So this might be a good time to share some of our home vegetable gardening tips. Our wonderful climate allows year round vegetable gardening, and being spoiled by the taste of fresh produce, we take full advantage of that. Our main challenges are getting the most mileage out of our limited summer well water, and extending the seasons by protecting plants from temperature extremes.
Taming the summer sun
In summer most water is reserved to drip irrigate the orchard, especially water hungry figs and citrus. So we don't grow any water-needy garden plants like corn or melons. And what we do grow is always heavily mulched and drip irrigated only as much as needed. We also cover all beds with at least a 30% shade cloth, suspended on PVC pipe hoops tall enough to walk under. The shade really takes the heat stress off the plants and also reduces their water needs. We use a 30% shade cloth for most crops, or two layers for 60% shade on heat sensitive plants.
|A PVC hoop shade house|
|Chinese cabbage and broccoli|
thriving despite summer heat
We have even found that we can grow cool season crops like cabbage, broccoli and carrots all summer long by adding extra shade and using intermittent misters during the hottest part of the day. Using a special timer that runs an overhead misting line 3 minutes every half hour, these normally cool season crops grow like weeds. They mature much faster than during the cool months, so by making multiple plantings in succession we can keep the garden producing cool season crops almost continuously.
When cool fall weather arrives the shade cloth will come down so plants will get full sun. Then as the temperatures go from cool to cold, we cover the plants with "row cover", a lightweight fabric that helps protect plants from frost, wind, insects and winter bird damage while still letting in light and rainwater.
Crop rotations plus cover crops
|May onions and carrots ready for harvest|
|Volunteer buckwheat cover crop|
|Young lettuce transplants, protected|
from birds by plastic mesh
I planted these little lettuce starts the other day just by using two fingers to scoop a small hole a couple of inches deep in the mowed buckwheat cover crop residue, then plugging in my transplants. No tilling, minimal disruption of soil microorganisms, and they will grow all the way through final harvest with no added fertilizer.
Next post will be a review of some of our favorite vegetable varieties.