Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Urban Garden And The Drought Of 2016

Acorn squash. Tiny fruit and hardy any foliage.
Six weeks ago the urban garden looked pretty good. Hopeful. We were getting rain, and the temps were staying in the 80s F. Then came July.

Now, I'm almost ashamed to post pictures. This blog post should come with a trigger warning, that the images might be upsetting if you're, say, a vegetarian. This is the worst garden I think I've ever had in my life. Weeks of 90+ degree weather and drought conditions can kill a garden, which is pretty much what happened. Zucchini is something that everyone can grow. First time gardeners: Grow zucchini to really boost your confidence. They will grow to the size of small baseball bats if you don't watch them. But I think we've harvested about three summer squash and one zucchini, and the rest might just get pulled and thrown in one of the compost bins, which, by the way, are heating up in the summer sun and cooking the beejesus out of the compost, killing weed seeds and decomposing the material.

Remember that the deal we have with our landlord is we would only use collected rainwater to water the garden to keep the water bill from going sky high. But, when there isn't water coming out of the sky to replenish the water collection barrels, well... I was at Boston Public Market on Saturday, and one of the farmers there said they dug a pond for water, i.e. they dug a hole to get to the water table to access a supply of water. We did just have about two days of steady rain, and of course that's all it took for the weeds to take off and start choking out the plants.

It's hard to watch a garden get like this. You feel helpless. You total up all of the money you spent on seedlings and take your loss, and you tell yourself, well, at least we're not depending on surviving this way. And of course, then your imagination does wonder what it would be like if you actually did count on this for survival. And in a way we do. We count every penny, and last year, we cut our food bill dramatically with this little garden, so we're going to feel it in our wallet in the coming months. Last year we were living on salads from our garden during the summer, and the squash and eggplant, and I think it was well into March of this year that we finally finished the tomato sauce we had in the freezer from tomatoes we grew ourselves.

Other urban gardeners in our neighborhood are showing varying levels of success. Some gardens are really struggling. When I see one that's thriving, I just assume they're watering every day. One garden I noticed was laced with soaker hoses.  The boxes on the porch, which I hand water sometimes twice a day--between the sun and reflective walls, the porch can really heat up like an oven--are doing fine.

Tomorrow I think I'll do triage, dig up what's not going to survive, and plant peas, just to get them in the ground. I'll pin burlap down over the seeds and wait for cooler weather. Maybe next year we'll put out more than the two rain barrels that we have. Put them under as many downspouts as possible for the inevitable heat wave.

The herb boxes on the porch hang in there with extra TLC.
Oregano (along the back) is very heat tolerant.
Peppers have been producing small, but very flavorful fruit.
Sad potato patch.
The zucchini is barely alive. So sad. We miss sauteed zucchini and onion over pasta, a low-cal summer favorite of ours. 
Summer squash are very small this year.
We're getting tomatoes, but the actual plant is very fragile. Fruit is small.
It's almost unbelievable that these plants can actually yield.
This thyme has been in the garden for a couple of years now, surviving that terrible winter two years ago and this summer.

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