My Garden... Too Hot To Handle

in homesteading •  2 months ago 

The plan was to keep the vegetable garden small this year. I think it's safe to say I failed big time. In the greenhouse, there are more plants than ever before.

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Hot And Dry

The weather has been like ... insane. These last 2 months, temperatures have been a lot higher than average. It's only spring, but we often reached 30°C (86° F). (For reference: Belgium has an average temperature in July of 17,8°C (64° F).)
But the heat is not even the worst thing... It hasn't rained either. In general, we're used to quite a lot of water falling from the sky, especially during April and May. But not this year...

The plants in the greenhouse are doing quite okay. There in there for a reason, most prefer temperatures that are a bit higher than what we usually get here. But the plants in the garden are suffering, even though I have been watering them every single day.
Just to give you an example: I planted 3 squash plants last week, and it feels like they grow smaller instead of bigger. They look good in the morning and the evening, but during the day, their leaves look all droopy. The poor plants look really, really sad.

The grass in our garden... well... it doesn't even look like grass anymore. Wait, I'll show you.

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Dry, dry, dry. This usually doesn't happen till the end of July.

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm longing for some rain. According to the weather forecast, I'm gonna get more than I bargained for. During the next couple of days, temperatures will drop below 20°C, and we're going to get at least 2 weeks of rain.
The plants are going to be happy, there's no doubt about that. I bet I'll be sick and tired of the weather again by the time the weekend is here.
Haha, we Belgians are always complaining about the weather... 😂

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The Greenhouse

I'm gonna split this post up in 2 parts. There's just so much I want to show you.
I'll start with an update of what's going on in the greenhouse. Even though all plants are still small, it already looks really full. This time next month, it's going to be a real jungle in there.

Thanks to the heat, the plants are growing really, really fast. To make sure the leaves wouldn't get burned by the sun, I had to put the shade tarp in pace already. But even then, temperatures are really high inside.

Melons

I have planted different kinds of melons at different times, so while some are not more than seedlings, others are ready to grow fruits already.

This little watermelon plant seems to be ready to go. Even though it's really small, it has two little flowers, waiting to be pollinated. If it's anything like last year and the year before, the plant won't grow very big, and one or two small watermelons will eventually grow. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

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The other melons are all in the same bed. I can't remember why I didn't take a full picture of the bed. All three of them are cantaloupes (or sugar melons). The two small ones on the left I sowed myself, the right one is a seedling I bought in the store.

You'll notice I have plenty of beneficial herbs and flowers in each bed.
In this one, the (French) Marigolds are there to attract pollinators and predatory insects, act as a trap plant for slugs and to kill harmful nematodes in the soil. On top of that, they're edible. I sowed plenty of Marigolds, but most are still very small, so I cheated a bit and got some big ones in the store, just to have a head start.

The Nasturtium - which I have all around the garden - is there to keep aphids off my plants. It's a great trap plant. And one of my favorites to use in the kitchen too.

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Tomatoes & Peppers

I actually planned to have only 2 tomato plants this year. But because I got a bit lazy by the end of the season last year and didn't pick up all the tomatoes that had fallen onto the soil, a couple of plants started growing spontaneously.
I'm a sucker when it comes to killing seedlings, so I gave a couple of them their own spot in the greenhouse. Guess I'll be in for an abundance of tomatoes later this year.... as usual. 😁

I saw this little beauty in the garden center last week. Roma tomatoes are great for making tomato sauce, so I decided to take it home with me. It's still small, but I have high hopes for it.

Again, some beneficial flowers and herbs.
French Marigolds, garlic (repels slugs and ants), basil (can improve growth and flavor of tomatoes), a baby calendula flower (to attract aphids and keep them away from the tomato plant) and some lettuce... just because we like lettuce 😉.

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In the pictures below, you'll notice how I stick to some basic companion planting rules. Since my tomato harvests in the past were always a big success, I keep using the same combinations in my beds. Tomato plants, sweet pepper plants and the beneficial herbs and flowers I mentioned before (+ chives, that can improve the taste of tomatoes).

Cherry tomato and yellow sweet pepper:

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Unknown tomato and red mini bell pepper:
(The calendula flowers have grown a bit out of proportion in this one. The tiny bell pepper plant is a bit lost in the right corner, but as long as it gets enough light, I'm not really eager to move it anywhere else.)

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Unknown tomato and orange mini bell pepper:

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I really loved the fact that my Red Robin tomato sprouted again spontaneously. Red Robin is a dwarf variety that give a great harvest. As you can see, it is eager to start growing fruit already.

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Both mini bell peppers are off to a great start. It's actually a bit funny to see: the plants are still so small, but they are growing peppers already.

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Cucumbers

If you have been following my gardening adventures, you probably know I love experimenting with veggies that are out of the ordinary for Belgium. These last couple of years, I always had a good number of unknown vegetables growing in my garden.

I toned it down this year (I wanted to keep it small, remember? 😂), and I have only 3 plants I haven't grown before. It's a complete coincidence they are all related to cucumbers.

