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Posts Tagged ‘Summer’

I mentioned in my last post (about the chard stalks) that I have worked to shade parts of the vegetable garden this summer.  Creating shade for the garden has been on that endless list of mine for the past 2-3 years.

Not only are our South Texas summers hot, but I have full open exposure to the garden to the west, so everything is in the garden roasting until the sun goes down and that is really hard on the plants. There is a magnolia tree that is growing on the west side of the garden. It was planted before we moved in, and it is growing well, but it will be many, many years before it is tall enough to provide any afternoon shade for the garden.

Over the past few years I have cooked up a lot of idea for creating shade in the garden. A few years ago, I had lambsquarter growing on the west side of each raised bed to provide shade. While that helped, it just wasn’t enough.  We had a friend that lived with us a few years ago, and I was thinking that he could weld up a frame for over the top of the garden and then I could put shade cloth over the frame. I think that one would have worked, but he doesn’t live here anymore….

Shade Cloth with rebar

Shade Cloth with rebar

This year I though of two ideas. One was to create a “wall” of shade cloth on the west side of each raised bed. That would create shade from the west sun, and also some of the morning sun, limiting the amount of direct, hot sun the plants would get throughout the day. The other idea I had was to purchase a 10′ x 20′ car canopy and put it up inside the garden fence. I really thought both ideas would work. Both of my gardening neighbors sort of laughed and chuckled when I told them about the shade cloth “wall.” They didn’t seem to have a lot of faith in them. I did, so I went out and bought the supplies and moved forward.

Car Canopy shade

Car Canopy shade

The shade cloth “walls” I could mostly do on my own, but the car canopy I needed help to put up. One neighbor helped me by cutting the rebar to the length that I wanted, and my husband helped me put of the car canopy.

Shade cloth walls Pros:

  • With the shade cloth wall, the plants are exposed to some direct sun throughout the day.
  • When it rains, the plants benefit from the rain.
  • I can leave the rebar in place and just take the shade cloth off for the winter.
  • I could set it all up on my own (other then the neighbor that helped me cut the rebar – We did have the tools for that, so technically I could have done that too)

Shade cloth walls Cons:

  • I was able to tie one of the rebar posts to the garden fence on one side – without that, the structure would be more wobbly, and I would have had to add one more vertical rebar support post in the center (not a big deal, just another post for each box)
  • Having the wall of shade cloth on one full side of the raised bed, you are limited to harvesting from the other side. My beds are 3′ wide, so this hasn’t really been a con for me.

Car Canopy Pros:

  • No obstacles for picking and harvesting – completely open under the canopy

Car Canopy Cons:

  • Prevents the rain from getting to the plants
  • The canopy will disintegrate over time (maybe one summer season here) and the cost of a new canopy is around $100 (I think I could find one for less that might not fit exactly, but would work) My plan it to replace it with some other shade cloth that would allow the rain to come through but still provide shade.

There are definite pros and cons to both of these ideas. They both work and that is the good thing. With both systems, over time, I will need to replace the cloth/cover. I think ultimately the best thing would be a frame build over the top of the garden where I could over the entire area with a shade cloth of some sort that would provide great shade in the summer, yet still allow the rain to come through, and then remove the cloth in the winter for more full sun.

The garden fence is not high enough to just add a flat cover  over it – I could never stand up.

So for this year, I am thrilled to have some shade in the garden that is working.

If you need to, how do you shade your vegetable garden from the harsh sun?

Sincerely, Emily

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We have had an interesting spring in South Texas with the weather and the rain. Ranging everywhere from HOT to cool, HUMID to dry, and quite the range in-between. After living in Palm Springs, CA in the dry desert heat for many years, I find that I am more intolerant to any type of humidity. In the desert, our humidity was something like 7%, maybe 14%, so when we moved to the San Antonio area in July 6 years ago I was blasted with 102F and a lot of humidity (the 102F was a “normal” temp in summer in Palm Springs, it was still blinkin’ hot, but it was dry.)  People form Houston just laugh and say that we don’t know what humidity is like, and while I agree and completely understand, I still need to explain where I came from and what a shock to my system it was coming from 7% humidity to something higher.iceNow, I add menopause to the equation and I am miserable when the thermometer climbs about 70F it seems.

Enter cold drinks with ice cubes, cold washcloths and fans everywhere around the house.

We have an old-fashioned refrigerator. I say “old-fashioned” because there is no water or ice cube maker in it, and that is not a complaint. I am our built-in ice-cube machine! It is part of my daily routine.

I am thankful for days without much humidity, and electricity to run the fans and the refrigerator so that I can make more ice!

What are the summer temps like where you live (you southern hemisphere readers can tell me about your winter temps – the cooler temps might make some of us feel better)?

