While a vole invaded my vegetable garden, mild weather and expanding shade hopped aboard the bothersome season. And why not, trouble always comes in threes. But I’m not alone.
Commercial growers throughout California’s Central Valley, where I live, are facing weather-related challenges, writes Steve Adler, associate editor of Ag Alert. Lingering spring rains pushed planting back by two weeks. In addition, it has been a cool summer. Yield is down. Fruits and vegetables are ripening later than usual. Temperatures can boost or inhibit crops. It’s one of the downsides of horticulture. Whether one is a weekend gardener, farmer, or consumer, Mother Nature’s mood—whatever it may be—is unavoidable.
Choosing the right garden location is just as important as the weather. I’ve had three vegetable plots, each at different sites. Two of the gardens soaked up the sun’s rays from sunup to sundown. My current garden is two years old. It sits a few feet from a row of redwoods (This also provides protection for voles to access the garden.) Sunlight doesn’t come through until 10 or 10:30 a.m. with filtered shade here and there throughout the day. I knew the nearby redwoods would eventually tower over the garden. But it was the only site available at the time, and I didn’t think the shade would expand so quickly.
Vegetable plants need six to eight hours of full sun to produce a substantial crop. In extreme hot climates, filtered, late afternoon shade is helpful in protecting foliage from burning or wilting and crops like peppers and tomatoes from sunscald. But too much shade decreases yield, prolongs leaf moisture which increases the chances of disease, mold, rot or mildew.
Microclimates, due to elements such as elevations and structures, can vary from spot to spot. To take the guesswork out of existing or new garden sites (including ornamental beds) accurate readings can be acquired from products like A Sun Stick Sunlight Meter for less than $10.00.
To Sum It All Up:
Problem #1: Voles
Solution: Choose a garden site with a 15-foot wide open space around the perimeter. (Voles don’t usually go into the open.)
Problem #2: Cool weather
Solution: Be prepared. Plant more than needed, just in case the weather is mild and yield is down. If this doesn’t happen, what you can’t consume or preserve, donate to a local food bank.
Problem #3: Expanding Shade
Solution: Before choosing a garden site, note sun and shade exposure at different times of the day, and any immature trees or shrubs that will create too much shade in the near future. Choose a site that gets six to eight hours of full sun.