I know ya'll were at the edge of your seats waiting for my next update... well here it is! The summer is over and the plants are dead or dying. Now that I don't have to spend time maintaining the garden, I can use it to recap all the goings on the past few months. The weather this year was relatively mild until late August and September where it got blisteringly hot. I planted in the beginning of June, but I really should have planted around late April. Maintenance was straightforward except for some bug stuff. I really didn't need to do much after the seeds were planted, just some weeding and spraying. This year was successful in many ways it has never been before. I implemented many new things and the efforts have shown, for the most part. Every time I get closer to the perfect garden, but I'm not quite there yet.
Starting from the end of last year's summer season I decided I had enough of poor soil. I spent many weekends leading up to plant time digging, mixing, and filling large chunks of the backyard with enriched soil by using countless bags of compost taken from LA's free mulch dump sites. I dimensioned and dug out blocks of soil, mixed in about 50% new compost by volume, and further enriched it with rock dust at 1/4 lb per square foot and slow release fertilizer pellets.
The idea was to improve the soil texture and aeration with the compost, add back depleted minerals with the rock dust, and provide some macronutrients (N-P-K) with the pellets. After barely finishing the soil part, I repaired and realigned the irrigation system. Was all the effort worth it? I probably shouldn't think about it.
The garden around its peak time. There is always one plant that refuses to grow and this year it was soy beans. Soy bean seeds expire fast, but fortunately a single plant sprouted from which I will replenish my legacy seed bank. Other than that, everything else grew quite well.
I tried my hand at making compost tea this year. It is not technically a fertilizer, but is still used to benefit and improve plant health. Essentially, compost tea is supposed to be an extremely high concentration of beneficial bacteria suspended in liquid, the same bacteria that resides in compost. The process of making tea involves inoculating water with the bacteria and catalyzing their growth using sugar and oxygenation. Once the tea is ready it can be poured into the root zone or sprayed on the leaves.
The first step is to dechlorinate the water. The first time I made it I left the water out for a week, but after that I started using aquarium dechlorinator.
Once the water is ready compost is added, along with a few tablespoons of unsulfered molasses. The type of compost I used is worm castings, ie worm poop.
The water is oxygenated using an aquarium pump for 2-3 days, after which the tea should be ready. The worm castings can be bought at a garden store, the dechlorinator, pump, and molasses I got at Walmart. Making tea is not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.
After the tea is made you are supposed to dilute it to the color of a light tea. Mine seemed like it was already that color so I used it straight. I poured a few cups directly onto the roots and used the rest as a foliar spray. Hardcore gardeners are always raving about compost tea, but to be perfectly honest I'm not sure if I noticed anything at all. Perhaps I didn't make it right. The bucket and aeration tubes were covered in an algae-like film so I knew that at least something was growing in there.
Compost tea or not, the dragonfruit had their best year thus far, to a point where it was difficult to keep up with its production. I pulled 50-60 fruits this season, which is much better than last year's 25 and the single fruit the year before that.
Dragonfruit flowers only bloom for a single night, after which they wilt and dry. For one brief moment it is actually very pretty.
The taste is pretty mild, but every now and then you get a really sweet one. I find them quite refreshing.
This year was a great year for melons. I was finally able to grow the Japanese Shizuoka melon and Yubari melon that have so eluded me all this time, not to mention a few watermelons.
The melons were soft and very sweet. They may not have looked as nice, but they tasted just as good as anything I had in Japan. This time around I made sure to manage the watering and to regularly spray the leaves with diluted milk to stave off powdery mildew. The extra effort paid off well.
My watermelons experienced a bit of bad luck. I opened my single orangeglo to find that it was rotten inside, the source of which was a hole I had thought healed over. It looks as though bacteria was able to get through and infect the rest of the fruit. Luckily, this wasn't the only watermelon I had.
One of the pickings I had. I think this one shows a good range of what I grew this year. Not everything came in at the same time.
I grew okra this year and it turned out to be one of my best plants. The fruits need to be picked at around 4" otherwise they start to get hard and woody. The plants grow up to 6', so have room if you ever decide to grow them.
I left out a lot of things but these are the highlights from this year's crop. In the meantime, I plan to cut down on the winter gardening quite a bit and only plant a few lettuces. I do not have the time to maintain it and also I want to cut the seasonal memory of all the harmful bugs that come my way. Hopefully laying the dirt fallow will disrupt the cycle of bugs that have built up in my yard. What this means is I may not update in a long time, but I'm sure you'll manage somehow. Until then, happy gardening!