Garden Update - Hilltop

Here we are at the end of June & the theme remains the same….HOT and dry.  Our grass is in a sad, sad state:

Those patches of green...weeds (of course!)

I’ve started to water it – something that I don’t normally do, even during those brief periods in midsummer when it turns brown.  However, I learned my lesson on waiting too long to water a few years ago when we had a similar drought – the grass went from dormant to dead and weeds filled in the empty spots.  So, I’m lugging the hose around and doing what I can to get some moisture into the ground.

The garden as a whole is doing ok in the heat & I’m trying to keep up with the watering, but it’s been tough going.  The blackberries and raspberries have felt it the most.


Not only have I not watered them as much as I should have, but the fact that they are planted in a rows down a hill likely has them drying out much quicker than if they were planted in flat ground.


I doubt I’ll be getting any harvest from them this summer as all of the blossoms look dried out.  Both of the raspberry varieties that I'm growing (Heritage & Fall Gold) bear raspberries in the early summer & fall, so if I’m lucky, I may still get a few berries later in the season.

No blackberries this year....

I’ve been watering the bales daily but even that wasn’t enough for a couple of the squash – I had 2 casualties early on (the big empty gap where the nozzle is in the photo below) but things seem to be doing ok now.

Squash in new bales:
Seminole Pumpkin, Thai Rai Kaw Tok, Jing Orange, Chinese Miben,
Patisson Panache Jaune et Vert, Zao Feng, Romanesco Hybrid

The new bales are doing very well and they hold one of the best looking squash plants:

This Jing Orange winter squash is the
largest, healthiest looking of all the bale squash at the moment

Each bale contains 2 plants (other than those where one died), for a total of 16 plants in the bales.  Now before you call me crazy because you are one of the lucky ones where squash grows like a weed, I am not so privileged.  So I’m hedging my bets, growing a lot of plants and hoping that I get at least one or two squash from each plant….which I would consider a success, especially for winter squash.

Squash in old bales:
Sweet Mama, Thai Rai Kaw Tok, Romanesco Hybrid,
Patisson Panache Jaune et Vert

Something different that I’m trying this year with the squash is spreading diatomaceous earth around the bottom of their stems (being careful not to get any on the flowers) in an effort to avoid squash vine borer issues.  Normally I net them from mid-June to around the end of July - I'm starting to get a bit paranoid, however, and may end up netting them anyhow.

I also have 2 butternut squash plants in the corn bed:

Dorinny Sweet Corn  & Walthum Butternut Squash

Those “weeds” you see in the corners are actually lemon balm & alyssum, which I’m hoping will draw in some pollinators.  Last week, I found myself thinking that the squash seemed much too small still...but then I took a look at what the butternut squash/corn bed looked like on June 20th, 2015 (it was a great butternut squash year) and they actually look better this year!

Squash/corn bed - June 20, 2015

Just another example of why it really pays to keep photographic records.

Behind the corn/squash bed is the carrot bed:

Carrot Bed:
Mokum, Amsterdam Maxi, Bolero, Yaya, Starburst Blend

The soil was somewhat dry in the above photo and the carrots are still tiny, so they are pretty hard to see - here's a close up taken after I watered:

Carrot Seedlings

The carrots have had rather spotty germination, most likely due to the dry conditions.  I did cover the bed with Agribon and water every day until they germinated, but that may not have been enough considering the heat.

I also noticed that some of the soil on one side of the bed appeared to be mounded, as if something had tunneled underneath.  Not good.  The soil on the hilltop is nowhere near as rocky as that in the main garden - a blessing and a curse as this may mean that voles are more apt to tunnel into the beds from underneath.

I'm sure you are wondering what those big plants on the left side of the bed are - well, they're volunteer potatoes:

A couple of volunteer potato plants

I decided to keep them going to see what they would do.  I'll end up loosing some carrots, I'm sure, but I'm planning on doing another sowing once the strawberries are pulled from their current bed, so it's not like I'll be wanting for carrots (if all goes according to plan...ahem).

