Broccoli plants have been dragging their feet, but they finally showed some button heads that are steadily swelling in size. In years past we've grown a single head of broccoli that was 16 inches across, so we'll see how they do this year. Little green worms are always a problem in warm weather, and no one wants to chomp down on a tender floret and see half a worm wiggling out of the excavated side! Too bad bugs can't read "No Trespassing" signs. One organic way to save the broccoli for ourselves is to cover each developing head with something like an old leg of nylon hose, which "grows" with the plant. Cut off a section of hose, tie the top end shut, and pull the nylon "sock" over what you want to protect. This works with almost any crop, from peppers, tomatoes, and melons, to corn.
We admit, we do not follow space recommendations on the back of seed packets; it is possible to squeeze a very large harvest out of a very small space if soil, sunlight, and watering conditions are right. The average size backyard garden has shrunk considerably in past decades; 300 sq. ft. is the current average. (We have 2,000 sq. ft., but two thirds of that is planted with space hogs corn and pumpkins; our spring garden was 375 sq. ft, and our main summer garden is 500 sq. ft.). Years ago I remember seeing large gardens of row-run crops with tiller-wide footpaths in between, presumably to aid cultivation. We grow many plants "up" to help conserve space. This technique prevents many soil-born diseases that can splash on sprawling plants. We push all our plants together and even grow melon vines in between so that by July barely an inch of ground will be visible beneath the green. It looks a little wild, but it helps keep soil cool, and there is no room for weeds. There's no room to step, either; it's like a game of Twister trying to harvest melons! Most plants that require daily harvest are on the perimeter and are accessible from the lawn and foot paths.
Zucchini are rolling in as have several more pea harvests. Melon vines have started running; lettuce is still mild and a new crop is growing. I've had to cover the blueberry bushes with netting to keep birds from eating our fruit: scare tactics like pie tins, cd's on a string, and fake owls and snakes may work for a day but are not as reliable or as effective as bird netting. Cherry and apple trees must be too small to fruit this year, and our peach trees have about one peach each, so we will have to rely on local u-pick orchards until our trees mature a little more; it's exciting to see how rapidly they are growing this year.
We've appreciated some positive comments from neighbors on the garden; they've told us it's beautiful, and they believe it's a great teaching experience for children. If you've followed these posts you know an organic garden doesn't just happen, but after months of planning it's a reality, and we are feeling the benefits.