The last few weeks have been rough on everyone’s gardens in the Seattle area. There has been no rain and we had a massive heat wave a bit ago with temperatures well over 100 degrees which is super unusual for this area. I watered like crazy during the heat wave, some plants got water three times a day and others twice. Still, several of my plants were damaged and my vegetable output this year will be much smaller than previous years. For instance, I planted about a dozen cabbages and only got small one bug eaten one head of my spring crop. I will be planting more for fall but it was still pretty heartbreaking to see all of my plants either decimated by slugs/caterpillars or burnt from the sun.
Some of the plants that did not make it through the last few weeks were my squash plants. As you can see they have been decimated by slugs despite my best efforts to deter them. I put new soil here, fertilized and mulched but my plants are doing poorly in general. Last year this area had potatoes and they did ok. You can see that there are a couple of potato plants coming up from some of the potatoes left in the soil. I have planted both zucchini and spaghetti squash here in years past and they flourished but I realized this year when I was watching the light patterns that this area no longer receives the amount of light it did when we moved in five years ago. The trees surrounding it have grown significantly since then and I have lost one of the few full sun areas I previously had in my garden. I am not sure what I am going to do for next year in this area. For now, I planted some peas and installed some branches for trellising but at the moment not much seems to be growing. I will probably plant a cover crop here for fall and mulch extensively. It may be time to cut down the tree that provides shade to part of my garden but I am reluctant to take such an extreme measure. I may just cut it back significantly this year and plant more shade tolerant plants in this spot next year.
Speaking of potato plants, one of my strategies this year has been to plant potatoes all over in my regular garden beds and hope I get something out of it. We had a bunch from the harvest last year and some that started growing in our pantry and I basically just planted them wherever I had a bare patch. I have not been hilling them at all but I may add straw or mulch this weekend to some areas such as the one above to see if I get a higher yield. Last year I spent tons of time, money and energy carefully hilling my potatoes and it really didn’t increase my yield very much. These are in an area I have trouble growing things in front of our large bush. There isn’t a lot of sun and the large bush traps most of the water but these are doing well. I have been watering them on hot days with the hose and it has been enough. They are also crowding out the creeping Jenny which we can’t get rid of. I am not a fan of it and it is spreading all over my yard. It traps moisture and is a slug breeding ground and I am pulling as much of it out as I can.
A few of our potato plants did not do well in the heat wave so I dug them up and recovered as many spuds as I could. I ended up digging up about four plants and got double the yield shown above. I am guessing it was around two or three pounds worth. We steamed some of them with our single cabbage and they were delicious! I will probably either roast or steam the others for dinner in the next few days. My middle daughter and I love them steamed with butter and salt. She was very excited for the potatoes! I also planted a few more I found sprouted in our garage, probably victims of the heat wave as well and pulled the ones I could find near the zucchini patch. I have a few mid-growth cycle right now so we will have some more potatoes to harvest in about a month or so and then another month out from that. We really don’t eat a ton of potatoes but I do like to have them fresh when I can. I saved some of the sprouted ones which I will plant in two week intervals so we have a steady supply of potatoes for the next few months. I am not good at storing them (clearly since they all sprout) so having a steady stream of plants to dig up is better for our family.
One plant I had to baby through the heat wave was our pumpkins. They loved the heat but needed watering two to three times a day otherwise they wilted like crazy. Since it isn’t good to get the leaves wet during the heat of the day, during lunch I very carefully watered them with the hose on a super low setting under the leaves. I roasted in the noon sun but it saved my pumpkin plants. I did not see any bees for about a week and a half during and after the heat wave and the pumpkin started flowering in earnest once everything cooled a bit. I had to hand pollinate for about a week and we now have two pumpkins growing. Usually you don’t want more than one per vine if you want large ones but we have had such bad luck this year with pests I am probably going to pollinate one more per vine just to guarantee we get something in the fall. To hand pollinate I took a paint brush and transferred pollen from the male flowers to the female ones. The flowers on my variety of pumpkins only lasted one day so I had to go out there first thing in the morning to pollinate before anyone else had taken all of the pollen. It seemed like there was very little pollen this year. Usually I have enough to pollinate several flowers but we haven’t grown this variety before so I don’t know if it is the variety or the heat.
