Out here in Amarillo we had a pretty nasty hail storm two weeks ago that pretty well annihilated my garden. I’d been debating whether to shoot an email to The Survival Podcast’s Jack Spirko to see what could be done as I suspect there are a few listeners here in the area with the same problem. Fortunately someone from the area decided to straight up call him for some advice so I didn’t have to (Have you noticed people from Amarillo, myself included, always make sure to say they are from Amarillo specifically when they introduce themselves?).
I think his advice for cover cropping is pretty good advice. I’ve got a few things I’d like to share from my experience last year as a late planter in the area in addition to that. There are actually a few things you can do to get SOME vegetables this year when planting from seed. Here’s what happened last year and what I got to grow, and how I did it.
First thing, my fiance has a masters in botany so I have an advantage here that had a lot to do with this. What happened last year was we had a late freeze plus a really hot summer and I got the following things to grow just fine even though it was early to mid June before any of it that survived got planted:
Basil – Harvested about eight plants, I think the seed from them is growing in pots this year just fine. I ended up giving a few sandwich bags full away at any rate.
Watermelon – I was giving watermelon away last year. Had three huge ones make it. Had about half a dozen basketball sized ones that didn’t ripen before the first freeze though.
Pumpkin – I STILL have two or three small jack-o-lantern pumpkins.
Dill – Not as much of this made it, still got enough to cook a few meals with.
Cherry Tomatoes – I just quit even harvesting these. I got about four rounds of tomatoes. Ate bruschetta and tomato/basil salad for a month because I don’t have any way to can these.
What I couldn’t get to grow
Winter Squash – Never quite got this stuff to make a vine, got flowers and tiny squashes. Wouldn’t even grow in the colder months.
Rosemary – I’ve heard that if you can’t get rosemary to grow you fail as a gardener, this stuff would never take for some reason.
Green Peppers – It grew but never put on any fruit. Just had one plant that made it though.
What I figured out pretty quickly was that my garden wasn’t getting enough water even though I was watering it manually 2-3x a day and occasionally spraying some Miracle Grow liquid fertilizer on it. I know the artificial fertilizer is a no-no with the ‘organic’ crowd but look, I was already growing this stuff in a plastic bag garden as per Mother Earth News. Here’s that kind of logic as I see it.
Liquid Chemical Fertilizer To Help Lack Of Nitrogen Or Whatever To Start With = Bad
Plastic Potting Soil Bags That Don’t Break Down In The Texas Panhandle Sun And Probably Leech Crap Into The Soil = OK
Also I didn’t have easy access to anything a bit more akin to decaying fish. I used what I had.
What I think really did the trick was the automated watering I implemented. I got a little digital ‘hose timer’ and a sprinkler from Home Depot and set that near my garden. The one I got runs on batteries and has a rain sensor available if you want it. I set it to water every 8 hours starting in the cool part of the morning. Once I did that I couldn’t keep up with trimming everything back. With that and the occasional fertilizing I had grass in my garden area that didn’t die under the three feet of snow that got deposited on it this year. I also have an enormous and healthy crop of ladybugs because of this.
About August when it started cooling down a bit I backed off the watering a bit as I wasn’t losing as much to evaporation. I also quit with the fertilizing as whatever deficiency I had was obviously fixed.
Anyway I thought I’d share in case there were any gardeners in the area whose stuff got demolished. You can grow a few things from seed now in the Panhandle, even without starting it indoors.
As of now I’ve got the following things that grew back even after they got pummeled:
Chives – No damage done at all
Dill – Damaged but recovered
Pumpkin – I thought these were gone because they were just sticks sticking out of the ground. Grew back just fine.
Acorn Squash – These are struggling but seem to be recovering.
Watermelon – Somehow even though I thought they’d been shredded to nonexistence I’ve got two plants that just grew some leaves back.
Basil – Surprise basil in one of the pots from last year. Sadly the little sproutlings I planted in the raised bed died from the pummelling.
Anyway, don’t lose hope. Do some cover cropping (Jack suggested buckwheat), water a lot, plan for fall now, and look at squashes and other quick growing plants for the summer/early fall growing season we have left.