May's heatwave, rain, and summer veggies
I actually planted tomatoes, peppers, and basil three weeks ago--about two weeks earlier than I had thought I would--because nighttime temperatures were to remain above 50F, according to the extended forecast. The warmer nights coincided with a heatwave, three consecutive days with afternoon high temperatures above 90F. And that was just the first week of May! I think it's important to document these unusual fluctuations in temperature, to be observant of how our climate is changing. In fact, I just created a "climate change" tag and have applied that tag to my previous posts where appropriate. By keeping these records, I hope to inform better decision-making and develop more responsive practices, with the end result of growing the most abundant (and delicious!) harvest possible. I accept that climate change is our reality for the foreseeable future and I want to learn how to adapt.
So how about all that rain last week? We received more rain in one week than we typically receive for the entire month of May. And we needed it, as DC was under a severe drought this winter. In fact, it was only as of today's Drought Monitor report from the National Weather Service that DC is no longer declared to be in drought. Instead, it has rained so much that a sinkhole has appeared on the White House lawn. Across the street from where I work, a large puddle has formed in a field and a mating pair of ducks has taken up residence there.
You can see the edge of the puddle in the bottom right of this photo. I wasn't fast enough with my phone to snag a photo of them swimming.
Chicago has also gotten a lot of rain recently and OneYardRevolution also posted about rain and ducks.
The main reason I'm sharing this video is because it demonstrates how compost and mulch increase the soil's capacity to hold water. I'm pleased to say that the high organic matter content of my raised bed vegetable garden (from years of adding compost and mulch) absorbed the rainfall and protected my veggies from rot.
Let's go back to discussing summer vegetables. So far, I've planted a rainbow of cherry tomatoes: 'Sweet 100,' 'Sun Gold,' 'White Cherry,' 'Green Grape,' 'Midnight Snack,' and 'Black Cherry.'
My husband and I love spicy food, so we chose chile pepper varieties to match our favorite recipes. One of his favorites is enchiladas with poblano cream sauce, which obviously requires 'Poblano.' In honor of my sister in Albuquerque, we planted 'Anaheim' for New Mexican-style green chile. We needed a fiery cayenne-type chile, favored in South Asian cuisines, to use with all the tropical edible gourds I'll soon be planting (and writing about), so I chose 'Jwala.' Bringing it back to local area cuisine, we planted the Baltimore heirloom 'Fish pepper,' famously used in seafood dishes.
And basil, ALL THE BASILS! I planted sweet and musky holy basil in the front yard and the rest is out back: 'Genovese' for pesto, 'Napoletano' with leaves as large as slices of pizza (that's no coincidence), anise-scented 'Siam Queen' basil, and citrus-y 'Lime' basil.
I took this photo of my garden on May 14, after just one day of intermittent rain showers:
Can you spot the tomatoes, peppers, and basil? I can't in this photo, but I know they're there. I've been harvesting heavily ever since, both to enjoy the peak of flavor and abundance as well as to make space for the summer crops to grow.
And here's how the garden looks today:
I've harvested all of the baby bok choy, radishes, broccoli raab, mustard greens, and baby turnips. I did this because the uncharacteristic high temperatures were causing these veggies to prematurely bolt. So far, the mixed leaf lettuces have resisted bolting, so we continue to enjoy salads garnished with herbs and edible flowers such as nasturtiums and chive blossoms. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the Chinese broccoli to start forming those broccoli-like flower buds before I harvest and eat it with oyster sauce. The beets and black carrots aren't quite ready yet either, but that was to be expected because they take longer to grow. Unfortunately, it looks like a groundhog helped itself to the 'Dinosaur' kale, but that's been my only significant loss.
The gourds, yardlong beans, okra, and flor de Jamaica will be coming soon, transforming the look of my garden yet again.