All Hail Mother Nature

hail storm in garden
Just when you think things are going fine in the garden, Mother Nature decides to shake things up. This has been a weird growing season. I have talked to and heard from growers at various ends of the state and the general feeling is that this has not been a good year to be a grower. I have heard that numerous crops have failed this summer, even for experienced growers. The number of produce growers is down at the farmers’ market which I take as a bad sign. My latest obstacle was a hail storm.

Here in Arizona we welcome rain and thunderstorms. While I have never seen it rain anywhere else as hard as it typically does here, the promise of rain is always welcome. That was put to the test on Saturday when pea and marble sized hail was mixed in with the rain. In little more than an hour we measured about 1 inch of precipitation.

hail damaged plants

As you might imagine, hail and gardens are not the best of friends. The hail ripped apart the plants with bigger leaves, like squash, gourds, kale, and rhubarb. It flattened many other plants, including the beets and lima beans. It also broke branches and knocked tomatoes off the plants. I am hoping this turns out to be mostly cosmetic damage and that the plants will bounce back with a bit of calm weather and sun. Only time will tell.

Despite all this, I harvested about 28 pounds of tomatoes this week and 21 last week. For those of you who have not grown a lot of tomatoes, that is a lot for personal use. Until I heard that many local growers are having significant issues, I was concerned about the reduced production from some of the plants. I chalked a bit of the loss up to the deer eating the tops off many plants and the extra hot July this year. Now I am thinking things are going relatively well.

bowl of homegrown tomatoes

We have been roasting the extra tomatoes for future marinara and roasted tomato soup. The peppers are growing gangbusters; the eggplant plants are the biggest and most productive we have had; and, although we don’t have a large number of banana squash, we likely still have over 60 pounds of them.

I expect out peak harvest is still two or three weeks away. We have lots of green peppers and tomatoes busy ripening and a record number of eggplant blossoms. The one crop not doing well at all is cucumbers. We have made a batch or half-sour pickles, but they are growing very oddly. Any amount of bread and butter pickles we make this year might have to come from cucumbers from farm stands that will be visited on a trip to Colorado. While I would love having a big garden in a more conducive location, I am glad I am not trying to make a living as a farmer.

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