Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gray skies with no rain.
Berry season is slowing down. The black raspberries are nearly finished. They were not as prolific this year as last year, probably because we didn't water them much through last summer's drought and I failed to apply compost in the fall. Many of the floricanes are dying before the berries are fully formed. Not sure why, but that's the way it is. This week I hope to go through and cut out all of the second-year canes (floricanes, or fruiting canes) leaving only this year's growth. Then I will give them a good dose of compost. Later I will dig some of the little suckers and use them to finish out the bed where the black raspberries grow.

However, the blackberries have performed fabulously. Nearly three gallons of berries are in the freezer, and we've had our fill of sweet, juicy blackberries to eat. I've also had my fill of black raspberries, as well as a few extra for the freezer, but not like the blackberries.


Last year was the first year the blackberries were in their current location. I had mistakenly planted them in too tight of a space, so I dug them all and moved them to more spacious quarters. We got just a few berries last year, but they are now fully settled in and have amazed us with their prolific nature. Since they are a primocane producing variety -- they flower and fruit on first-year canes as well as second-year canes -- we should get some berries until freezing weather sets in.

In past years, however, when I cut the canes down each spring for primocane production only, the production was sparse. The primocanes start producing about the time summer gets hot and dry here, which tends to dry out and burn up the flowers and baby fruits. So we'll see.

We may need to start watering the berries, too. For the past three weeks, I've been on a daily watering schedule. We've had less than an inch of rain in the past few weeks. The soil has developed large cracks in some areas. Storms have passed us by several times, dropping less than a quarter inch, if anything, each time. We see cloudy skies (such as the top photo) but receive no benefit, except the drop in temperature.

Yesterday I saw the thermometer hit 102 F. Fortunately, we've done the typical Kansas summer thing and the 100-plus-degree temps hit one or two days, then the weather calms down to the low 90s high 80s for a while. Much better than last year, but we've still got the rest of July and August to get through.

Last year, I learned that a regular watering schedule gets the garden through some intense stuff, so I started watering as soon as the forecast indicated stretches of no rain. So things continue to grow, a bit behind schedule because of the weird weather in late spring, and devastation by cutworms and rabbits, but growing nonetheless. We are still harvesting broccoli and greens... and blackberries, of course. A number of the apple trees have fruit on them, as do the pears and plums. Even one peach tree bears a few fruit, which survive two freezes after flowering. So I'm not complaining.

But I'm still watching the skies, hoping for rain.

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