Below, you can see a regular cucumber on the left. It's the only plant in the greenhouse that was really suffering from the heat.
On the right, and still very small because I sowed it myself, is a Phoona Kheera. It's an Indian variety and it's an early bearer that grows cucumbers with a sweet, edible, brown skin. I can't wait to try them.

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I don't have pictures of the other two, since I only picked them up earlier today.

One is Luffa (or Loofah). Young fruits can be eaten, older fruits are used to make scrubbing sponges. I've been using a loofah scrubbing sponge in the kitchen for a while, and I got really curious about the plant. Let's wait and see how it turns out.

My last experiment is the maroon cucumber (or West Indian Gherkin). I don't know a whole lot about it yet - I only saw the pant being sold in the eco-farm I usually go to get my plants and decided to pick it up. It is supposed to grow small fruits (about 5cm x 4cm) that are delicious to pick right off the plant. I do love cucumbers, so I can't wait to try these beautiful babies.

Sweet Potatoes

I love sweet potatoes. They are delicious, and the plants look beautiful. I had 3 different varieties, but unfortunately the greenhouse is full. There is simply no space left to plant the 3rd one. I'm still thinking about planting one of them outside, though. I really need to figure out if they would thrive outside.

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So... what else is in the greenhouse...

Yacon And (Yard) Long Beans

I love yacon. I first planted a yacon (or Peruvian Ground Apple) as one of my experiments three years ago. It has been by far the most successful experiment up until now. The edible tubers are one of the most delicious things that are growing in my garden. They are so juicy and taste like apple. It's a shame I have to wait until fall before I can harvest them. (On the bright side: you can store the tubers for months. We've only just finished last year's harvest.)

And Yacon tubers are not only delicious. They're also pretty healthy.

The tubers contain fructooligosaccharide, an indigestible polysaccharide made up of fructose. Fructooligosaccharides taste sweet, but pass through the human digestive tract unmetabolised, hence have very little caloric value. Moreover, fructooligosaccharides have a prebiotic effect, meaning they are used by beneficial bacteria that enhance colon health and aid digestion.
Source

I picked up a second plant to grow outside, just like last year. One can never have enough Yacon tubers. 😉

On the right, a couple of (Yard) Long Beans (or Asparagus Bean). These climbing vines grow beans that can become up to 75 centimetres (2.46 ft) long.
I grew some successfully two years ago, but failed last year. I now have a couple of plants in the greenhouse, and a couple outside to see what works best.

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The Mistake

Before winter, we added a layer of compost from our own compost pile to the beds in the greenhouse. Early in spring, a small squash plant started growing. By the time I had the beds outside ready, it had grown too big to replant it without damaging the roots. So I decided to leave it where it was (together with 2 huge sunflowers).

June has only just started, and it's clear already that was a big mistake. The plant is HUGE! It's size is really going to cause trouble, but I don't have the heart to remove it yet. I just hope it can grow one or two fruits before it gets too big and I have no other choice than to remove it.

I already cut off some of the leaves to make sure the melons that are on the right, and the Long beans (and further down the Roma tomato plant) get enough light to grow. But it's going to be a problem for sure.

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Last But Not Least

A couple of years ago, I fell in love with Lemon verbena. The lemony flavor is a lot stronger than that of lemon balm, so I prefer to use the Lemon Verbena instead. It's delicious in teas, in salads, and to infuse vodka with. 😉
I have 1 plant in the greenhouse, and 3 or 4 outside. I won't be short this summer, lol. I did forget to take a picture, though.

Last year, I came across Mint Verbena, and I just had to try it. I'm not as fond of it as I am of Lemon Verbena, but it does taste great in a cocktail on a hot summer day. On top of that, the plant looks really beautiful.

On the right, a young tobacco plant. Tobacco was a newcomer in my garden last year. It turned out to be an amazing trap plant for all kind of bugs, so I decided to grow it again. I have 2 more plants, and like a million seeds to grow more.. if only I can find room to put the plants.

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To be Continued...

That was the greenhouse tour... There's plenty more going on outside, but I'll keep that for another post.

Stay tuned!!!



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I know what you mean by wanting to grow more and more things, I feel like that in my little weed garden! And those little bell peppers are so cute! My pepper seedlings are about two weeks old now, can't wait to see how they will turn out.

I started with just one square foot bed 5 years ago. I'm expanding every year 😂

You have a lot of good things going on in your garden! I wish I had a greenhouse. You know which legume would do well in your garden despite the nasty weather? Chickpeas! I heard they're very drought tolerant and need a long, hot, dry summer to mature. Just a thought, in case you haven't given up on growing nitrogen-fixing plants just yet.

Thanks for the tip. I'm no very fond of chickpeas, though... but I have never eaten them fresh from the garden, so who knows. (I'm not very fond of store-bought tomatoes either, but I love homegrown ones)

Added to the list! 😁

This is amazing! Well done! Bravo!

Thanks

your garden looks great. So many different things and a lot of skilled knowledge.

I want to plant some marigolds next year.

I left some cilantro to just grow wild (i pick the young plants) and it attracts lots of bees. I also have random herbs around which may dissuade insects.

I never looked into cilantro, because I'm one of those people who think it smells and tastes like soap. 😂

I might have to reconsider, though. After reading this, I looked it up,and it really is a beneficial plant.

