Natural Perspectives: Racing against weather to grow produce

September 14, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
  • The plot at the Huntington Beach Community Garden was good for growing winter squash and pumpkins. Here are a few of that colorful crop.
The plot at the Huntington Beach Community Garden was… (Lou Murray, HB Independent )

For anyone except an astronomer, Labor Day signals the end of summer. We know that the official start of fall isn't until the autumnal equinox Sept. 23. But once school starts, that's the end of summer for us. Or at least for Vic. His college classes already have begun.

The arrival of fall means that the rainy season soon will be upon us. But we got surprised on Monday with a thunderstorm that woke us at 4 a.m. with flashes of lightning, booming thunderclaps and enough rain to wet the garden. However, we're at least six weeks away from the start of any real rain.

Monday's odd weather was supposed to be followed by a couple of really hot days. Sometimes it's hard to know what season it is. Especially if you're trying to grow a garden like I am. Is it too late for a late crop of green beans? Is it too early for planting winter crops like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower? I bet no on both and put in a late crop of beans plus an early crop of winter vegetables. I have a reason for wanting to push the seasons at both ends.


At the beginning of 2011, I set a goal for myself of growing 500 pounds of produce this year. I thought it would be easy since I had grown 224 pounds last year in only my home garden. With the addition of a 15-by-20-foot plot at the new Huntington Beach Community Garden, I thought that 500 pounds was actually a modest goal. Not.

The community garden didn't get going until March. Because the ground there was hard-compacted clay and gravel and needed a lot of prep work, I spent most of my time on that garden. I never really planted much at my home garden this year. So I downgraded my goal to 300 pounds early in the season. Sadly, it looks like I'm not even going to make that adjusted figure.

The community garden gave me room to grow winter squash, pumpkins, watermelon and corn. But the soil was so poor that the corn stalks were dwarfed, and so were the cobs. Still, we did manage to get at least a few bites of homegrown corn.

My winter squash did fairly well, giving me a bit over 13 pounds of red kuri, green kuri and mini blue Hubbards. But my summer squash crop pretty much failed. Each plant produced one or two squash and died. I got a total of nine pounds of summer squash, and some of those were gifts from my friend Judi Smith's garden.

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