Green and Growing Things

I have been told I have fans who read this sort of thing. I’m not certain I believe it, but by this point, you’ve probably clicked on the Continue Reading tab, so you’re here whether you meant to be, or not.

Today was supposed to be a wonderfully exciting day for me, and now it’s not. I’m working on buying a horse -!- and the process was supposed to be completed today, but she came up lame a couple of days ago, and the current owners want to make sure she’s sound before we transfer ownership. Which is nice of them, except that this post was going to be a long and boring brag about my new acquisition, and now I have to find some other way to entertain you.

So let’s talk about gardens instead. I’m rather proud of mine. It’s very small- two raised beds, each 4×16, and another little patch in the front yard- but given that it didn’t exist until two months ago, it’s doing quite well. I spent the last couple of years in a semi-arid mountain state before moving to the Midwest in June, and I’d forgotten how easy it is to grow things when there’s actual air, soil, and water for the plants.

I broke down and bought previously-started tomatoes, basil, and peppers, because there was no way I was going to start my own seeds during an interstate move. The tomatoes are now taller than me, and loaded with little unripe fruits. So I may have done something right, there. Possibly. I also started cucumbers from seed, and in my infinite wisdom, planted at least a dozen, thinking they wouldn’t all sprout. Guess what happened.

No, really. Guess.

I foresee a lot of pickles in my future.

But since finding weird ways to preserve food is one of my hobbies, I’m not too worried. On the other hand, my husband is appalled by the idea (I thought I was keen on food safety, until I met him and discovered that I was the merest novice). Oh, well. More pickles for me!

The photo at the top is a butternut squash flower, taken by me. The flowers have been just about ready to pop for a few days, and this one greeted me when I checked on them this morning. Those vines were also started from seed, and they grew so fast I may have actually seen them sprouting. With any luck, a few of the fruits will be ripe by the time everything dies back for winter.

But alas, the course of true gardening never did run smoothly. Something is attacking my brassicas- mostly collards, but the broccoli has taken a beating, too. I’ve tried spraying a solution of dish soap and water on the leaves, but it doesn’t seem to be having much effect. My next step is to sprinkle them with diatomaceous earth, and if you have any other suggestions, please sing out. I love collards, and seeing them with holes in the leaves is rather saddening.

So that is the state of the garden- bursting at the seams but not perfectly smooth sailing on all fronts.

Did you plant anything this year? Has it been successful? What sort of wacky gardening problems have you encountered, and how did you solve them?

20 comments

  1. Thanks to my grandmother, I do the garden thing, and suffer from Excessive Weeding Disorder…

    I spent the morning processing corn on the cob, turning an excess into freezer corn before it gets too tough to eat. Planted six varieties and apparently the “New Mama” (an open-pollinated type I hadn’t tried before) is a bad pollinator, as I got a lot of weird deformities across the board, and some that taste like field corn. Next year it’s back to all Burpee Triple Crown, which stays sweet and tender even when mature, and does rather better at making a full crop. Plus despite being a hybrid, it breeds true. (Tho if you want one for sweet cornmeal, or have an ultra-short growing season, Sunglow Hybrid is amazing — first ears were ready to eat at 60 days, even after having suffered a hard freeze when it was just out of the ground, tho it has a very short window before going starchy… however the kernels are really ‘tall’, so what looks like puny ears are actually a lot of corn per cob.)

    Carrots this year are not good raw but are excellent cooked. Turnips got big fast but mostly not very good (too fibrous, too much being chewed from below). Neighbor’s saved parsnip seeds had poor germination but still, a few on the way.

    Peas were planted in the corn (to give them both shade and support) and were done for as soon as it got hot, but apparently decided that it’s spring again, as it looks like some are planning a second crop.

    Onions are all over the place. Some decided they were done for the year a month ago; others are just getting started. Grasshoppers preferentially ate the tops off 2nd year plants. Walla Wallas are definitely the most vigorous of those from seed (and they’re fertile, which not all onions are).

    Zucchini was a bust. (How does that even happen??) Planted twice, none came up. Broke down and bought one, and it looks happy but is not growing, let alone doing anything. Spaghetti squash likewise planted twice and none came up. Acorn squash is a huge vigorous plant but has had nearly all male blossoms — so far only two females. Cucumbers have had a few, stalled, have a few more coming. Random melon (not sure if it’s a crenshaw or cantaloupe) looks happy but hasn’t done anything yet.

    Sugar Baby watermelon has several about 6″ across, they stop at that size and then you get to guess when they’re ripe, cuz they never change appearance again. These go feral easily; the volunteer that gets no water is only slightly behind the planted ones. But a good short season melon.

