A surprisingly unproductive end of August garden, 2015

This summer has been relatively hot and humid for coastal southern California. Temps have climbed into the 80s nearly every day, indoors and out. We don’t have air conditioning. Normally, it isn’t needed except for two weeks in August when we get monsoonal flows up from Mexico. For us, they usually bring heat and humidity, but no rain. This year, that two week period has lasted for two months now, and even gave us some rain in July. That rain was a precious surprise, and I was able to collect some in my rain barrels.

I continue tending and monitoring my little garden. And finally, it is beginning to produce something. Mostly from my food forest of trees, not the veggie beds. Due to the drought, I let my front yard beds go fallow after the onion and garlic harvest, giving it just enough water to keep the kale alive.

We are finally getting some food from the yard. Here are limes and the first of the Fuji apples.

We are finally getting some food from the yard. Here are limes and the first of the Fuji apples.

The Asian pears did well this year. I still have a lot of pears up high in the tree, out of my reach. Do I dare climb a ladder at my age? Sure, why not? What could possibly go wrong?

The Asian pears did well this year. I still have a lot of pears up high in the tree, out of my reach. Do I dare climb a ladder at my age? Sure, why not? What could possibly go wrong?

Part of my Slow Food philosophy is growing my own food and cooking from scratch. I have been making blueberry scones, bagels, and bread. And I have even been using old fashioned sourdough for some of my baked goods, mostly pancakes. Hmm, can we call pancakes “baked goods?”

Here is a loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread. It is too hot in August to turn on the oven, so I bake bread on our gas BBQ grill in a cast iron Dutch oven round pot without the lid. The grill has a thermometer in the lid, so I just keep checking the temp and adjusting the gas jets as needed. I turn off the center burner and bake over the center to keep from scorching the bottom of the bread. I usually start the bread at about 450 degrees F, and adjust down to 375 for 45 minutes. I get wonderfully crusty bread.

I have rejuvenated a fabulous sourdough starter from my friend Margaret Carlberg. She had kept it going since 1959. I have had it five years, and it is a great starter.

I have rejuvenated a fabulous sourdough starter from my friend Margaret Carlberg. She had kept it going since 1959. I have had it five years, and it is a great starter. Here is a loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread.

Here are some of my homemade Bread and Butter pickles that I put into a tuna salad.

Here are some of my homemade Bread and Butter pickles that I put into a tuna salad.

Some of those apples and pears mixed with blueberries go well on a pile of cottage cheese. Add a tuna sandwich on home baked sourdough bread and you have a Slow Food lunch.

Some of those apples and pears mixed with blueberries go well on a pile of cottage cheese. Add a tuna sandwich on home baked sourdough bread and you have a Slow Food lunch.

Mostly I just sit on the deck in the morning and admire my garden, wondering if I am ever going to get any vegetables this year.

An overview of my three veggie beds in the back yard. They sure are looking lush. Too bad that there is nothing to harvest from them. Yet.

An overview of my three veggie beds in the back yard. They sure are looking lush. Too bad that there is nothing to harvest from them. Yet.

The tomatoes have a lot of blossoms on them. We haven't had many honeybees this year, and no bumblebees, so I flick the flowers every morning to help them get pollinated.

The tomatoes have a lot of blossoms on them. We haven’t had many honeybees this year, and no bumblebees, so I flick the flowers every morning to help them get pollinated.

It's working! There are tomatoes set on the Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Big Boy, and Better Boy Plants.

It’s working! There are tomatoes set on the Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Big Boy, and Better Boy Plants.

There are tomatoes on the Roma plants as well, but I'm going to have trouble making marinara sauce with just two tomatoes.

There are tomatoes on the Roma plants as well, but I’m going to have trouble making marinara sauce with just two tomatoes.

The cucumber voices are growing rampant, topping their support system.

The cucumber voices are growing rampant, topping their support system.

The cucumber plants are positively loaded with BIG male blossoms, prettiest I've ever seen.

The cucumber plants are positively loaded with BIG male blossoms, prettiest I’ve ever seen.

But the darn female cucumber flowers were;t getting fertilized. I finally resorted to hand pollination. It worked for one out of four female flowers, this one.

But the darn female cucumber flowers were’t getting fertilized. I finally resorted to hand pollination. It worked for one out of four female flowers, this one.

I saw a honeybee in the garden, so let nature take its course and finally got a second duke fertilized. Unless production picks up, there won't be enough to make pickles.

