It’s been a couple weeks since the last garden update, so I need to document some of the changes. In the past two weeks, I’ve started brewing and using my own compost/worm casting tea. I started with an anerobic brew because I didn’t have an air pump, but I’ve since purchased one and now have been successful brewing several batches of aerobic tea. While I started brewing the tea using strictly worm poop, I’ve since added a good shovel full of fresh compost as well. Every two days I have a new sweet-smelling batch of tea that I’ve been applying both as a foliar spray and by watering into the ground. I think it’s still pretty early to say how well the tea is working, but I’ve seen some significant growth over the past week especially. What I have noticed – in the herb garden especially, is an increase in earthworm activity. Every small section I turn over I find a small worm loving life. I know this is good for the plants and shows the soil is healthy. Compost/worm tea is reputed for building beneficial protozoa and bacteria which aerate the soil, providing nutrients, and growing fungi like mycorrhizae which attach to the root system of the plant, allowing it to pull more nutrients out of the soil and protect it from diseases. All of this wonderful activity underground is mirrored in the phyllosphere above, creating a healthy environment at the base and up the entire plant that draws in more beneficial insects and keeps harmful ones at bay.
I officially lost the squash, zucchini and cucumbers, may they rest in peace. I’m still bummed about that. My last report on them showed how destructive aphids can be. I really think that this is because the soil was simply not ready. This stressed out the plants, creating an environment for the aphids to come in, multiply and take over. I’ve pulled them all up now, reworked the soil, added fresh compost and watered with the compost brew. I hope to create healthy soil before I put the next round of plants in, giving it time to build the right balance of fungi, nematodes and bacteria. Right now, I’m not really sure what I’m going to put there. It appears that, as the year progresses, the rotation/tilt is now causing a bit more shade in that area. Perhaps I can find some partial shade veggies that I can put in. Who knows, maybe I can start putting lettuce and spinach over there. They seem to be doing alright.
I planted the spinach starts that I had going – twelve plants in all. They’re really tiny yet, but I’m hoping they’ll be fine. They seemed to have slowed down the past week, so my thinking is that they need more room. I’ve got them nestled into a bed of fresh compost and mulched them with even more on top. The lettuce I did the same way, and it is really growing. I’ve got sixteen plants going right now of three different varieties, as well as another fifteen or so started in toilet paper tubes. The broccoli has struggled a bit establishing themselves, but I have a handful of strong plants that should be just fine. I have another four that I’m watching – and another transplant ready to put in if need be. Also in the same bed, the carrots are developing nicely. I’ve got about 110 of them going. Libby, our little brat dog (just kidding, she’s the most loved/spoiled dog in the world), decided that she’d eat the tops off about ten of them. Surprisingly, a few decided to keep on growing. I also lost a couple to some crazy hard rain.
The pepper plant is weighted down with a ton of peppers right now. It’s been a bit wet for it lately and it’s lost some leaves because of it, but the peppers are growing strong. Compared to the summer crop, these are larger and have a thicker skin and I’m quite pleased. I’ve even got my first jalapeno – it’s only about an inch long right now, but I can taste it already!
Meanwhile, the beans are starting to produce their first pods. I didn’t realize how cute little bean pods are! I really didn’t expect them to do anything because I thought I’d lost them, but they’ve held on. I pulled up a couple of them and transplanted three more. Those transplants are four weeks younger than the others. I’ve been watering them with compost/worm tea for the past two weeks and they are taller than the others and look like they will start flowering this week. If that’s the case, maybe I’ll be able to pull off a decent harvest on the beans. I don’t expect them to be done before Thanksgiving, but we aren’t scheduled to get our first frost until the first or second week of December. I’ll keep applying the tea and wait.
The rosemary cuttings have really grown in the past week – I think due to the tea. I’ve got at least an inch of new growth. I took some more cuttings off the main plant and now have another seven plants going. This time I dipped them in rooting hormone to speed up the process, and started them off with the tea. I should be able to make another round of cuttings before I pull up the old plant, which I killed by watering too much this summer. I’m going to go by the local nursery and pick up an established rosemary bush and plant it in its place. This time, I’m going to use a lot of sand in the hole to help keep it drained and happy.
The mints have taken off in the corner of the yard. At first, the long hours of shade made me think they might not do too well. Alas! They are mints! They’ve sent runners out about a foot now and all kinds of new growth is popping up from the roots I buried. The mother plants almost died (I relocated them and they received more sun and neglect. They’re not happy with me.). Now that they are back in their original place, I expect they’ll be back to normal in a number of weeks.
Also, I’ve got a ton of sprouts along the fence where I cast the wildflower seeds. I’ve gone through and pulled out the grass, but I can’t tell what is a weed and what is a wildflower. I’m going to let them go awhile and see if I can distinguish them better before pulling them up.
The hibiscus is up to my chin now and it’s still growing. It also has a bunch of buds ready to open up – so it isn’t done yet. Perhaps I can continue to enjoy the tropical blooms a bit longer.