead of where I'd be planting like I used to and ahead of neighbors who still plant without covers.
    Squash. Hard here but I try every year. Am trying "eightball" variety this year. Might get a few.
    So excited about your oats!
    Thank you for all your notes of successes, failures, questions, ideas, plans for next time. I learn something from every gardener.
    Alaska Pi