    Broccoli headed up well but tasted ’em and OMFG HOLY $#!T BITTER-HACK-SPIT-PTUI. Going to let ’em bolt entirely — the little yellow flowers are like candy, just eat ’em straight off the plant. Well, if they’re not insanely bitter like the buds.

    Head lettuce bolted the moment it got above freezing, and is likewise too bitter to eat. (However in this state it can be used as a hormone mulch to stimulate peppers. May try making it into grasshopper repellent tea, since absolutely nothing wants to chew on it.) Second fail for this; need to find a different variety. Or try fall planting.

    Rhubarb does not like the heat but early on had more than I could use, so much went into the freezer. Makes a lovely sauce for beef or pork.

    Tomatoes are 8 feet tall and eat passing children, and you can no longer tell bought plants from seed-started. LOADED with fruit, tho just starting to ripen up. Protip: about a month before first frost, start trimming off new blooms so they’ll concentrate on finishing what’s already started, and you’ll get a lot more ripe-on-the-vine. (Here the grasshoppers do that task, the one useful thing they accomplish. I don’t know why they can’t mow the lawn…) Most of these will get seasoned and dried, which compacts ’em by 95%. Saved seed keeps for decades, so hold back some from what you like (most breed true, some dehybridize into basic types). They also go feral easily, even here in Montana.

    Potatoes of several varieties are mostly done for the year, but the ground is just packed with tubers of all sizes. Need to find some way to preserve ’em, like a reasonable way to dry ’em. A bucket of growthy potatoes that were forgotten (and were already making tubers) have become an experiment: plant as late as possible, leave ’em in the ground over the winter, harvest as a spring crop. Had this work by accident once; now trying it for real. Also got a lot of potato fruit — not edible but the seeds keep for years, so putting aside in case some year I run out of growthy potatoes. (This year I had too many and gave a bunch away.)

    So… enough to feed me and 2 or 3 other people, come to it, all in a 30×30 space, on about a week’s initial hard labor and otherwise maybe an hour a day, plus the late harvest panic. Used to be a corral, so good dirt. Ditched and flood-irrigated, no sprinklers.

    First of May, and end of June:
    http://www.doomgold.com/temp/garden/garden_02.htm

    1. male blossoms
      Blossoms have sex? I thought they were hermaphroditic with one on the pistol and the other on the stamen (probably the wrong words; high school biology was long ago). I’m NOT getting sucked into that Wikipedia rabbit hole. I’ll just live with my vegetable sex ignorance.

      1. Some are hermaphroditic. Most in fact. But some plants come in male and female. For instance, when the local juniper berries come out, all the trees with them are female; without, male.

  2. Had to build my beds, and got a late start to boot. And then, when my beds were finally ready, the only dirt I could find on island was $12/SqF! (Might have been able to find a place to go dig, but I had no idea where…) Which meant my watermelon starts went into a pot. Then when I finally got them in the ground I messed up and broke some roots. They’re alive… barely.
    Cucumbers are almost as bad as zucchini, I swear. That said, we eat more cukes than zucchini, so i planted a bunch anyway – and some zucchini, of course! Tried planting a hill of cantaloupe as well from saved seeds, since I’m in the tropics. Lots of flowers, no fruits yet (on all of the above).
    Tomato and basil doing well, as is the pepper plant I was given. Snow peas are growing, but not too sure about this climate… and my bush beans are getting choked out by all my gourd vines. 😅
    Finally got some carrots to sprout, although the spring onions never did. Saved some ends from the store and stuck those in the bed last night.
    Oh, and I seem to have a volunteer melon growing by my giant tomato. I guess bitter melon grows wild around here. Not sure I’m brave enough to try it, though…
    I’m just glad for the year-long growing season out here!

    1. “I guess bitter melon grows wild around here. Not sure I’m brave enough to try it, though…”

      Bitter melon can be toxic, with serious later effects. Also most of these wild gourd-and-melon types can crossbreed with domestic plants, and the result may not be safe to eat.

  3. Sigh. I got one bean. No, not one bean PLANT. One bean. For some reason this year I can’t even get cosmos to flower. I didn’t even know it was possible for cosmos NOT to flower.

    1. Please come apply this remarkable talent to the bindweed in my pasture!!

      Among my random cosmos is a beautiful mutation… rich red petals with a white stripe up the middle. Now if the grasshoppers will hold off long enough to let me collect some seeds…

    2. This might be an absurd question, but did you put the bean plants outside in time? They need bees for pollination, and sometimes it takes the bees a little while to figure out where the plants are.

      1. yes, I did. This year we’ve had hail on top of everything else. Killed my new roses, too.
        I’m considering giving up and starting again when we move in four or five years.
        PS – Getting porch and wall fixed and maybe double porch, so that’s good.

    3. That happened to us last year, though we got three. Birds ate the rest.

      I stuck the lettuce in the flower pots outside the front door, and they did great.