If I do end up harvesting a few potatoes from these volunteers, so much the better as a couple of the Linzer seed potatoes that I planted back in the spring didn’t coming up (the empty spot at the bottom left):

Potato bed:
Linzer Delicatess, Yukon Gold, Roko, Caribe, Bintje, Viking

The Linzer seed potatoes were SO tiny and they were from last years crop so, in a way, I’m not totally surprised that a couple didn’t make it.  They probably didn't have enough reserve energy to get through all that soil.  All of the others, however, including 4 of the 6 Linzers, did emerge and they seem to be doing just fine.

Caribe & Roko are now flowering

All of the allium beds are also on the hilltop this year.  Remember those tiny, whispy seedlings that I transplanted at the end of April?

Onion seedlings shortly after transplanting

Many people growing onions from seed for the first time (including myself) think “how on earth are these tiny, fragile things going to give me a crop of onions in a few short months?”  Well, here they are now, 8 weeks later:

Onion varieties grown this year:
Ailsa Craig, Copra, Rossa di Milano, Red Wing, Jaune Paille des Vertus

I’m covering the onion beds with netting as I’ve had leek moth* issues in the past.  The big problem this year has been the wind.  More than a dozen times I’ve found the netting either fluttering in the wind or completely pulled from the supports.  I think it gets windier on the hilltop than in the main garden, so that may be a factor, but it also seems as if it's been windier than normal this year and those winds have been stronger.  So far, I don’t see any leek moth damage on the seedlings, so that’s good.

I wish the same could be said for the garlic.

Garlic Bed
Varieties grown:  Music, Persian Star, Portugal 1,
Sweet Candy, Porcelain, Pitarelli & Duganski

Although the bulbs are fine (so far!), I’ve noticed some leek moth* damage on both the leaves and the scapes:

Tell-tale signs of leek moth* on scapes

Only a small portion of the scapes have been damaged and in all cases, I was able to cut the damaged part off and keep a good chunk of the scape.  I’m a bit distressed, however, about what this could mean for the garlic in the future.  I’ve never had this issue on garlic before, even the year when I first grew onions and a good portion of them had leek moth*.  I’m wondering if they’re more attracted to the garlic because they can’t get at the onions or perhaps their population is simply growing as they are a relatively new pest in this area.

The asparagus ferns are large & floppy:

Guelph Millennium Asparagus
in it's 2nd year (from seed)

They were totally blocking the pathway beside them so I tied some balers twine to rebar in an effort to create a sort of “fence” along the side of the bed.

The blueberries are….alive:

Blue Crop blueberry bush

That’s about all I can say about them...hopefully this will be their "creep" year in the sleep, creep, leap trio.  The haskaps are looking quite a bit better than the blueberries, especially now that I cut back a bunch of overgrowth that had migrated from the other side of the fence these are in front of:

This was a very overgrown area &
the cardboard is my attempt at keeping that growth at bay

And that’s it for the hilltop – I’ll do a post on the beds in Area # 1 & #2 later this week.

Ok, now for a peak at one (of several) garden projects that I’m finally in the process of completing….anyone for a wild guess?  Hint:  I’ve been talking about doing this for over a year now.


That's right - the drip irrigation is finally being installed!  This is a rather tricky process when you are dealing with raised beds because they are just that – raised beds and not flat ground.  What also makes it a bit more complex is that I want a mainline pipe with a shutoff valve going to each individual bed...if you're gonna do it, may as well do it right.

It took a lot of figuring out, and some trial and error, but things are finally starting to take shape.  I decided to do Area #2 first as it only has 4 beds.  If I make a mistake, I would rather it be in this area than in the others that contain at least twice the number of beds.  I’m pleased to say that I finished the drip for this area yesterday….and it feels GREAT!

The tubing comes in a roll and, even after letting it sit in the sun,
it still maintains a bit of a curve during installation; this bit should flatten out in a day or so

As I was completing the install, I made detailed notes of what I did (or should have done) and I’m hoping this will make the other installations run all the more smoothly.

With one area done, I'm starting work on the next....the hilltop beds.  Not sure I'll get much on that done today, however - with todays forecast of 31C/88F (37C/99F with the humidex), I'll probably be more in than out.

