Update on my new book, and how to garden when it rains a lot

Update on the progress of my new book, The Year-Round Hoophouse.

My upcoming book has reached its next stage: copy editing. My publisher, New Society, pays a professional copy editor, who has just sent me his edits. My job this week is to look through them, approve or reject the proposed changes and fix anything only I can do (reformatting the dates in the tables is one of those things). I used many more commas than necessary, and had some clumsy phrases, which will all be swept away before you see the final book.

You’ve already seen the cover (above) and the table of contents. The book can be pre-ordered from New Society, for a 20% discount off the cover price of $29.99 ($23.99). Buying from NSP supports publishers and writers like me. You can also pre-order from Amazon, where the price today is $27.40. Publication date is 11/20/18.

Once the copy edits are finished, NSP’s designer will work on the interior layout of the book for a couple of weeks, then advance proof copies go to a professional proofreader and me again, and also to the person writing the foreword and those writing the endorsements on the back cover and inside.

When the corrections are made and all the contributions gathered, the book comes back to Twin Oaks for indexing, by the Twin Oaks Indexing crew for about a month (July/Aug). After that, it goes to the printers for about 5 weeks, then to the warehouse. If all goes well, I’ll have a copy in my eager hands in late October. I’ll be signing and selling copies at events I attend after that date. See my Events Page.


Our kale beds after heavy rain. Photo Wren Vile

How to garden when it rains a lot.

We’ve been getting a lot of heavy rain in the past two weeks, and sometimes it’s a challenge to find garden work we can do. Of course, it’s very tempting to take some time off, and sometimes that is the very best thing. But the danger is of falling too far behind, so that the next couple of weeks become impossible. Here’s my list of tasks to consider before, during and after rain.

If you are expecting rain, get your transplanting done!
Photo Denny Ray McElyea

Gardening before heavy rain:

  • Transplant anything even remotely big enough, where you have the beds or rows prepared.
  • Sow anything due to be sown that week.
  • Prepare rows and beds (especially raised beds), so that you can plant as soon as possible, and won’t have to wait for the soil to dry enough to till.
  • Harvest enough to tide you over the rainy spell.
  • If you have 4 hours of good sunshine before the rain is expected, hoe small weeds and let them die.

While it’s raining you can catch up on work in your hoophouse or greenhouse. Photo Wren Vile

Garden activities while it’s raining hard:

  • Catch up on planning, organizing, record-keeping and bill-paying.
  • Prepare some spare blog posts, newsletters or Instagrams.
  • Give careful consideration to contingency plans – perhaps you will need to drop a planting if too much time passes before the soil is workable again.
  • Update your task list and mark the priority tasks, so you can hit the ground running!
  • Repair equipment, sharpen tools.
  • Wash and sort gloves.
  • Order supplies.
  • Watch inspiring farming videos or webinars, or listen to podcasts. Include the crew, and follow with a discussion. The Twin Oaks Garden blog has a new post!
  • Research those burning questions you didn’t have time for before the rain. Exactly what does a spined soldier beetle look like?
  • If you have a hoophouse or greenhouse, get all caught up with tasks under cover.
  • Spring clean your packing shed.
  • If heavy rain is expected any minute, and you might have to stop in a hurry, do weeding, not planting. Bring only the minimal number of tools and supplies. Be ready to leave as soon as it thunders! Don’t hoe if it’s about to rain, it’s a waste of time. Likewise don’t leave pulled weeds on the beds before rain. They’ll re-root.

Dreary raised bed scene. Photo Ezra Freeman

Gardening after heavy rain:

  • Work on mulched areas and perennial crops first, where you won’t get bogged down in mud. Weed asparagus, rhubarb and garlic. If no more rain is expected, you may be able to lay the weeds on top of the mulch (whether organic or plastic) and let the weeds bake. The mulch will stop them re-rooting. But if more rain is expected, haul the weeds off to the compost pile.
  • If you have very wet soil, where your boot-prints have depth, don’t go there! Sinking mud compacts the soil, which means the plants go short on air, which will stunt their growth and the soil will be slower to drain after future rains. Standing on boards is an option for harvesting or planting. Take two boards about as long as you are tall (or a little more), and set them end-to-end in the path or aisle. Work your way along the plants to the far end of the second board, go back and pick up the first board, and set it down on the mud ahead of you. The helps distribute your weight over a much bigger area, so there’s less compaction, and the boards leave a smoother surface for next time. You may have to backtrack one board at a time to extricate yourself from the mess, but this can often be worth doing.
  • Use a rain gauge to see how bad it was.
    Photo Nina Gentle

    Some crops are best not picked while the leaves are wet: cucurbits (squash, melons and cucumbers) nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplants) strawberries and legumes (peas and beans) until the leaves dry, to reduce the spread of disease.

  • Mowing or weed-whacking will be possible before the soil dries enough to till. These are valuable weed control strategies.
  • Flame-weeding is another way to control weeds in some crops if the soil is too wet. One spring we could not hill our potatoes because of all the rain. Although it took a long time, we flamed the weeds in the potato patch, which left it clean enough to hill when the soil water soaked down enough.

Flaming (pre-emergent)
Photo Brittany Lewis

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