Enough about the joys of writing. Let’s talk about my garden. My garden that I have loved and nurtured since last fall. My garden that I gave raised beds and mountains of aged manure and rich, dark garden dirt and love and attention and vast quantities of seed and water. Yeah, that garden. The one that is breaking my heart.
First, the weather was too hot too soon, then too cold. Then, too little rain fell for too long. Then, who knows what the heck. I’ve planted chard three times and have one plant. The bugs are happily chewing its leaves into lace. The carrots, after weeks and weeks, finally came up (I used expensive seed tape to get the spacing right). They made little green fronds and almost no root. For Pete’s sake, I planed by the moon! The roots should be the size of my thigh!
The radish roots went woody then the plants bolted. The lettuce and other greens struggled to even present themselves, finally, angrily bolting into triffids that threatened to take over the neighborhood. Thank goodness, Howard Keel and Nicole Maurey were visiting a neighbor, or it could have gotten ugly.
But do not cry for me, Blogosphere. Some potatoes in my pantry were getting weird and insistent, so I threw them into the dirt. They produced some of the ugliest plants I’ve ever seen (I think they have a fungus), but many lovely little red potatoes grew among the roots. They taste wonderful, and I am filled with happiness and potato salad.
I have planted leeks twice–nada; cantaloupes–again, nothing; red onion sets from which I got pathetic little bulbs that can be seen with a scanning electron microscope; and finally, dill. After three tries, I got dill to grow in a pot, but it is growing even more luxuriously in the cracks between the patio bricks. What does it say about my gardening skills when my best success is with volunteers?
That leaves us with bed number three. First, I killed my heirloom tomato plants by not hardening them off properly. My bad. In desperation, I purchased eggplant, tomato, and cucumber plants. I bought lots of plants. At the attrition rate I was seeing, I hoped one or two would survive. Something ate the eggplants down to sticks. What eats eggplants? They are a member of the nightshade family and ought to be poisonous. I take some cold comfort in hoping a squirrel or bunny got at least a tummy ache.
By now you may have guessed, all the tomato and cucumber plants survived. I have them trellised, but they are so dense I can hardly see the fruits. And yes, they are producing. I’ve already made pickles (I do not recommend my family recipe–I’m going back the the Ball book). I have so many green tomatoes I might be able to wrestle some ripe ones out of the greedy little paws of the squirrels. If not, there is a green tomato pie (tastes like apple) and green tomato salsa in my future.
I finally got the strawberry plants to grow in pots (on the second try), and they are spreading. The secret is to put rocks in the pots to keep the squirrels from digging them up. I’ve splint the banana tree into three trees and all are surviving nicely, but I doubt I will ever see a banana. I got a few raspberries before the birds discovered them. Whatever was climbing the chokecherry (probably a squirrel) and breaking its branches has stopped. I get about one blueberry every three days.
Gardening is not for sissies. If I had to live on what I’ve grown so far this year, I would be nicely aromatic (my herbs seldom fail) and weirdly malnourished. But I love gardening. At least, I think I do. Or maybe I just refuse to let the squirrels win.
Image: My sad and lonely chard plant. By Marilyn J. Evans.