Is it Fall Yet?

Summer in Texas can really be brutal. After all the flooding and hail the dog days of summer finally hit. We ended up where we had several months over 100 degrees every day. When the temps go triple digit we pretty much hibernate indoors and let the outdoors go on auto pilot. The crazy Texas summer heat is a great way to see what survives and what needs changed going forward.

IMG_6503During the heat wave, in the gutter garden I pretty much kept the water reservoirs filled and watered the wood chips in the back to Eden area I started. I learned there are some things that do not grow well in the gutters because of the root systems. The peas and bean really had large root systems that ended up leaving their containers and went out and filled up the gutter. The plants on the end away from the water reservoir had difficulty getting water and I spent mornings and evenings making sure they got watered to keep them going. I also had to cut out the over grown root system several times over the summer.

I got a nice harvest of garlic and onions when the heat hit and will do it the same next year. I will start seeds for the onions again in the fall to plant out as starts in the spring. I also have some of my garlic in the fridge getting some cool time before planting out in the fall. I grew both onions and garlic in the half barrels, and I will continue to grow them on the gutters until I get the BTE and wood chips a bit more established. Then I will grow them in both places and compare results. We ended up with a good harvest of both of these so I feel the gutter is a good way to grow these crops. I dehydrated most of the onions to store them through the winter bt some have been left to cook with fresh. Some of the garlic was dehydrated and made into a power to season my eggs in the morning and I still have some fresh to cook with as well.

When the heat hit the lettuce bolted so I let it go to seed. I did get some lettuce seeds saved and looks like I got some that also reseeded where they were growing. I plan to once again grow the lettuce in the barrels on the gutter. I like the height as it keeps rabbits out and I can keep a constant water supply that I believe help the lettuce. I need to add some compost to the barrels to improve fertility before I get the lettuce planted for fall. I also plan on adding radishes to the barrels and will do some succession sowing to keep the harvest coming before the really cold temps hit.

IMG_6506The tomatoes and peppers really struggled in the gutters. I am trying to grow without the fertilizer the method recommends and I think that is showing up in poor performance. They were actually doing great until the hail hit and pretty much shredded the plants. Then the heat of summer hit and by then I think the plants had used up what nutrition was in the soil. Tomatoes tend to slow in the heat but the peppers should have taken off. My plan was to make a compost tea to add to their water reservoir and just did not get around to it in the heat. Though the gutters work well for both of these crops unless I can get more nutrients to then I do not think it is the best way to grow either. I think I will try to grow the tomatoes on the BTW next year. I did put two paste tomatoes that sprouted in the compost pile in the wood chips and they actually did pretty well and did not require a lot of additional water. May try some of the peppers in there as well and see what produces better.

IMG_6498The Comfrey has really done well and we have harvested from it every few days to put in the chicken run. With the insane heat it has required water only a few times with all the wood chips it was planted in. I think the BTE style of gardening does have promise, but I need to go nuclear on the Bermuda grass that creeps into everything before I do too much planting in it. The Bermuda grass has managed to come up through the card board so I need to get a bit more drastic than I would prefer to. Roundup is not my ideal solution but every little piece left seems to grow and take over so I need to get busy killing it off. It would be nice if the Bermuda was actually in the area where I want a yard instead of the crabgrass and weeds currently growing there. It is not a bad grass since it seems to thrive on neglect, but it goes where it is not wanted and is not as attractive as Centipede. Because I do not want it running a muck in the compost pile, any I pull out of the ground goes in the chicken pen. The chickens seem to share my dislike of the grass as they do not seem to like eating the stuff. At least in their pen they scratch it around and it will die out and compost in there.

Another surprise this summer was the Kale. It produced well and is still growing. I have been pulling leaves off and giving them to the chickens and they seem to really enjoy them. Going forward I will definitely grow more Kale so I can provide a lot more for the chickens and maybe get some myself. I do not like the taste of the Kale, but it is one of those foods that are good for you. So, I want to try and add some to my diet. I find the Kale dehydrates wells so the plan is I can sneak some into my smoothies and I will never know it is in there.

When the temps get a little cooler we will be adding more wood chips to out BTE area. I really liked the growth rate of some tomatoes and the Comfrey using the Back to Eden garden and think it shows a lot of promise. I only had a few inches of the wood chips down and I should have had closer to 6 inches. Though the chips were not very deep the garden area did not require a lot of additional water even in our crazy heat. I still have a good sized pile of chips and lots of card board boxes piling up that I need to get down when the weather cools. In addition to the wood chips I need to add other things that will decompose and add to the soil fertility.

IMG_6453 (1)One of the things recommended for the BTE garden is manure. My neighbors have goats and asked if I had any use for their straw they bedded the goats on. I was thrilled to take it to add to the BTE area. They don’t have a compost pile yet so I told them to bring it over and just dump. I will rake it out and add more chips to the top. I am also adding the chicken manure from the chicken coop to the area so it will have all through the winter to break down and be able to provide nutrients to next years crops.

We are now in September so the end of Summer is in sight. It is time to sit down and plan the fall plantings and figure out what we can do next year to increase our harvest. The lower temps will be a welcome change and will encourage lots of outdoor projects. Though this years was not the success we had hoped, we still did well and learned what we can do to improve going forward.




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