2017 Harvest



Monday, July 24, 2017

Roe deer battle

Ever since we moved here we've always had the company of a few species of forest animals. It has been a perfectly normal to see rabbits running down the street, squirrels stealing our walnuts, dozens of different birds jumping around the garden and roe deer feeding on the meadows around us.
But in the past few years, roe deer have become a problem to the gardeners in our village.
Since there are no hunters in the village there is also no threat for them and they have started to run around completely free and unscared of anything. It has become a normal thing to see a roe deer with little ones walking just a few meters from the people. Over the past two years, they have learned how to jump over the fences and that is where the problems begun.


It's becoming almost impossible to keep them out of the garden. There is no fence high enough to keep them out. They simply stare at the fence and two minutes later they jump over without a run-up.
Once they are in the garden they start their feast.
They don't eat everything, no they have special vegetables they prefer. Beans are the ones that they adore. Every single young leaf they find they will gobble up, but only the young leaves. Pods and older leaves are left intact. This wouldn't be a problem if they came to eat once the plants have already made some pods. But usually they eat as soon as the plants start producing leaves and this means no pods.



Another favorite thing for them are beet and carrot leaves. It's the same story like with beans, they eat only the leaves, leaving the root intact.


Once they finish with this 3 vegetables they slowly turn to lettuce, amaranth, and blackberries chewing every single leaf.
And that is basically everything they eat. They couldn't care less for cabbages, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers which are left unharmed.



Of course, this situation is getting on our nerves so we try to prevent them from entering our garden. By our laws, we can't buy liquid repellents against animals because we don't own a certificate that we're in the business of professional gardening and there are no small packages for hobby gardeners so we have to use other methods which are more or less unsuccessful.
Some of our neighbors tried the oil trick dipping pieces of cloth in motor oil and hanging them all over the fence. It worked for a week or two and then they got used to it and started chewing again.
I've tried the old dog hair trick last year. Supposedly deer are scared of dogs so they avoid any place with dog hair. So last year I've filled little bags with dog hair, with I have plenty of having two dogs at home. It didn't work, probably because they are so relaxed they chew the grass in front of the yard with Nero barking just a few meters away. The good thing about the hairs was that in the spring birds used every single hair for their nests so I had to fill the bags again, but at least they were used for something good.



I've also tried making my fence look higher by sticking long branches and sticks inside it. This method worked for a while until they realized my branches were just branches. Now they don't have any problem with breaking them.


The next move was to make an ugly scarecrow(which doesn't scare crows at all) to keep them out. I've even places some bells on so it would make some noise while the wind is blowing. This is working for now, or at least I think it is because since I've placed my scarythingie there were no roe deer entering my garden.


Another thing I've noticed is that when I leave a barrel full of water in the garden they are always inside. Now someone would think poor little deer don't have where to drink so they enter the garden. Yeah, not true, they are just lazy. There is a creek just a few meters from my house with drinkable, fresh water and they are just too lazy to go there. Or maybe they are just using my water as an excuse to come and gobble my beans.
I'm hoping I will not find out the reason because eventhough I love animals and I love to see roe deer in the morning I prefer to see them away from my vegetables.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Harvesting and hiding from the sun

June and the first half of July have been extremely dry and hot. So dry that we didn't get any rain in almost two months. Of course, that means that our plants are suffering from heat stress and giving less fruit than in normal condition. Besides the extremely dry weather temperatures have also been a real problem. Over the past 30 days, we had 20 days with temperatures over 30°C, most of those days were even over 35°C which means that the temperature in the garden is much higher than that. Of course, we try to water our plants but there is also a water restriction so we are careful not to use too much water. That means we only water our cucumbers, peppers, and zucchinis but even to them, the water we give them is not enough. In Croatia we have a saying which translates roughly to "giving water to overheated plants is like throwing water at a thirsty man's face"
It helps a bit but it doesn't give them the water they need.

With this conditions and deer party in my garden(I'll write about it in another post) I'm happy with any fruits I manage to harvest.

It has been almost a full month since we started harvesting blackberries. They have started with juicy, big fruits but over the weeks they are also starting to show heat issues and the fruits are starting to turn dry even before they are ready for harvest. Harvests started with 1kg a day, then climbed to 2kg a day and now we collect 0.5kg a day. There are around 5kg of blackberries left on the net and with that 5kg we'll have a total of 25kg of blackberries this year. This is a pretty decent harvest. bigger than the last year when deer ate my berries, but much smaller than the harvest in 2015. The biggest issue is the fact we'll get a lot less juice from this year's blackberries than the past years because of the heat.


Tomatoes and peppers have just started giving first fruits past week.


This year I had a huge issue with my pepper seedlings, to be exact I had a problem with my seed germination. The lack of warmth stopped my seedlings from germinating so this year I have a very small amount of pepper plants. Also, the lack of warmth in May kept my chili peppers very small so they are just started to grow. It seems they don't mind the heat too much, with a regular watering and full sun all day they are slowly growing and giving healthy fruits. So far we've made two jars of pickled chili peppers.



Tomatoes, on the other hand, are struggling with this heat. Although they love the heat and the sun right now they are having too much sun here and basically, they get cooked before turning red.
The biggest issue is with my black tomato varieties that get the sun burns even before they start turning black. I have to harvest them as soon as they show a bit of color or they turn into a cooked mix of skin and juice without any meat.  The ones that give best fruits, for now, are yellow varieties. The less time they need to be ready for harvest, the healthier their fruits are.


We've also started to harvest our potatoes.


This year we decided against buying potato seeds and used leftover small potatoes we collected during the winter. They turned up to be an excellent choice. Perfectly healthy, with a few bug bites and decent sized they are a much better choice than the preselected and packed potatoes used as seeds. Mainly because of the price which is very high here.
We still have 2/3 of the bed to harvest.

Most of the other plants haven't yet started to give fruits or they have been ruined by the dry and warm weather. After a wonderful bean year last year when we harvested beans from June till October this year we have almost nothing. Plants are drying even with watering they still don't produce any beans or the beans they produce are small and dry.

When it comes to herbs we've been collecting mint and lavender.
The story with mint surprising me every single day of the past two years. After years and years of trying to sow the mint and failing last year, it started growing by itself on my potato bed. I suspect it came from one of the other beds but clearly, it likes it here. Last year I've harvested 2 huge jars of mint and this year it is growing even better. Again I've been harvesting it and drying to use as tea.
Lavender has been excellent like every year, although this year I will have to trim it a bit because it's taking over my tomato bed, I feel bad to cut it because it has such a beautiful flower and shape.



I'm hoping for at least a days or two of rain because with this heat our gardening year will end by the end of August and we haven't even started to harvest like we should.