Cilantro attracts beneficial insects to the garden, including tachinid flies, parasitoid wasps and hoverflies. In addition, cilantro discourages harmful insects such as aphids, potato beetles and spider mites.
Source

There are always a ton of bugs in the flowers when I walk by now. Everyone near me is happy I'm growing it too.

In Thailand we have to grow most veggies under shade - cos it's always hot. 30C here is considered a day for a sweater and some hot soup. 😆 But my Dutch self is smiling. I make square bamboo frames that sit over the beds - a few feet high - and use slatted bamboo across. Climb beans and pumpkins and cucumbers on the corner posts an let crawl across the top. The pumpkins in particular do really well like that - lots of air around and under the pumpkin, and their leaves provide shade for more tender veggies underneath. Yesterday was so hot (41C) that my avocado tree has burned brown leaves.

30C here is considered a day for a sweater and some hot soup.

😂

I'm so happy it's clouded today and not so hot (about 18°C). Gonna have to take down the shade tarp, though, because it's gonna be like this for 2 weeks, and they need to get enough light.

Love the setup. I so want to do raised beds one of these years when I have my own space to do what ever I want.

Raised beds are so convenient. I mean... the soil in our garden is of really bad quality, and it's impossible to dig or plant things because of all the rocks and junk that's in the ground. So I started making raised beds. (Most of them I just built from scrap wood.) I still have a lot of containers in the garden too, mostly for the smaller plants.

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omg what a big greenhouse you have! i am still a newbie with gardening and this post just make me want to plant more things

I used to have a small, cheap one, and I loved it. But in 5 years time, my garden has gotten completely out of hand. I started with just 1 square foot bed, and I'm expanding every year.
2 years ago, a friend of mine's dad died, and they were going to throw out the greenhouse. It was a bit big for our garden, but I just couldn't pass on getting one for free. 😁 They're so expensive if you have to buy them in the store. So I got really lucky. Thing is, the more space you have, the more you plant. So by now, I actually need a bigger greenhouse - or plant less. But I tried that last one, and it didn't work out 🤣

oh its very bad weather there, here at my palce its veen raining from last week its like the month of jan or feb. I have to reopen my winter clothes this is insane.

🤷🙏

The heat has been a killer to work with. I've lost more than I've planted this year. I've been aiming for high intensity gardening and been babying the Ph all late winter for it... I figured it would be a rough year and would want lots of food ready to hand. Here's some pictures of my start of the growing season and after. My partner is archery practising over my seed beds in one pic. Limited space with the quarantine and her playing with our nieces starter bow so forgive the blockage of the freshly turned dirt in the shot. She was sighting it in for the kid and it's sadly the only shot I've got of our start of growing season.

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Then where we are at now in our growing season.

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Outside of our black fly bout on the beans we are coming in good so far. Great post Mike. I love looking at your gardening journals. When I was a kid I'd get excited about the seed and gardening catalogues we'd get in the mail every winter and the gardener journals that people would write in them. Your blog often has good fun that's reminescent of those things. As always, well worth the visit and happily up voted and resteemed. :)

The weather has been insane in the UK as well, it's been like Summer... in Spring... and now we're in Autumn 😆 The grass is pretty brown but we're going to get some big thunderstorms and rain which is probably just going to bounce off the ground because it is so bone dry out there.

Seems the Belgians and the British have something in common, can always moan about the weather! I think the window for "perfect" must be like 19.1 degrees celsius with mostly sunshine and a slight westerly breeze, maybe 16km/h tops.

It is a lovely garden and I wished you lived nearby so that we could exchange seeds and saplings. Touchwood and hope you get good rain and yes, the heat here also was insane and now its all rain and too much of thunder.

I am so glad I stopped by: eventually!

As you know, I completely understand about the heat and lack of rain. The lawn off our veranda is still recovering - mostly because it's in the shade and spread soil over it to raise the level when we were doing the borehole stuff.

I really need to do a garden post...

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Great to see your abundance but hope you will get rain soon. It has drizzled a bit here in UK but like Belgium we have had quite the hot Spring!!!!

Wow!!! You have plenty of different varieties of plants!!! Glad I know most of them!!!

I am impressed that you grow sweet potatoes theee! Wow! 😜 We have a bunch of sweet potatoes, it's all over our garden, but didn't mind to talk about it! Hahaha! 😂 Our sweet potatoes just grew in our garden, we didn't plant it, that's why I'm not considering it our plants!!! Hahaha! 😂 But we really do enjoy eating the sweet potato tops. It's rich in iron. 😍

Ooh, looking good! There are worse things than growing too many plants. ;) Good news about the rain. At least while it's so dreary you can look forward to lush plants! I need to remember some of the companion planting tips. Marigolds definitely need to be on our radar to add to the beds along with some of the others. I think the aphids are starting to enjoy some of the squash plants, but luckily they look so darn lush I think they'll be alright regardless of some nibbles. Happy gardening!

It has been crazy warm in the Low Countries in the last few weeks... the hothouse must be quite a different planet completely! That said, these last couple of days have not been so nice up here... rain, wind, hail...