      Everything in the big beds we cleared for et. We had squash and radishes and dukes and onions and sunflowers and cosmos (raised from seed the way my mom used to do it) but they all bit the dust. Depressing.

      On the other hand the wild oregamint has gone nuts throughout the yard, has masses of flowers and is covered with lovely yellow bumbly bees! So happy-making. And the little bay tree is okay. Better luck next year, I hope. We did learn a lot from our fails.

  4. I plant flowers. The garden is doing reasonably well this year, though the hurricane was a hit, some broken off entirely and others all sprawled about — WITHOUT, mind you, much rain. I had to water my garden today. Indeed, several plants were visibly wilting as I did so, though they did recover.

    (wind dries things out. We got a lot more wind than rain.)

  5. My new bird proofing is working so I’ve got tomatoes, asparagus, bell peppers and problanos. The egg plant and squash aren’t setting fruit this year. Heck, the Zuccinni just flat died. At least the spaghetti squash plants look good.

  6. I put in a garden this year for the first time since I was in high school and still living on the farm. This one’s just a 4×8 raised bed, but I was able to fit in a variety of plants. (And doing the labor was a sanity-saver during this mad season).

    We got two cuttings off the leaf lettuce, but I think I bought a bad breed. The radishes were a real disappointment — when I was a kid on the farm, they were pretty much a “never fails” crop, but these were all top, no actual radishes. The carrots aren’t big enough to harvest yet — even on the farm, we seldom got any before late fall, even when we were able to plant in late March or early April.

    We got a decent amount off the snow peas, but they pretty much died when we had temperatures in the 90’s during July. I’ve pulled them up and put in a tomato plant (had to search several stores to find any that were still selling started plants). I had a little oopsie on the way home and broke off one branch, but it wasn’t the one that already had a tomato, so I’m hoping that one will ripen and the rest of the plant will keep growing. I’m seriously thinking of pulling up the lettuce and the rest of the radishes, then snagging another tomato plant somewhere (especially if I can still find one that produces cherry or grape tomatoes for snacking) to put in that space.

    The peppers are coming along rather slowly. I thought I remembered them getting much taller and setting a lot more peppers, but it may be a difference in the soil quality.

    The green beans have probably been our best producers this year. I’ve picked several batches already, and they’re still blooming happily.

    The zucchini are doing OK, but this may not be a year for a bumper crop. I think I’ve gotten three or four fruits so far, and at the moment I only see one developing.

    I have a separate bed where I planted rhubarb and strawberries. Both rhubarb roots came up and are doing quite nicely, but of the ten strawberry crowns, only one came up. Of course I can’t harvest anything from them this year, because they need to build up their root systems. But I’m looking forward to some rhubarb and strawberries next year.

    I’m already starting to plan for next year. If it’s possible, I’d like to expand to a second raised bed of annuals, and add more soil to the existing one, and to get some more strawberry crowns for a second perennial bed that I’m hoping may work better. But I’m also seriously considering saving some seeds from the final crops of some of my plants, just in case things get bad and it’s impossible to even buy seeds.

    I think a lot of people are gardening this year who haven’t been in the habit.

    My middle brother has been doing a garden this year. Dad had gotten to the point where he wasn’t up to the physical labor of gardening any more, so MB took over the work, since his back yard really isn’t suitable for much more than the berry briars he already has. He’s gotten a fair amount of stuff from it, and it’s too bad we don’t live close enough to pick stuff up, because he had room to do a bunch of stuff I didn’t.

    And several of my FB friends have been talking about their gardens too. One who usually just does flowers has actually put in a few edibles.

  7. Unfortunately, we have deer. It’s a suburban neighborhood, so there’s not really much of anything that I can do about them. My property backs up against an undeveloped property, so I see deer everyday. And they eat everything. I planted blueberry bushes three years ago, and they were two year old blueberry bushes but we don’t get anything because every year the deer eat them down and then every year they come back up again and there may be one berry or two but that’s it.

    However, the one thing the deer don’t eat are herbs. So I have a lot of mint, chocolate mint and spearmint. The lemon balm is not doing very well I don’t think it likes the weather we’ve been having ( very hot).The basil is really enjoying the weather I have to keep it very closely trimmed because it has threatened to bolt several times now, and my oregano and sage are overflowing their raised beds. Alas, my Cuban oregano died over the winter, because I had not realized that unlike regular oregano, Cuban oregano will not grow in this climate during the winter.

    I’d love to grow vegetables, but every year the deer eat them. So I guess I stick to the herbs.

  8. Glad things are ‘progressing’… And an overabundance can be ‘deposited’ in the unlocked cars at church… Just sayin…

  9. I like reading about other people’s gardens, so I have enjoyed both your post and the comments!

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