Summer 2015 Gardening Report

by Scott Duncan

Scott Duncan tells us how it is going in his Delmarva garden so far this summer.

Watch slideshow:

Strawberry patch before thinning Thinning the strawberry patch Strawberry patch after thinning Thriving corn crop Corn - after the marauders More corn - after the marauders Potato Patch Potato harvest Potato Display Pogo's Pantry

The abundance of rain this spring on Delmarva continued right through the early summer. I recorded over 8" of rain in June at my home….not as much as the 11" we experienced in 2013, perhaps, but considerably more than average… enough to make weeding the garden a frequent chore and to have an impact on our crops, both good and bad.

On the good side, for example, I only had to run the irrigation system for the fruit trees three times since May to keep them adequately watered. Two other benefits were: the nectar flow period for the bees was extended, and raspberry and blackberry production has been better than usual. On the down side was the constant battle to keep weeds under control, and some people lost crops - such as strawberries - that don't like so much rain.

In early June I took some honey off the hive. My system of extracting honey from the combs is very rudimentary and all takes place in the kitchen. After laying newspapers on the floor to catch any spilled honey, I use a heated knife to cut off the wax caps that cover the honey cells on both sides of each frame, and then put the exposed frames, two at a time, into a hand-crank extractor. As the extractor basket revolves, the honey is flung from the cells against the walls before pooling at the bottom of the extractor.

This spinning process is repeated until the cells are basically empty. I then open the faucet at the bottom of the extractor and let the honey flow into a container through a layer of cheesecloth, which catches impurities and pieces of wax. Finally, from that container, I pour the honey into storage jars. I get about 3 pounds of raw honey from each frame; a 1-gallon glass container full of honey weighs around 12-1/2 pounds. Cleaning up the equipment and the mess in the kitchen afterwards can take almost as long as the harvest process itself, but the effort always seems worth it.

The Honey Harvest

A week later in June I started picking the first crop of Little Marvel peas planted in early May, and shortly after that the June-bearing strawberries began to ripen. We froze several quarts of berries, and I also tried my hand at making jam. That didn't work out so well because the juice never really thickened; the result was more like syrup than jam, so I'll switch to another recipe next year.

After the strawberry harvest was done, the bed was densely packed with plants so I thinned them out rigorously to allow more space for the daughter plants to take root. Since this spring was the second year for these plants, I will also buy new strawberry plants next spring and let them get established in a separate bed.

I'm happy to report that my four new fruit trees appear healthy and only slightly chewed on by Japanese beetles. There are even a few Winesap and Honey Crisp apples that may make it to maturity. While the new pear and peach trees did not set any fruit this first year -- entirely to be expected -- the old pear tree has done very well, so much so that I had to thin the fruit twice to not overburden the branches and to encourage the remaining pears to grow larger. My weekly spraying schedule of Bonide Fruit and Tree Spray alternating with Bonide Plant Guard seems to have kept insect damage and diseases under control and only takes me about 45 minutes to administer each time for my little orchard.

In early May I planted the first batch of corn: 20 hills of Ambrosia bi-color, followed by 20 more plants two weeks later then a batch of Bodacious yellow in mid-June to stretch out the joy of eating fresh corn from the garden throughout the summer. We ate a few ears from the first planting one evening just as they were getting fully mature but the next morning I discovered ruthless marauders, probably raccoons, had stripped all the ears from the plants during the night, and empty husks were scattered everywhere. I've always felt it is part of gardening to share some of my produce with the critters out there, but this was a terrible blow. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Meanwhile, at Pogo's Pantry on Dykes Road in Salisbury, Debbie Nicholson and Mike McAllister are also struggling with weeds overtaking some of their garden beds. Determined to stay organic, they used mostly heavy applications of mulch and some hand weeding, but Debbie said trying to keep up with the weed growth was getting to be too much. The above-average rainfall made many sections of their farm too muddy to be worked and the strawberry yields were also affected. However, they had a wonderful blueberry and raspberry season, asparagus was abundant, and their early, middle and late varieties of potatoes came in nicely; the farm stand features a rack of 21 different varieties of potatoes for sale!

As the end of July approaches, Debbie is preparing to plant a fall crop of broccoli and cauliflower, along with pumpkins, kale, turnips and radishes. I'll tell you how that turns out, along with further news about gardening on Delmarva, in my next report. Until then, so long!

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