Saturday, August 8, 2009

To Garden or Not To Garden....

...That is the Question.

Ever since moving to Texas from Missouri in the Fall of 1989, I've had a desire to grow things.  It was a hobby encouraged by my dad at a very young age.  We had a small plot--about 25 x 25.  We worked manure into the soil every spring and things just grew.  When the plants started to get a little tired by midsummer, they'd get a boost with compost tea or manure tea.  We had so many vegetables that my parents began canning.

When Lee and I moved to Houston, the summer after getting married, I spent a great deal of money on putting together a raised bed.  The Piney woods made the native soil far too acidic to garden.  Long, story short---I failed miserably.  Extreme heat and humidity made for diseased and pest ridden plants. I was able to grow some very healthy weeds though.

We moved to the Austin area in December of '92.  Because I had a sweet baby Thomas to tend to, my need to garden was absent.  I was still stinging from years of failure in Houston.  Along came Pearl and then James.  Still no garden, and I was just fine with that .  In August of 2001, we moved to where we now live.  Four acres, mostly pasture, but plenty of room for me to try my hand at gardening again.  

The weather seemed a little less predictable here, than in Houston, but drier.  No more mold and fungus and blight to deal with.  Mother nature just laughed at me.  I have amended soil, mulched, composted, used chemicals, gone organic, watered by hand, used the sprinkler system, on and on.  I have done everything right.  What has become painfully clear to me, is that unless it rains on a regular basis, my garden will not do well.  My well water is just too hard for most everything I grow.  The temperatures have also become an issue.  On Monday, we will have had 50 days of 100+* heat since early May.  It has become the new normal.  It's not even shocking anymore.  We are also nearly 30 inches behind in 'average' rainfall since our drought began in September 2007.

This summer I have gotten little/no fruit or veggies out of my garden, despite much tender loving care.  Some plants have simply been pulled up because I was just watering greenery. Now things are so shocked by the drought and continued heat, they've just given up.  So have I.  I was out this morning pulling weeds, watermelon, and flowers. 
So far my harvest or expected harvest based on the health of the plant is:
1 spaghetti squash
a dozen tomatoes
no watermelon
no acorn squash
half dozen potatoes
2 dozen peas (not enough for one meal)
no carrots
no beets
no pumpkins
1 bell pepper

The things that are doing well:
Sweet potatoes 
Weeds, lot of weeds.  

Based on the many years that I've been at this, and the success I've had, it may be time to hang up the summer garden for me.  It seems that the weather pattern for the Edwards plateau during the summer is changing.  Or maybe it was this way all along, and rain during the summer with milder temperatures was just a fluke.

Instead of joy I feel defeat.  I can't imagine growing food for a living.  The stakes are far higher than any game in Vegas.  Thank goodness for farmers that stick it out.  For me, I'm just about to be a 'winter only' gardener.  I have far better success.  Did I just say that outloud?  Knock on wood!

PS...the beautiful watermelon at the top was all squishy inside and never turned pink.  Overwatering?  Doesn't matter, we didn't get to eat it or any of its brothers or sisters.


  1. Summer is my least favorite garden season. It's too hot or cold, wet or dry, diseased, buggy and just plain yucky. I don't have nearly as many challenges the rest of the year. I know that doesn't make it better but at least you're not alone.

  2. Your new normal is just...just...I can't even find words.
    I blame my well water for everything bad that happens out here. Take some comfort in knowing that your tomato plants have yielded 6 more tomatoes than mine, and bless your heart for not giving up.

  3. This was my first year gardening. My squash and zucchini did well and my okra. I only got a little bit of cucumbers. I hope to try again next year!

  4. Wow. I don't blame you for being discouraged. But it is great that you can have a winter garden! I hope it does well for you. I just can not imagine that kind of hot, dry weather!

  5. Ahhh, bummer. Maybe next year will be better. Last year it seemed your garden did well. Last year, I was in the place that you are now. Some years are just like that: feast or famine. Come on over here and we can sip peach margaritas together. :)


  6. We have similar conditions this summer except for maybe the humidity. This was my first summer to try growing food with some successes and some flops. I am looking forward to trying the fall/winter gardening thing to see what that produces. It seems to be in your DNA to garden so you will probably have a hard time not trying it again next summer. Best wishes for a successful winter garden!

  7. CeeCee, I do know how you feel! I've decided in the future I will not have any plants in the ground in July or August. I will plant early and plant late. I can't stand just watching my plants wither from the heat and lack of rain.

  8. I think I've just expected too much from heat weary plants. It just seems like the extreme heat is now more the normal than a freak thing.
    Yes, thank goodness I have winter to grow things. I just soooooo love fresh tomatoes in the summer.