How do you combat the heat?

Sincerely, Emily

 

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Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Gina

How do you know when peak canning season has commenced at my house? No, it’s not the 8-quart pressure canner parked permanently on the stove. It’s not the navy blue enamelware water bath canner constantly steaming up the already hot kitchen. Look beyond the stacks of quart, pint and jelly jars; the lids and rings. I don’t mark the time by the pantry shelves’ increasing rows of colorful, filled jars. It’s not even the piles of ripened vegetables and fruits all over the darn place…

 

However, the growing piles of produce are definitely a clue.

 

Look close! The biggest sign is the smallest of items. Want a hint?    

 

 

  

Drosophila melanogastor

 

In previous years I have struggled with herds of these annoying little guys. They seem to swell in numbers as summer ends and fall begins. When you are committed to keeping your life as chemical-free as possible (as we try to be), pest management seems like just a joke to the notorious fruit fly. Of course a randy, active sex life doesn’t hurt population growth either.

 

Ok, Gina, did you have to illustrate that point???

We got it already!!

 

Drosophila and I go way back to our college days where I spent many eye-strained days in lab trying to determine whether the batch of newly metamorphized flies I raised were made up of the ultra-cool wildtypes with their sinister red eyes or the more demure mutants with the quiet dark stare. If you were really lucky, you might find the queen of kings, the white-eyed fly! After days and days of counting thousands of fly eyes, at night, you could still see them staring at you when you closed your own eyes. Fancy a bit of biology-nerd trivia? Drosophila happens to be the most studied organism in the life sciences. Or, how about this, 75% of Homo sapiens’ disease genes have a almost exact match found within the genetic code of the ubiquitous fruit fly.

 

This year I have been determined not to let them get the best of me. I don’t care if we share disease similarity or not. First, I have been canning the vegetables gleaned from garden and market as quickly as I bring them into the house. The canners have been going since about mid-July. Every night, rain or shine, I ready the produce for preservation, determined to keep D. melanogastor from taking up residence here at the new house. It’s also been good for that disease I sometimes suffer from called Laziness. I wonder if that is one of the 25% of disease genes we don’t share with Drosophila

 

Of course, this has been impossible. The fruit flies are still quietly taking over my life.

 

A week ago, I placed six nearly ripened tomatoes on the window sill. Yesterday, as I prepared to can my first batch of tomatoes I grabbed one of the Romas off the sill. It disintegrated into mush in my grasp and exploded into hundreds of flies. All around me, this swarm of Drosophila mocked my every move. I checked, but couldn’t see, whether these guys were mutants or the wildtypes. Either way, I realized the 2008 battle with the fruit flies was officially on.

 

So, how do you combat them if you don’t want to use chemicals (a much worse problem than the basically harmless fruit fly, in my opinion)? Well, you first must realize that these flies will be attracted to almost any type of food they can dance their thorax on. I blamed the tomatoes in the window, but they could have just as easily been attracted to my bucket of food scraps I give the pigs and chickens at the end of the day or even the wet dish towel I leave lying around. Knowing that, by keeping food processed, covered, stored or disposed, I can help eliminate larval breeding grounds. The flies generally do not pose a health issue to humans, other than stress. Around August and on through October, the flies are at peak population. Once colder weather hits, I let our house get cold and this does seem to help decrease the amount of flies about the house.

 

As a canner, a gardener or just the simple fact I like fresh fruit & veggies in the house, I will never be completely free of this pesky organism, but if I have to I will resort to my Plan B to keep from feeling overran by Drosophila during the canning season. I will not, however, resort to poisons. Here is a simple fruit fly trap I build using one of my extra quart Mason jars (extra? What extra?!) I will share with you my secret fruit fly defense mechanism.

Find a Mason jar and paint the top third black (or cover it with paper). Coat the inside of the jar with honey, syrup or vegetable oil. Invert the jar over bait such as crushed tomatoes on a used canning lid or some other repurposed object. Rest the jar upside down on two blocks of wood to allow flies space enough to feed on the bait. After leaving the bait, they will fly upwards to the lighter portion of the jar. The sticky substance traps and kills them! The trap will lose its stickiness or fill up with flies and must have the honey or oil reapplied every 30 days or so. Also, you’ll want to replace the rotting vegetable or fruit (bait) as needed.

 Illustration from Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet HYG-2109-97

If you really want to get sassy with science thing, you can count how many wildtypes (red-eyed) vs. mutants (any other color eyes) you have in the jar and figure out what alleles are dominant in your fruit fly population. However, be forewarned, not only is this tedious chore, but it may also get you labeled as a freaky biology-loving geek! 

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