What I must keep in mind…

garden as life

We cannot experience the fulfillment and joy that arise from our triumphs if we are not subject to our losses. To have the capability to harvest vegetables albeit a modest amount from unfavorable soil conditions (for which I am responsible) is still a victory similar to experiencing a wonderful weekend with an old friend set against the backdrop of quite possibly a wretched work week.

When the feelings of pleasure and happiness from the positive experience surpass the effects of the unavoidable losses, count yourself blessed. If they don’t, the season isn’t over. Keep tilling (or add some compost).

 

Grumbling in the Garden

It’s amazing how hopeful and exciting it is in the spring to plan your garden. There’s so much potential and you tell yourself: this is the year! You decide to grow a new vegetable or you’ve learned a new tip/trick from last summer that you can’t wait to implement or both! You envision a beautiful, lush garden with ripened fruit. So pastoral. Your yield is so impressive, in fact, that you’re practically giving away your harvest.

A girl can dream, right….?

I’ve recently concluded, at least in my case, that planting multiples of a crop is not with the intent to increase yield. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? (I wanted to get on this sustainability bandwagon, really I did. Canning, preserving, the whole nine.) Well, not so in my case. I have to plant multiples of one crop merely to ensure the ability to harvest an acceptable supply (okay, it’s not even acceptable) to feed my family. Why? Because I stink at gardening! (Bear with me while I have a pity-party for myself.) You see, YouTube, garden blogs and Pinterest provide us with a wealth of information on how to deter pests, increase yield, produce sweeter, larger _____. And all of those tips are filed in the Rolodex of my mind (or I pin it for reference later). But¬†how I take all those tips and tricks, synthesize them and utilize them in the garden is where I fall short.

I said it last year and I’ll say it again: maybe I’m being too cerebral about gardening. As I glance over to my neighbor’s plot, I am green-with-garden envy. Everything seems so…productive. And I can see a lonely red tomato itching to be picked amidst abundant leafy plants. So here are my current headaches and the interventions (and preventions) I’ve taken:

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Romas trying to hold on as the plant suffers from early blight

This is the third year in a row (haha-pun!) that my tomatoes have developed early blight. As they grew, I continued to snap off the lower branches so they wouldn’t touch the ground. Now, with each passing day, I’m snipping another branch off that is consumed with dark brown spots and dried dead leaves. This weekend, I impulsively bought some organic fungicide to hopefully halt any further progression of this spotted, wilted pandemic.

Next year’s plan? Rotate my crops. I should have known! My tomatoes will be on the opposite end of my raised beds come next year and hopefully far away from any fungal potential….On the bright side, look at these beautiful clusters dying (probably) to ripen!IMG_1519

My continued lack of success with growing peppers is putting a damper on my confidence to become a gardener. I’m lucky to harvest a couple before the season ends. I learned for this season though that peppers flourish when grown closely together and that you can plant them within 1 sq. ft. of each other. Of course, I wound up planting my green bean plants too close to the peppers which has stunted the pepper growth. Additionally, I side-dressed the pepper plants with some compost not too long ago and spurred the growth of more leaves and not flowers. Peppers don’t require a lot of nitrogen in the soil, but it is recommended to spray the flowers with a solution of water and Epsom salt. It provides the peppers with a boost of magnesium that is needed to produce fruit.

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A lonely, beautiful red marconi pepper
All leaves, no buds
All leaves, no buds after side-dressing with compost- lesson learned

Don’t get me started about my eggplants either! Flea beetles have ravaged the leaves on my plants like bullet holes at a shooting range and all I have is one sad developing fruit. Any flower that grew has fallen off. My neighbor utilized diatomacious earth for her garden this year because she was having ant problems. Diatomacious earth is a powder made from fossilized prehistoric crustaceans. It’s favored in the organic garden because it is non-toxic and safe for humans. The particles have sharp edges that cut into the bodies of the insects causing them to die of dehydration. Cruel, I know, but what am I to do? Originally, I read something about it not harming the beneficial insects in the garden (ladybugs, bees), but I recently learned this isn’t true.

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No wonder my flowers are falling off: lack of pollination. I swear I cannot strike this nature balance!

The steps you take to make eggplant parmigiana (well, reader, you know I won’t be posting that recipe anytime soon)…

 

So is it all worth the frustration and the mounting fear of failure?

IMG_1527It sure is. Even if all I harvest is just a few things at a time. I can say, “I grew that and I plan to make something delicious with it!”

Harvest Update

My experience with gardening has seemed to become taking two steps forward and one step back. I’m always making progress through the mastery of a few skills, but seemingly at the expense of another. One summer my harvest is bountiful with summer squash and the following I’m purchasing the fruits of another’s labor at the farmer’s market (darn you, squash borers!).

Zucchini blossom
Zucchini blossom

Sure, it’s like that for any gardener and maybe that’s part of the enjoyment of it (though I’m not doing this for my health, peeps….okay, maybe I am). But don’t we all want something successful to come from our efforts? And consistently, for that matter? Absolutely!

I made a valiant attempt this year to grow my own plants from seeds (got them here). It’s so exciting to see little seedlings sprout in March before the weather conditions allow anything viable to grow outside. There’s so much potential and promise in those tiny seeds. And it’s a welcoming reminder that warm weather will soon be upon us.

Buttercrunch lettuce
Buttercrunch lettuce

So everything was off to a great start! Herbs, summer squashes, cucumbers, three varieties of tomatoes and even brussel sprouts were on their way! Until they weren’t. And everything started to shrivel. I couldn’t figure it out. It’s not like the transplants were root-bound from being confined to a small pot. The root system wasn’t developed at all! Not enough water, maybe? Ah well, I remedied what I could (only the cucumbers, tomatoes, basil and oregano survived) and planted the rest directly in the ground from seed. Fortunately, everything took hold, but at a slower pace than I had hoped. So here we are with it:

Park's Whopper Tomatoes
Parks Whopper Tomatoes
Cucumber Munchers
Cucumber Munchers

 

Bright Lights Swiss Chard
Bright Lights Swiss Chard

Hopefully soon I’ll be posting my culinary experiences from veggies I’ve harvested in my own garden! Stay tuned!