Summer Solstice Garden Report

Given the problems underscored in the gag-inducing documentary Food, Inc., discussed here the other day, it’s clear we need alternatives to this out-of-control food behemoth.

One such step is growing some of your own food if your circumstances and energy permit. As I’ve mentioned in several posts, I’ve been planting a garden for the past nine springs. I think the payoff is well worth it, as discussed in this radio commentary, but as they say about old age, gardening ain’t for sissies.

Or at least it ain’t on the sun-ruled  acres of North Texas. The instructions on packets of vegetable  seeds always say: “Plant in full sun. Needs at least 6-8 hours of direct sun a day.” And I’m thinking: Uh, yeah, if you’re somewhere in northern Iowa or Central California, maybe.

Of the 19 tomatoes I planted in late March, about 15 have borne some fruit so far, but given the conditions they’ve had to face, I think I should pin medals on them instead of eating them. After moderate temps and decent rain in May, June rolled in like a blast furnace. The past week, we’ve had cloudless skies and 95-98 degree highs, and the forecast for the next week calls for 100 degrees every day.

From my experience, that’s just too much heat too soon for most tomato types. A few varieties such as HeatWave and Sunmaster are supposed to be able to set fruit in 95-plus, but I only planted two or three of those this year, preferring the size and taste of Supersonic, Celebrity, Early Girl and others.  And several of those, alas, are starting to show signs of heat strain usually not seen until late July or August. At the solstice, I’m predicting a small to moderate yield this year–enough to fill our plates for a couple of months  but probably not enough to give away to friends and neighbors, which is part of the fun.

As for other garden survivors, the green and yellow  peppers are coming in nicely, though they’ll be better in a month.  The cucumbers are almost burned to a crisp–third straight year of cuke-flop– and  the eggplant has put out several tasty purple specimens. The okra, one of my favorites, looks great, but the heat is causing the okrettes, or whatever they’re called,  to harden fast if they’re  not picked almost daily. And to my surprise, the watermelon is spreading out like crazy. Could this be the year?

So, as noted, it’s always something, a continuing mystery. This spring ritual always deepens my respect for the people who are in this thing with all their chips, trying to pull a living out of the soil. If my little plot fails, I roll off to the grocery store, but for millions of people around the world, freakish weather or an insect invasion can mean disaster.


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