Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ceding the Battle

This weekend I pulled up most of my vegetable garden and threw it in the compost bin.

Am I crazy?

Done for the summer
In Oregon, July 5 meant that summer had usually arrived.  The vegetable garden was in high gear and the tomatoes were ready to blush.  Here in Austin, it means that I am done until fall.  It’s taken me two years to accept this.

It doesn’t help that I get cheerful emails from Territorial Seed Company reminding me to start seeding in the last of the summer vegetables and start thinking of starting the winter garden.  Even though they are targeting the message for my Zone 8 garden (the same zone as Portland, Oregon by the way), putting in seed right now is insane.

Part of the issue is the heat.  Even though we’ve had a couple of rainy thunderstorms, the relentless Texas sun stresses all living things; native or not.   Many of my plants wilt during the day, as they are not able to keep up with the water loss.  Surprisingly, it is possible to over water plants during this time.  I have really had to learn that just because something is wilting doesn’t mean that the ground is dry.

But in the case of the vegetable garden, stressed plants are primary beacons for pests.  As soon as things get warm out there I am plagued with white flies and spider mites.  I usually try to battle against them at first will water blasts.  But as soon as that begins to fail I call it quits.  Part of my goal with gardening is to be in tune with the natural environment.  If plants are too stressed to fight off bugs, using pesticides – even if organic – seems silly.  Best thing to do is to make compost.

I will try to keep a few things alive that like the heat.  I have a couple of okra plants, eggplant, some squash and a few tomatoes that I can water for most of the summer and still get produce.  So for summer, which is like winter for me, we buy most of our fresh produce at the store.  If I have done canning we eat it during the summer, not winter.

I am lucky here in Austin.  Even though the summer is very oppressive, the winter is glorious.  I start planting greens, carrots, broccoli, onions, beans and whatever else looks good at the end of September.  I use row covers if it looks like a freeze and can make it through most cold snaps.

So even though my Oregon DNA is screaming at me to get out there and garden, I’ll just hide in the house and sit under the fan.  Some battles just aren’t worth fighting.


  1. Oh Sheryl !! ok, inside I know you are right but I am a fighter :) I also have a drip irrigation system on a timer so my swiss chard row has gone on for over two years and wild arugula, pepper, eggplant, okra and new zealand spinach keep me busy pulling weeds. I have cut back my tomatoes for three years at this point and then get fall bumper crops (usually my best tomato time is fall) and I don't consider myself a good tomato grower. Anyway, I totally agree, that Texas summer gardening sucks and I hate it and LOVE winter gardening here so much more since we don't have to deal with all the crazy pests (or snakes). But how in the world do you still have squash? I have lost the squash bug war, battle after battle and feel so defeated that this year, I refused to even plant ANY ! I just get mine from neighbors at the local farmer's market now !

    1. I planted trombocino squash that is resistant to the borers. I also planted a winter squash. Both set rootlets along the stem so they do a good job surviving. I always keep my chard alive but we don't eat it because it is so bitter. I have seeds for New Zealand spinach but didn't have room to plant it this year. I had malabar spinach but wasn't crazy about it so pulled it up. I don't mind being a fighter but I don't want to spray. So instead I am trying to be zen and wait til fall.

  2. I was just talking to my mom yesterday (she's in Colorado), and she said the farmer market people were saying it would be another 2 weeks before the tomatoes were ready. So she was lamenting that they didn't have a prolific tomato plant like my 'I assume it's black krim or purple Cherokee' plant...I probably should have told her that the plant probably won't produce anything else until October...

    Oh! you were at the East Austin Garden Faire! Do you remember anyone saying if they had Purple Cherokees or Black Krims in the free tomato plant give away plants?

    1. Hey Katina, no I don't remember if those two were in the give aways. I know that they originally had some, but might have sold them all at Zilker. My black krims were mostly enjoyed by the mockingbirds! However the few I got were quite tasty. My favorite is still Mortgage Lifter and I just picked the last one. For knock out tomato flavor my Sungolds always steal the taste test battle, even though they are a cherry. We eat them by the handful!

  3. Animal, plant or mineral, I'm not sure how you get anything to flourish in that Texas heat...glad you are figuring out how to do it!