Jean-Pierre has been telling me that I haven’t been open enough about the effects of the drought on our vegetables. But you know how farmers are always complaining? Not enough rain, too much rain, not hot enough, too hot… For the most part, we have our bases covered because we grow so many different vegetables — certain years some do well and other years it’s some others. Ah, but this year is different. Nothing is spared. So for the brave of heart, here goes:
We had a hefty, 2-1/2″ rainfall on June 1-2, but for the rest of June total rainfall was just short of two inches. So far in July, we have received 1/3 of an inch. And you remember how hot it’s been? The hotter it gets, the more plants need moisture in the soil in order to transpire to cool down. Just as we need to drink water continuously on a hot day. When the nights have been cool, it seems to help quite a bit because there is a bit of condensation happening.
The overall result of the drought has been, to sum it up in a word, stress. The tomato plant in the photo above is, I believe, seriously stressed. It is concentrating its energy into producing lots of flowers, in spite of its relatively small size and noticeable shortage of leaves. From the plant’s perspective, life is tough, without leisure to grow strong and enjoy the sunshine and the breeze — have to focus right away on getting the next generation out there.
The same holds true for many of the plants, who have skipped over leaf production in favour of flowering and setting seed (as with the dill in this photo):
One of the basic tenets of organic farming is to ensure that plants are healthy to start with, because a healthy plant will fight off pests and disease. Well, guess what happens to plants that are stressed? Same as with humanfolk, too much stress lets the baddies in.
In the photo above, the swiss chard leaves are chewed up by flea beetles. This was a big problem last summer, too. Although we feed most of the chard harvested to the chickens, flea beetles are the least of our worries. We have seen much more serious damage by cucumber beetles:
There should be squash plants in the photo above, but the beetles have stripped the seedlings down to the stem. On a bit of a side note, these seedlings were from the third seeding of winter squash. The first two were pulled up by our neighbourhood crows. Jean-Pierre bulit some scarecrows before we seeded the 3rd time, and they worked! Except they didn’t scare away the beetles…
Below is a photo of what a squash plant should look like by now — one of the dozen or so that were overlooked by crows at the first seeding (and it demonstrates the importance of a healthy start):
For the most part, the plants have simply stopped growing. Other problems noted are blossom end rot on the tomatoes, made worse by the drought, while some plants are not getting the nutrients they need:
Is there any good news in all of this? Yes! We have finally worked out a system for delivering water (in minute quantities) where it’s needed most. This is the set-up:
Jean-Pierre has configured a hose and a small pump to deliver water from a large barrel mounted at the back of the tractor. The barrel is filled with water from our well, and I can assure you, not a drop is wasted! Mind you, it’s a long and slow process, currently taking half a day, every day of the week. The next step will be to set up barrels to collect rainwater from the roof gutters. On the to-do list.
Also, somehow the potatoes seem to be holding up. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we will have a decent harvest, and at least we will have potatoes to eat all winter!