Weathering the weather

As early summers go, this one has been a doozy. It is blazing hot outside - about 98 degrees according to the thermometer on the chicken coop wall. It has been just about three weeks since our last snowfall in town. That is correct, during the second week of June we had some unusual weather.

June 11th, 2008: Wet, snowy, and soggy flannel sheets on the tomato cages

All around town people were in a frenzy to protect their plantings. I saw bedsheets on tomato cages everywhere I looked, including my own backyard. Thank goodness we did not have a hard frost, but accumulations were visible just barely off the valley floor. Snow collected in cold spots in my yard- you can see it in the photo ringing the tops of the cages, and on the sheet in the bottom left that was protecting zucchini plants. My tomatoes, squash and most other frost-intolerants did just fine with basic precautions, but much of my basil did not survive. A few days after the snow fell, I accepted their death and went to the farmer's market to buy some new starts.

I know the laws of supply and demand could have warned me that getting to the market almost at noon, after an unseasonable snowfall had killed basil starts all over the valley, wouldn't be a wise economic choice. I was still dumbfounded to see six seedlings, barely three inches tall, being sold for four dollars. FOUR DOLLARS! That is 66 cents per basil plant! I bought plants that were twice as big, for half the price, only three weeks ago! Aaaaargggh. I know that the farmers were hit just as hard by the frost as me, but I was still shocked. And I bought them anyway. Because a mature basil plant in August will cost me at least two dollars, which is far more than 66 cents. Besides, I like growing it myself.

July 2nd, 2008: Hot, hazy, and blossoms on the tomato plants

Armed with the world's most valuable basil starts, I replenished the garden. It is now looking extremely good. My squash is finally big enough to transplant, I'm harvesting and eating lettuce and broccoli nearly every day, and my tomato plants are in full bloom. My neat idea to alternate broccoli and lettuce to save space has proven quite effective; the broccoli makes a cool microclimate for the lettuce, which slows its growth and delays the lettuce from bolting, while the broccoli gets a moister soil and no loss of sunlight. I think I'll do that again next year for sure.

Red lettuce, broccoli, red lettuce, broccoli, repeat!

Last but not least, the strawberries have ripened up and we are harvesting more than a dozen every day. So delicious! Good thing I froze ten pounds of rhubarb chunks!