Monday, July 26, 2010

Full Buck Moon

July's full moon is called either the Buck Moon, Thunder Moon, or Hay Moon. I wish we had a bit more thunder going on, but the bucks are in almost full velvet antlers. I see deer pretty much every evening when I go for a walk to the nearby park. People who live along the edge of the park put out food for them. I'm not sure if that's a good thing. Either they're attracting more deer into the neighborhood, making it more likely they'll discover my garden soon and start eating it, or they're keeping the deer over there eating their food instead of my garden. Well, at least the deer haven't discovered my garden yet, but it may only be a matter of time.

Things are not looking so good in the garden. It's been really hot, in the 90's every day, and really humid. I'm not sure if plants mind humidity, but we humans sure do. Spend any amount of time outside and you're soaked with sweat that won't evaporate. Whether that bothers the plants depends, I guess, on how much they also rely on evaporative cooling.

The pole beans are not looking good at all. I planted four varieties and haven't gotten any beans off any of them. Scarlet Runner, Blue Coco, Rattlesnake, and Kentucky Wonder are all just barely hanging on to life. What a disappointment.

I got a decent crop of Dragon Tongue Beans, but those are dying off too. They're mixed in with Yellow Pear tomatoes, which have some shriveled up fruit on them I'm not even going to bother with.

I'm not very optimistic about the corn. It's looking really dry. This is a nameless hybrid variety I got as a freebie with a seed order. If I'm going to do corn I should probably stick to native southwestern heirlooms, which would probably be a bit tougher than modern hybrids.

The back fence isn't looking good either. I got about three cucumbers, but since they're hidden under the grass that's coming up there, I never find them until they've turned yellow, and by then they are inedible. The Tromboncino squash is a big disappointment too. The one fruit I got ended up rotting, and it hasn't set any more, maybe due to squash vine borer damage. The Charantais melons are barely hanging on as well. I guess that's what I get for trying to grow a variety from France. About the only thing that's looking ok is the luffa gourd, but the plants are still pretty small.

The only squash that's doing well is the Chihuahuan Landrace Cushaw. I was worried at first because the one squash I got ended up rotting, but then we got a rainstorm and the vines put out seven more fruits. I guess they just need a long growing season. Out of seven fruits, we must get at least one good one, right?

The sweet potatoes look relatively ok too, at least from the top. I won't know until frost if I've got a good crop of roots under there, but the leaves have managed to stay mostly green and healthy.

The only tomatoes that are still hanging on are the Mortgage Lifters. I'm still getting a fruit here and there off them, though they are often small and/or damaged in some way, like from blossom end rot or from critters getting at them. Still, it's impressive that they've lasted this long while all the other tomatoes are toast. This was certainly the best variety I planted this year.

The okra is the only thing I'm still regularly picking. I'm having trouble keeping up. Okra is one of those veggies, like green beans, cucumbers, eggplants, etc., that you need to pick while young, or else they get tough and fibrous. On the other hand, the watermelons I planted in the same plot are starting to worry me. I've got 5 or 6 fruit set, but the vines are looking awful. I hope they don't die before they manage to ripen the fruit. As you can see, I just put a soaker hose there to hopefully nurse them back to health.

Ok, I take that back, the jalapenos are doing pretty well too. I'm letting them ripen to red to collect the seeds. I might as well. They were the only peppers that survived, so the seeds should be pure. Behind them you can see the corpses of the Hawkins Plum tomatoes. I'm trying to decide what I should plant in their place.

Poor Queensland Blue Squash. First attacked by squash vine borers and then frying in the heat. I doubt I'm going to get any fruit of these this year. I only got these squash because the picture looked pretty. They might not be a very good variety for my area.

July and August is the hottest time of year. The middle of summer for us is like what the middle of winter is for gardeners further north. It's a time to stay inside, plan for the fall planting season, nurse whatever few plants are still surviving out there, and just wait until things cool down. By the next full moon I should have a bunch of fall stuff getting started, new crops of garlic, onions, cabbage, lettuce, etc. The heat can't last forever!

Finally, here's a couple of pictures of some more garden inhabitants I've seen recently.

Here's a stick insect that was on the wall of the house. These things can get pretty huge, like six inches long, but are completely harmless. If you poke at them, they stiffen their legs up to make themselves look even more like a stick. They even move in swaying motions so they look like a stick blowing in the breeze. Very cool and weird critters!

And there have been a lot of toads around, which is a very welcome sight. This guy was hanging out on the back porch. I think this might be a Gulf Coast Toad, Bufo nebulifer, but I'm not 100% sure. I have trouble telling species of the genus Bufo apart. This toad has darker markings than most of the toads I've been seeing, but I'm not sure how much individual toads in one species can vary in appearance. Anyway, this is a nice, big, fat toad, so I hope that means he's having a happy life eating lots of bugs in my yard.

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