Summer Gardening Wrap-up

“Hey — how are your tomatoes doing this year?” Alamedans have probably used this question as a late-summer greeting since the advent of kitchen gardens in the 1870s. With 2018’s never-ending gloom in mind, Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) decided to survey gardeners around town about 2019’s backyard crops. Survey participants represented Central Alameda, the Bronze Coast, Bay Farm and the East End. Gretchen Doering, Seed-to-Table Director for Italo’s Garden at the Alameda Boys & Girls Club (ABGC) answered for the West End.

The 2019 winners for “Best Performance in a Slightly Cooler Summer Dotted with Mini-Heat Waves” were bush and pole beans, tomatoes and zucchini. Though generally slow to ripen this year — beginning mid-August for many — most tomato plants are still going strong. This is also turning out to be a good fig season. Non-astringent (Fuyu-type) persimmons, though still green, are at this very moment being eaten all over the Island by squirrels.

Thanks to a good rainy season followed up by dry days around blossom time, apples, raspberries, blackberries and lower-chill plums and pluots have yielded an overabundance. The Blenheim apricot that Project Tree planted at ABGC in 2017 produced enough sweet, aromatic apricots that Doering started looking for ways to dehydrate the excess, once all the youngsters had their fill. On the other side of town, the owner of a young, grafted, 4-in-1 pluot walked outside one day to find two of the grafted branches on the ground with a crop too heavy to withstand (culling baby plums/pluots down to one every 4 inches prevents this sort of collapse).

There were some middling performers like blueberries, heirloom squashes and peppers, there were also outright losers in the garden. Fire blight attacked pear trees and took out plenty of vital foliage that could have helped produce more and better pears. Peach leaf curl not only defoliated peach and nectarine trees, it spoiled the fruit on some of the earlier-ripening varieties as well. And it was too cool for melons until just the past few weeks.

For a complete report on this garden survey, photos, comments from survey participants and valuable tips, visit www.alamedabackyardgrowers.org.

Alameda Backyard Growers is a network of gardeners in Alameda interested in growing food and donating fresh produce to neighbors who face food insecurity. Find the schedule for ABG’s monthly education meetings at www.alamedabackyardgrowers.org.