*I originally thought that the alliums were being attacked by onion maggots but have subsequently realized that, in fact, I was dealing with leek moths so have adjusted this post accordingly.


  1. It looks like overall things are pretty productive... both you and your plants! I've been despairing over our onions. I'm going to take your photos as a hopeful omen... and a reminder that gardening is about patience!

    1. Very true...and don't despair! Most plants take a bit of time to settle into their new home in the garden - but once that happens, they often grow by leaps and bounds.

  2. So far I have not had any onion maggot problems but your picture of the maggot damage on garlic scapes is alarming. Last year I had some thrip damage so this year I am spraying the onions and things look good. Anyway, we both need some rain, in fact a lot of rain.

    1. It is alarming, isn't it? That's why I'm fairly certain I've never had this issue on the garlic before - I can't see that I would have not noticed something that obvious, even if I had never run across onion maggots before. And a LOT of rain would be nice...hope this doesn't turn into a "be careful what you wish for" moment ;)

  3. I completely empathize about the dry hot weather, it hasn't rained here in a month. It's been a strange year weather wise.

    That's too bad about your raspberries, but yay for installing drip irrigation. It'll be amazing when you don't have drag a hose around watering two gardens. Your peppers and asparagus are looking great, and that is a big bed of garlic. It looks like everything is coming along wonderfully.

    1. Thanks Phuong! Oh, I am SO loving the drip - I'm about half way done the hilltop and can hopefully finish it up by midweek. I'm actually hoping to include the berry rows, but am not sure at this point if I'll include them in the current run or do them separately.

  4. I wish I could send some rain, but we have NONE here as well. We finally got a gully washer yesterday which did no good as the soil is so dry it just ran off. Seems to be all or none in the Rain Department anymore. Some folks are getting WAY more than they need and I *(and you) can't seem to buy any!

    I always let my volunteer potatoes mature. One can never have enough, and in some cases--it's a blessing. My red pontiacs last year were a disaster-some kind of "funk" think going on with them. Luckily, I had a few volunteer plants from the year before and they were huge and produced better than anything I've ever planted!
    Have a great week. Hope you get your much needed rains

    1. I've noticed that too - it's either non-stop rain or no rain. No one seems to be in the perfect precipitation situation...had to slip that one in ;)

      It's a bit exciting leaving those volunteer potatoes in as I have no idea what they are. I just hope that the voles don't get to them before I do - I've noticed a couple of holes in that bed and when I stick my hand in, it definitely seems as if there's a tunnel of some sort happening.

      Enjoy you week as well, Sue - I'll be doing some rain dances for both of us ;)

  5. Well, I'm certainly sympathetic on the weather too, same thing happening here. Hard to keep the hay bales moist enough to keep the squash growing but doing OK so far (with a lot of extra water duty). But despite the conditions, your garden is looking very well, Margaret!

    I always let all (well, most) of my potato volunteers come up - this year they are popping up in the shallot patch and I'm pretty sure the potato will win out for the space. Ah well. And yours flowering already, that's terrific! I have one or two flowering but a way to go still on the rest.

    1. Thanks Susie! I have usually seen people pull up potato volunteers early in the season and it made me wonder why they did that (other than that they would interfere with whatever crop was currently planted there). Good to know that letting them grow is worthwhile - although I've seen more mounds/tunneling in that bed so what I end up eventually getting, either in terms of carrots or potatoes, is VERY questionable at this point.

  6. Complete turn around from our story. No watering needed and planted in mud

    1. It always seems to be one extreme or the other, doesn't it Sue? Moderation in the weather is a rarity these days.

  7. Your new drip system will make your gardening life a lot easier! It would be impossible for me to keep a summer veggie garden going without it, I can't remember the last time it rained and that's normal here. It's so sad that your berries got dried out, perhaps they'll make a comeback if you get some rain. Onion maggot, yuck! Thank goodness that pest hasn't bothered my onions, I'm already covering up enough of my garden to keep the birds out.

    1. I'm starting the drip on Area #1 today and can't wait! It's a pain installing the lines in some of the beds because of all the plants in the way but what can you do. And you know what? We discovered a couple of golden raspberries on the bushes this week - yum!


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