I saw a honeybee in the garden, so let nature take its course and finally got a second cuke fertilized. Unless production picks up, there won’t be enough to make pickles though.

I have ONE Ping Tung Long eggplant that got fertilized. It is a new variety to me as I usually grow Ichiban eggplants. This year my Ichiban has nothing on it after I picked the first eggplant from it.

I have ONE Ping Tung Long eggplant that got fertilized. It is a new variety to me as I usually grow Ichiban eggplants. This year my Ichiban has nothing on it after I picked the first eggplant from it. Well, summer isn’t over yet.

This handsome row of green beans is towering over my head, but there is not one single flower on the bean vines. Yet.

This handsome row of green beans is towering over my head, but there is not one single flower on the bean vines. Yet.

I also planted a row of Little Goat’s Eye beans and Eye of Goat beans. Both resulted in crop failure. I got ONE sprout from the row of Eye of Goat beans, and a critter ate it before I could even photograph the poor thing. Yep, we’re gonna starve this winter for sure.

I transplanted red cabbage in January, but we had a REALLY warm winter. The cabbages STILL haven't headed up. This is the best so far, a cabbage head the size of a grapefruit.

I transplanted red cabbage in January, but we had a REALLY warm winter. The cabbages STILL haven’t headed up. This is the best so far, a cabbage head the size of a grapefruit.

The bell peppers are coming along. They will produce well into winter, so I have my fingers crossed for getting some harvest from these guys.

The bell peppers are coming along. They will produce well into winter, so I have my fingers crossed for getting some harvest from these guys.

I got four butternuts out of six plants. Pretty pathetic. And I have never seen such small butternuts.

I got four butternuts out of six plants. Pretty pathetic. And I have never seen such small butternuts.

My Granny Smith apples are doing well. Some of the apples are huge and some aren't much bigger than golf balls.

My Granny Smith apples are doing well. Some of the apples are huge and some aren’t much bigger than golf balls.

This is the first year I have gotten apples from my little Fuji apple tree. They are tiny but delicious.

This is the first year I have gotten apples from my little Fuji apple tree. They are tiny but delicious.

I pulled the leaves off of my apple trees last November because they aren’t falling naturally on their own with our warm winters. Apples require a lot of winter chill, which we didn’t get last year. The trick of pulling off the leaves sends the apple trees into dormancy. It worked! I am getting a decent apple harvest this year despite a too-warm winter last year.

DSC_1435

Here is a different view of the veggie beds.

A late August overview of my three little beds, looking north. The chicken coop is behind me.

A late August overview of my three little beds, looking north. The chicken coop is behind me.

So that is the state of my garden in late August. I love looking at it, walking between the little beds, admiring new flowers on the veggies, bemoaning the fact that so few flowers are resulting in set fruit. I collect rain in barrels and maintain two compost bins where I compost all of the leaves from our two deciduous liquid amber trees in front. I am doing my bit in my own tiny little corner of the world to grow food in a changing climate, maintain hens, cook from scratch, and live a green life.

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A surprisingly unproductive end of August garden, 2015

  1. Mary Mueller says:

    Your garden just looks so comfortable (weird word for it!), compared to mine, which is a madhouse.

    • Mary, comfortable sure isn’t a word that I would have thought of for my garden, but you are right. It is comfortable. And slow. Not much to do with it, given that there are essentially no crops to harvest. 😦 Normally, my preserving efforts would be driving me nuts this time of year. But no, I just sit on the deck and watch the plants dry up.

  2. Norma Chang says:

    Glad your apples are producing, you have a long growing season so hopefully the other crops will give a good late harvest.

  3. middleway says:

    Except for tree fruit and berry crops, a very dismal 2015 garden year in the Sacramento region as well. Compared to a normal year in percentages: hybrid tomatoes, 50% of normal; heirloom tomatoes, 20% of normal; green beans, 40% of normal; squashes, 40% of normal; cucumbers, 10% of normal; eggplant, 70% of normal; green peppers, 90% of normal; chilies, 60% of normal; okra, 30% of normal; cape gooseberries, 20% of normal; etc.
    We had bees present, but our nighttime temperatures tended to be on the very cool side, leading to blossom-drop. Hopefully next years summer garden will prove to be more productive (if there is water and gardening is still legal)!

    • Middleway, sorry to hear that crops are below normal in Sacramento too. We have had abnormal heat, and certainly no cool nights. 😦 This changing climate, and our ongoing drought in the West, does make gardening a challenge. Keep at it, and good luck.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s