One of the giant varieties of vegetables we are trying this year is these Mammoth Red Mangel Beets. These are traditionally used for animal feed since they get so large but I thought it would be fun to grow them. I am not a huge fan of beets but have discovered that I love eating the greens. I will definitely grow beets again next year if only for the greens. This particular variety forms the beet super slowly and has a 100 day growing period. I was really happy to see the beginnings of a beet forming on one of my plants. I am hoping to harvest one or two by the end of summer just to see how they taste. The rest I will leave until late September or so to see how large they get. Any guesses?
Another plant that did well in the heat was our cucumbers. I planted these in a super shady spot that get some afternoon sun in the summer when the days are longer. I purposefully put the garden bed here in the hopes of extending some of my shade loving crops into the summer and so far it is working. My cucumbers are thriving here and I have a few small fruits on the vines. We eat a lot of cucumbers so I am hoping in a month or so there will be a bunch more and both plants will be well on their way up the trellis. The greens I planted in this bed did bolt during the heat wave but I am going to wait until the end of July and try again. I also have giant Kohlrabi in this bed and it is my first time growing that as well. I am not really sure how they are doing. A couple were eaten by slugs and one had an aphid infestation but they haven’t really grown much the past few weeks. I am going to have to do some Googling and see if there is anything else I need to do for them besides wait. I am not seeing any bulbs forming under the soil but I may need to add more dirt around the bases again. I mounded dirt up around both my beets and kohlrabi when I planted them but some of it has washed away during watering.
Our apple tree did really well in the heat. I thought for sure we would lose some leaves or they would be burnt but I just watered it when the sun wasn’t on it and not even that much and it did fine. This area is where the water settles from the rest of the yard and I typically don’t need to water it as much. The apple tree got a lot of runoff from the sprinkler and the pool water and I really only watered it once or twice during the heat wave. We did get way fewer apples this year but that is actually a good thing because last year we had way too many and it attracted pests. I do need to go through and thin a bunch but I am still recovering from my surgery last month and limited in how much gardening I can do. Maybe I will be able to get to it next week. The few apples that we do have are larger and much healthier looking than last year. We don’t put nets over our tree but I might try it next year after the flowers have been pollinated to prevent insects from getting in there.
The weeds have gotten out of control in my side yards, strawberry patch and backyard. My goal the next few weeks is to spend maybe 30 minutes a day working on clearing them out. I can’t do much more than that at the moment but hopefully it will help with my recovery. I worked on the the vegetable bed last week and this week but there is so much to do in my yard I probably won’t catch up until fall. I haven’t done much trimming back of the many bushes that grow faster than the speed of light and the ones I did trim have grown about three feet since I trimmed them last March and need trimming again. I did trim the Smoke Bush pictured above after I took this picture. It had grown about five feet out into the “gravel area” that is now choked with weeds. I do want to take this bush out eventually. It grows super fast and weedy and if I remember correctly they are considered a weedy species here. I also have a rather large Butterfly bush I need to remove that is on the Noxious Weed list. I was waiting for it to bloom since the bees are struggling so much this year and they love that bush. I want to replace these non-native species with native ones over time.
One bush I forgot to water but should have is our Red Huckleberry bush. I always water it during the hot parts of summer but this year I forgot for some reason. My son picked a bunch of berries off of it earlier this week and I guess they were good but they look super pale to me and I think they still need a couple more weeks before they ripen. The squirrels have been eating the berries though and usually that is our litmus test to see if they are ripe. I will probably water this one and keep watering it over the next few weeks since we don’t seem to be getting any rain this summer. This bush is older and well established so I am not super worried about it but if I can avoid stressing it by watering it a bit I will.
My goals the next few weeks are to keep our plants hydrated, weed like there’s no tomorrow and start getting beds ready for fall planting.
How did your plants do in the Seattle Heatwave?