by Peter Heffelfinger
posted July 20, 2020
With a full week of sun and warm weather in the forecast, the main garden chore becomes watering. The key is to irrigate as early in the morning as possible, allowing the plants to absorb a reservoir of moisture before the heat of the day. Cool morning temperatures reduce evaporation, with a greater percentage of the water being taken up by the plants. Early watering also avoids sun scald on the leaves, which can happen if irrigation is done later in the day when the sun is intense. Given the coming summer drought cycle, early in the day watering helps to conserve a vital resource.
Watering is key for new seedlings such as lettuce, coriander, fennel and dill, which can easily expire in the heat. For lettuce, which needs partial shade, I construct temporary shade coverings using the leftover black plastic see-through nursery trays supported by empty half-gallon plastic pots. It’s easy to water directly through the latticework of the trays. Plus, if you are transplanting starts for fall and winter, such as cabbages or leeks, they will need consistent watering until their root systems get established and can take the direct sun. Given our extended northern daylight hours, I cover new starts with either half or full gallon plastic pots for a day or two, and then move the pot adjacent to the plants to supply shade for a few more days against the sun’s rays. Think of it as a temporary sunscreen for tender plants.
My vegetable garden relies on an artesian well, which also supplies two households. Since the water supply is always on, with the overflow running year-round by the garden in a small ditch, I fill 55-gallon drums during off-peak hours to serve as garden reservoirs during the summer. One tank supplies a gravity hose to the hoop house; the other two I use for submerging watering cans to quickly fill them. I also do general watering by hose for large areas of brassicas, squash, corn and potatoes, or trellises of peas. Mostly though, to conserve water, I prefer to irrigate by hand so I can see exactly how much water is being absorbed by the soil, as well as checking on the condition of each plant. No droopy leaves.
Enjoy the sun, and keep the plants well hydrated.
Now that the garlic is cleaned and curing in the shed, the next harvest on the list is my Greek oregano, the white-flowered variety as opposed to the more common purple type. I have a perennial patch that seeded itself in the rocky soil of a former driveway. I wait until the buds are just about to break into bloom before cutting the long stems, which I gather into large bunches hung up to dry in the pantry away from the sun. The fresh oregano bouquets always remind me of a favorite Greek grocery/delicatessen back East, which has large bunches of imported oregano, twigs included, tightly wrapped in cellophane. They hang from the ceiling overhead, just above the trays of baklava and the tubs of fresh pickled octopus.
When the harvested bunches are fully dry, I enclose each one inside a large brown paper bag, tie the top edge of the bag tightly around the exposed stem ends of the oregano and rehang. The bag keeps the dust off and captures any loose leaves that fall off the stems. I leave the bunches in the bags for use during the rest of the year; I find the dried leaves maintain their flavor reasonably well by being left on the stem. Plus, given our increasingly mild winters, my outdoor oregano stays green if I want to pick a fresh sprig. Best to have both indoor and outdoor sources, though. A double pantry.