Summer Fun In The Garden

In Texas we’re in what tends to be our miserable part of summer. Usually heat index in July is fluctuating between 101 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s normally just so nasty in the high heat part of the day. But this year has been very different. It’s only in the 80s. Perfect weather to enjoy my garden! It’s also usually still in the high 80s at midnight and later. During those temps it’s too hot for a lot of things, (like tomatoes) but this year the rules completely changed! Nothing is drought or heat stressed. I just pulled a bunch of pears and I’m waiting for the last 50 or so to get big enough to harvest. Not sure what I’m going to do with them, but I’ll let you know when I do!

Normal year in July in San Antonio, Texas:

This year:

I’ve got the soil and watering hoses ready to finish my fourth raised bed. I have about twenty-five 40 lb bags to throw around. It’s why my husband says that I’m “Thor in the garden”. 😂

My mother is here, too. So I’m sure we’ll figure out something crazy to do!

We are about a 3 hour drive from the gulf of Mexico so humidity is a constant. In this part of Texas we get very little summer rain, but this summer it’s rained nearly every day. We’ve had an unusually mild year and my garden is very happy!

I still have to spray for aphids and powdery mildew but for the most part it’s watering (which I recently bought a 4 valve watering timer so I am not forced to go outside and water manually. This is my second one. Exactly the same kind as my last one and I love it! You can find one here: four valve timer) and picking fruit and vegetables. I have managed to keep the squirrels and rats/mice/oppossums/raccoons out of the majority of my garden. I did lose 30 or so  pears to squirrels.

I’ve had a hard year for my tender perennials. My pomegranate is coming back from the roots, as is my olive tree… and incredibly, even after our super cold winter: my gros Michel banana came back from the roots! I have a single persimmon tree now. I really, really like the nonastringent fuyu I bought. I removed the astringent one as I didn’t care for the fruit and the tree was sick. (I highly recommend growing nonastringent persimmons if you are a typical American. The astringent one I have is like a water balloon full of sweet slime and tastes like an off-pumpkin type flavor when cooked. I don’t recommend any of the astringent persimmons for that reason.)

My fig is giant and did not freeze back. Figs grow so easily here, and boy, figs are fruit from the Gods when they’re ripe! Like the best strawberry you’ve ever tasted. My blackberries were babied this year but they are still struggling. I also have the four 6×12 foot raised beds with a hugelkulter/keyhole center filled with all sorts of fun things! Yep. Those are bananas. I have a dwarf Cavendish and the tall one is a Gros Michel. If anyone has had any luck with getting these bananas to fruit around San Antonio let me know! This is the third year I’ve had them and despite following instructions on bananas.org I’ve had 0 luck. But this bed was beets and onions, and carrots this spring. Now it’s tomatoes, yardlong beans and okra… And the finicky bananas! Some of these are last year’s banana pups. I brought the 3 foot tall plants in for the winter and grew them in the house with grow lights. I laid the gros Michel one down last fall and covered it with tarps and straw. I was actually really amazed it made it through!

I also have beds around our back porch and I like to grow melons on them.

I switched to Asian yardlong beans this year and I’ve been pretty disappointed. Something went wrong and I’ve only got a few vines, with even fewer beans. But because it’s not too hot I will just go toss some seeds out there and try again.

I live on a large suburban lot. We’re on about a quarter acre. Most of the backyard is dedicated to feeding our family. I wanted to add two more cinder block beds this year and I’m almost finished with them. I wanted to make them like the two that I made about 10 years ago.  Instructions on how to build hugelkulter beds here, and then I think I’d be happy with what I have and could move into the harvesting part of building a food forest. It’s taken me 10 years to get where I am. So: it’s not a quick thing to build a working permaculture system (that still plays nice with the hoa rules.) and it takes years before fruit trees will start bearing.Is it worth the work? Definitely. Is it easy? No. It’s a skill set, like any hobby or profession. But can you learn to do it well?  Absolutely. You just need to have someone teach you how, in person or online. And that’s what I’ve dedicated this blog to doing: teaching the skills that my grandmother’s and my mother taught me. Things that newcomers need to know, to be successful.My garden hod and a grocery bag full of basil. This is about a third of what’s out there. I stemmed the leaves and ended up with 9 tightly packed cups before I gave up and tossed the rest of these plants into my compost. Next year’s soil! 9 cups of basil leaves blended in olive oil filled a single ice cube tray. But we’ll have fresh basil all winter.

Right now: I’m still in the process of building a new small bed that will house my cool weather herbs and greens on the north side of the house. I have a melon and cucumber forest on trellises around my porch. I’m not going hungry for sure!

Tonight I made a fresh, from scratch: Basil pesto.

Tomorrow I’m going to make a quick refrigerator pickle with my onions and cucumbers from the garden. and fermented salsa, which I looooove! I may put my recipes up soon. By then I’ll be getting into pickling my cucumbers. Hopefully I will get to try my first canteloupe and watermelon of the year. It’s been a fun year to garden.

I forgot my watermelon was an underpreformer for me last year. I’ll need different seed next summer!

4 thoughts on “Summer Fun In The Garden

  1. Well, at least someone else is getting pleasant weather. Ours has been nice too, but that heat up north was krazy! Ours is expected to get unpleasantly warm after tomorrow, but not out of the ordinary for this time of year. I mean, a bit of warm weather is normal from time to time. Some of the vegetables enjoy it, even without the humidity.

  2. Very interesting blog – thanks you.
    We don’t tend to grown persimmon here in the UK and I might try to track one down.
    Interesting to hear you’re working with keyhole gardens – I’ve fancied trying those.

    1. The keyhole gardens work really well with a modified hugelkulter design. Instead of creating the base with limbs and logs I use mulch. It ends up looking neater and having the same benefits. If I were on a farm I’d just stack whatever was handy, but being in a subdivision our home owners association would probably not be happy with big piles of debris everywhere! Oriental persimmon grow well here but we are very far south in the United States. I am in zone 8b and we seldom freeze hard. I can also grow citrus, olives and banana down here. American persimmons are hardier, but they are the kind that need to be runny inside to be edible. Thanks for coming by! I appreciate the comment.

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