Monday, July 13, 2015

July in Kansas

All I need to do is look at the weather forecast to know that it is July in Kansas.

We all may be grumbling about today's "excessive heat" warning, and the fact that the highs for the rest of the week are in the low to mid-90s, but that is what you expect in the middle of July in Kansas. At least we've recently had rain. This is the first week this summer that every day has a forecast high in the 90s. We should count ourselves lucky.

Grayhead coneflower.
In the meantime, broccoli and lettuce seeds I planted in little pots on Friday are already sprouting on the porch. In a couple of weeks I will move them to a semi-shaded spot that gets a bit more intense sunlight, so they can get strong and stocky before I plant them in the garden the middle of next month. It seems a little nuts to be planting cool-loving crops when we are hitting the highest heat of the season, but it's now or never if you want fall broccoli and cabbage and kale, that will just get sweeter with a bit of frost.

Yes, I'm thinking of frost as the high temperature climbs steadily toward 100 and the highest chance of rain for the next week is just 30 percent. My rain tanks are full and the hoses are at ready. Today I planted more bush beans so we can have more tender green beans in a couple of months. Beans don't take as kindly to frost as the brassicas, but we should get a good crop of them before we need to worry about frost. When I plant my baby broccoli in the garden I'll also start planting seeds of radishes, lettuce, spinach, bok choy and probably some other things I've forgotten. Carrots and beets get planted now, as well. If you plan to protect them with plastic once frosty weather sets in, you may plant some of these things just a bit later. One year my radishes, carrots and beets under cover continued to grow well into November, maybe even December. Once the carrots and beets are grown, they can be protected by a thick layer of mulch and harvested until the ground freezes.

When planting cool-season crops in the heat of summer, water water water and a little shade are the things to remember. I recently bought more soaker hoses and really need to order some drip irrigation supplies. I should already have my drip irrigation system in, but 10 inches of rain during the last two weeks of May, and continued rain in the first couple of weeks of June made it seem like a task that could wait, especially when weeds are taking over everything. Even though we've recently had rain (more than 3 inches just last week) the high heat tells me I really need to put some serious thought into the drip irrigation system. I'll be spending the next few afternoons indoors, so that's top of my list (after all these phone calls I've got to make today).

Baby watermelons! Summer squash! Tomatoes!

Writing about freezing weather, frost and late-season vegetables hasn't dried up the sweat at all. It's still HOT outside, but thinking about the timing of it all makes autumn seem much closer than I'm ready for it to be. So I'll think about all the lovely things about July. Like peaches! They're little but abundant this year. I'm picking them hard but with a red red blush and hoping they ripen and don't rot on the counter. Sun Gold tomatoes -- sunny flavor and juicy -- and cucumbers finally started. The daily salads change their character.

Next month our summer apples will fill the baskets, Then more apples over the next couple of months. Gladiolus, zinnias, phlox and many wildflowers bloom right now, with extra color added by the butterflies. The next six weeks will seem long as the days are hot, sunny and dry. So September will be welcome.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer in Flight

I don't even want to know how long it has been since my last post here. Summer has been flying past at a rate faster than the speed of sound and I've hardly had time to catch my breath.

Music festivals, spirit festivals, gatherings with friends and families... strawberry season whizzing past at warp speed while rain falls and falls and falls and falls,.. bags and bags of strawberries in the freezer alongside several bags of snap peas and snow peas.

Sometime in May we noticed a couple of cardinals building a nest in the potted bay tree on our front porch. It seemed like a wise decision, out of the rain and worst wind, morning sun and shade by late morning. I'd gently pull back the shade to get a glimpse of mama cardinal sitting on the three speckled eggs, her head at alert and her eyes wide -- one always on me. Did she really know I was there?

After two or three weeks of watching, tiny, fuzzy heads were visible in the nest. Two of the eggs had hatched shortly after the first of June. Blind eyes and gaping mouths, we were thrilled. About a week after the hatching we headed out for three days of music festival. The day after we arrived home, I took a peek only to find the nest empty of all but the one unhatched egg. What had happened? We can only guess. The bay tree had no broken branches and the nest seemed undisturbed. A snake, perhaps. Black rat snakes like baby birds.

Blueberry season has come upon us and is nearly through, as the rabbits continue to multiply. They've hidden their nests well this year, as I have not come across any fur-lined hollows filled with tiny fuzzy babies. They've learned that I relocate babies from the garden, I guess.

It is not unusual to see a half dozen rabbits when we head out in the morning or early evening. And they are bold little buggers. Two hopped up to the front porch this afternoon and I opened the front door to scare them off, "rawr." They paused and looked at me. I stepped out the door and raised my hands, "RAWR!" (Clap, clap.) They hop around the corner without looking too terribly distressed.

Anyone know the number of a good rabbit exterminator, like a bobcat family or coyote couple. I don't hate rabbits, but this is ridiculous and I'm tired of them eating the wrong things. If they'd just stick to the weeds, we'd be cool.

Yes, the weeds. The Weeds! Three weeks of rain and frequent weekends away tend to give the weeds free reign. I am slowly working my way through the weeds. I may have the weeding done by Christmas. Ack.