Sunday, July 26, 2009

Progress in the Garden

We are fully enjoying the amazing blessing of a Vancouver Island Summer. The long days and warm weather are truly wonderful. The weather also seems to have brought an intense level of activity in all areas of our life - and the garden is certainly providing one level of incredible busyness.

Things really grow on Vancouver Island, and this growth is an active and incessant process - almost seeming desperate at times. Certainly this has to do with the warm sunny days. The sun provides about 1000 watts of energy per square meter and the plants are eager to transform this energy into roots, stems, leaves and ultimately fruit. More and bigger leaves translate into more area for collecting solar energy and in turn this gives additional energy to the plant for the uptake of water and soil nutrients and the organization of these nutrients, along with CO2 from the air, into the complex carbohydrate and protein chains that are stored in the fruit and vegetables that we eat. The warm evenings on the Island allow the plants to sustain the growing process, unlike the Calgary area where the plunging temperature send plants into a state of shock almost every night.

All this growth provides a new set of challenges for gardening. First, the weeds are just as eager to grow as the plants we want to nurture. Daily weeding is required to prevent blackberries, thistles, grass and other assorted weeds from choking out the desired growth. Second, our warm and dry Summer weather means we have to provide a thorough watering every day. While these requirements are standard for most gardens, there are a couple of extra things we have learned about our West Coast home. While tomatoes will grow here at a spectacular rate, it turns out that they are highly susceptible to a soil or airborne blight that can destroy your crop just as you are preparing for harvest. It seems this blight can be prevented by keeping the plants dry and clean so we need to cover the plants with plastic, trim all the lower leaves and branches from the plant and water the plants at ground level. Cucumbers, zuchinni and other squash related plants are also susceptible to blight but their insane growth rates make it very difficult to cover the plants. Currently we are hoping that careful watering and the dry weather will be enough to keep the plants healthy - however we also have plans for implementing plastic covered tunnels to provide shelter for these plants. In addition to these challenges, we have to keep up with the incredible growth of the lentils, beans and peas. These plants invest tremendous energy into climbing vines that give their leaves better access to the sunlight. If left untended, these plants can collapse into a dense mat of tangled leaves and stems. However, when supports are provided, they cover the available structures with incredible speed.

While I want to emphasize that the garden doesn't tend itself, I also don't want to sound like I am complaining. The obvious by-product of this growth is a steady supply of fresh and delicious food. So far we have enjoyed a steady diet of salad made from several varieties of lettuce and spinach - supplemented with wild berries. Last week we experienced the incredible flavor of our first vine ripened tomatoes. Early pea pods can already be eaten whole - and the peas should be coming strong in the next few days. Potatoes and beets will be added to next week's menu. Squash and zuchinni should be ready for early August.

The 100 meter diet is an incredible blessing.

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