May @ the Organic Vegetable Garden (OVG)

 At Potomac Overlook Regional Park

By Nancy Dowling, Master Gardener

Please excuse me while I empty the water out of my Wellies! Geez. After 18 straight days of rain, it’s been difficult to finish planting the vegetable garden this year. But is this really any different than any other year? It seems that every year I hear a gardener say, “Isn’t this the craziest weather?” And so goes this year because of all the rain. As gardeners, we get accustomed to adapting to conditions – soil conditions, weather conditions, slopes, humidity, bugs, you name it. So, let’s see – what’s really going on at the OVG?

Our newest crops, the potato bags and strawberries are going gangbusters. See how the potato foliage has grown way up and over the top of the bags? As the foliage matures, it will yellow and die back. When it does, it’s ready to harvest. And see how the strawberry crowns have doubled in size? We keep snipping off the strawberry blossoms to encourage growth for BIG fruit next year.

We are still harvesting spinach and chard from the winter. We also harvested all of the radishes to make room for a future crop of carrots or beets. But we had to pull the kale out altogether; it bolted. It did give us a pretty good run this year, though.

The lettuce we planted in late March and early April is doing well. We’ve harvested some and hope it doesn’t bolt too soon with the hot weather. We’ve seen a couple of slugs, but not a lot, which is surprising with all this rain. Our garlic, planted last October, looks great, too. See for yourself.

Planting peppers

Planting peppers
Photo © 2016 Nancy Dowling

On May 25th, our work party rushed to plant the rest of our tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. (OK, the eggplants will wait until next month, when the threat of fly beetles has passed.) That’s a bit late for us, but the rain has slowed us down. Last year, we had our tomatoes and peppers in a different bed and nearly lost all the peppers to Phytophthora, a soilborne disease.


Tomato plantings

Tomato plantings
Photo © 2016 Nancy Dowling

That’s why we used rye and vetch cover crops last fall in last year’s bed and why we are leaving that bed fallow this year. We want to break the cycle of this stubborn disease. This year, our tomatoes are in a different bed with soil that was planted with vetch and rye also this past winter, cut down in early April, and left to break down to create a beautiful loamy soil. So, no excuses now, tomatoes. Grow! (Don’t they look healthy?) We plant them deep under ground with only the topmost leaves showing. We cut off the lowest leaves to prevent any soilborne disease from reaching the leaves. And we always plant them with plenty of space between plants.  The soil and the air are the biggest issues in our area, due to our high humidity and hot summers.

The peas and fava beans we planted in March and early April are now quite tall, flowering and about to set pods. If it doesn’t heat up too much, we might get a good crop in this year. (Don’t you love the fava bean’s flowers?)

We’ve had mixed results from the beans we planted earlier in May. Some of our seedlings were eaten by cutworms, while others are growing nicely in a line. Go figure. We’ve planted more and hope the cutworms have been satisfied.

We also planted some squash – tromboncino summer squash, to be exact.  They need a warm soil, not too wet. Hopefully, the rain will cooperate now. (We need only an inch a week, not five.)

Harvesting will soon be our biggest job in the garden, and that’s not a bad thing to look forward to, is it?

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