i have been holding back talking about the challenges this year. well, not talking about them, but writing about them (i have definitely been talking about them). my hope is that now, if i write about them, i can refer people to this post and then move on to other happier subjects like what is growing, rather than what is not.
spring was a challenge: insects came out in a vengeance. the mild winter and then heat wave in the spring probably meant that more of them survived than normal and others became active earlier. the cutworms chopped down several healthy plants but, here in the urban gardens, it was and continues to be, the earwig that is my mightiest foe. i have at times felt completely defeated by them and close to giving up. especially when, exhausted, i find one on my kitchen counter or in my water glass (at that point i thought it must be « A Sign » so I went and looked up the symbolism of earwigs…i didn’t find anything).
four other pests are doing their bit to make it hard for the already weather stressed plants to produce in our gardens: the imported cabbage worm, the flea beetle, the japanese beetle and the striped cucumber beetle.
thanks to the activity of these five creatures, more than 70% of certain crops have not survived the many seedings (cilantro, carrots, beets, beans, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnips) and others have been either severely set back or made unappetizing (basil, cucumbers, arugula, lettuce, squash). if your cucumbers don’t look pretty it’s because of the stripedscucumber beetle. if your arugula is filled with holes, it’s the flea beetle. if you aren’t getting any cabbage it’s a mixture: imported cabbage worm and earwigs. if the beets and carrots are few and far between it’s the earwigs…. and so on.
and then there is the drought.
it is so incredibly dry out there. we have not had more than 5 minutes of rain for over a month. and that rain came down hard so did nothing for the soil. yesterday, i watched the radar inside and the clouds outside, waiting for the much anticipated storm. it passed us by. a storm like that can wreak havoc on tender plants but we need water so badly.
aside from the obvious stresses of dried up plants and plants not able to get their nutrients, the drought mixes things up in the ecosystem: one farmer just lost $3,000 worth of lettuce to groundhogs. groundhogs have never been a problem in the middle of these fields out in the countryside, but their usual food sources have likely dried up and caused them to start searching yonder. here squirrels are starting to get more active, searching for plants with water…every day i watch another corn plant go down.
we are so very lucky to have city water to irrigate our plants but i don’t like using it so much. we are also not set up for city water to be our main source of irrigation. that’s the role of rain water which does a far better job of it: even distribution of nutrient rich water. lovely. very different from the chlorinated water that is spread imperfectly by the various drip line and sprinklers that we have going.
all growers seem to be fretting and running around moving water lines, rigging up new watering systems, digging larger ponds, setting up water timers, buying extra sprinklers and doing whatever we can to keep our food (beautiful, necessary food) growing in spite of the drought. there is something strangely comforting about the image of this army of farmers all running around throughout the region battling the forces of nature. it’s helpful to know that so many people are in this together and working so hard to succeed.
here are a few links to articles about the drought and regional farms.
- CBC news interview with Kylah Dobson, organic farmer in Lanark, Ontario: http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/Ottawa/ID/2255762760/
- Major Disaster Unfolding
- Drought in Central, Eastern Canada baking crops
- NFU Calls on Local Food Eaters and Government to Support Ontario Farmers Dealing with Drought Conditions
- Organic farm seeks help to cope with drought
- La sécheresse se poursuit dans la région d’Ottawa-Gatineau
- Drought hits hay crops, livestock owners
and yet, the weeds are doing just fine.
they are strong and adapted and happy to take over when everything else is stressed. so while our vegetables may be in shorter supply this year, the weeds are remarkable. we have been doing relatively well to stay on top of them but it requires daily management. as soon as we are on top of them in one spot, they are back in a vengeance in another. and right now, the ones we didn’t get to last week, are bursting with seed. « One year’s seeding makes seven years’ weeding ».
I had better get out there and weed.