Rain, rain go away, come again…….. in a week or so. Who thought that would be our mantra before last week when all we could do was hope for more rain. Because of all the rain (and there is more coming in the near future according to the forecast) gardening progress has been a bit slow this week as we try to stay out of the wet soil. Although we are ready for a bit of dry weather we are quite thankful for the rain as the production of our gardens has started to pick up speed. Maggie and I had predicted that our gardeners would have harvested a bit less at this point in the year than they had in previous seasons, due to the late start that the majority of them got and the dry and hot weather that preceded the rain. However after we collected harvest records for June and early July we were very pleased to see that our totals are quite a bit higher than expected. After tallying up the harvest totals, our participants have harvested more than 306 pecks (76.5 bushels) of produce as of the second week of July (we collect harvest record sheets from participants during the second week of each month since our monthly meetings are the second Tuesday of each month).  Five of our families have yet to turn their harvest sheets in, so our numbers should be even quite a bit higher. 

Most of our participants are doing what they can to keep their gardens looking nice and are excited with the first big harvests of the summer, we’ve already seen lots of zucchini and yellow squash, onions, cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage, lettuce, peas, beans, and just now the first few tomatoes that are ripe enough to pick. This time of year is wonderful because we get to hear the harvest predictions, and comparisons to other years, of more experienced gardeners who have really seen it all, and we also get to share in the excitement of those who are new to gardening and are overjoyed with every little vegetable that comes out of their garden (I would probably still fall into this category).

Frank Ambrose and his big, beautiful cabbage
 During the dry period we experienced just a few weeks ago, few weeds were popping up in gardens, but since the rain has hit weeds have flourished. Since the rain hasn’t let up it has been difficult for gardeners to get in their garden plots and pull out those pesky plants. Our summer assistant, Andrew, has been thinking about ways to keep the weeds down and has provided the following reflection:

What all could you use to keep weeds out of things like watermelon, tomatoes, etc.?  Here are some things you could use: you could use shredded paper, you could use recycled card board boxes. What you would do with the shredded paper is spread around or under what you are planting and when the vines or stems grew out they would not touch the ground. Shredded paper is also good for helping the tomatoes not get some diseases where the stems and leaves wouldn’t be touching the ground.  Cardboard is really good for like watermelon and other plants that has vines you would put the cardboard under and around where the watermelon is. Another way to use cardboard is to put it between your corn and bean rows. You can also use black fabric for sweet potatoes. There is also some other things like black plastic you can also use to cover up some weeds. Some people use old newspapers. You would put down layers of newspaper to get it where it will work. You can also use leaves for mulch, you can use old pea vines. The good thing about using all of this stuff is it acts as a moisture barrier so that the ground does not go dry as fast as it would without it. Also the stuff you can use helps keep the weeds down in your garden, especially in some of the places that is harder to reach with your garden tool than others would be.

Leaves used as mulch under melons in the Pine Mountain Settlement School farm fields

Cardboard used as mulch under the melons in the Pine Mountain community garden