Simple Summer Gardening

This year, the drought in California is immense. Over the past 6 – 7 years, we have been watching the changes in the climate and the affect on our garden. Initially, we observed the fruit trees going to fruit earlier by about a month. The miner’s lettuce also began its cycle a month early. This year, the fennel which reseeds itself beautifully every year, has grown to less than half its usual size. Though its bloom appeared at the usual time of year, only one plant looks healthy in the entire patch in spite of regular watering.

Then a few years ago, unexpectedly, some of our large elder rosemary bushes died. We’d never had to water them, so they were neglected and too far gone before we realized it. Not long after that summer vegetables started looking stunted. One year, we planted corn and watched as it grew beautifully. Until, a heat wave hit in mid-May. The corn, at only half its usual height, started to send out a bolt and move into a fall phase of dying back. Hmmm.

Gradually, grapevines stopped producing, some fruit trees died, others flourished. Summer herbs and vegetables planted in the ground grew to half their usual size. Even with a fresh bed filled with healthy compost and organic fertilizer to help get started. Watering the plants in the beds felt like an endless process. The topsoil never looked freshly filled with water as it should. It seemed as though all we were doing was watering the water table beneath the beds.

With lots of extra watering, the fruit trees perked up a bit. Pears and mulberries offering bountiful harvests. Figs became more temperamental. If we got a grape harvest it overlapped with the end of the summer fruits instead of blessing us in the fall. This year, the miner’s lettuce came three months early and went to seed by the time March rolled around (its usual peak is in March).

For many years, Ofer has been experimenting with growing plants in small, contained pools. Last year, while my vegetables were limping along in the garden, he was harvesting a good amount. So, this year we decided to grow all of our annual vegetables and herbs in the pools. Garden pools are less work in general, no heavy digging or continuous watering.

Watering occurs every few days. Make sure to put in enough water to the level of one third to one half of the height of the pots in the pool. Allow the water to completely dry out before adding more to kill off mosquito eggs that may have been laid in the pool when wet. Repot plants as they grow to give space to the expanding roots. Watch the plants flourish and enjoy the harvest!

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