Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Garden Report: July 27, 2010

The garden is still moving along. This weekend, I was looking at the butternut squash from a respectful distance.


And then I reached down to fiddle with a dead leaf. Which led to fiddling with a few more dead leaves. Which led to fiddling with a whack of dying leaves trying to figure out if I had a catastrophe on my hands or just a normal life-cycle sort of thing and then I sort of, uh, well…accidentally picked one.

accidental butternut

Dog mah witness, I didn't tug on it. Or twist it, or pull on it, or step on it, or anything else. I lifted it slightly to pull a dead leaf out from under it, and it just went, ::snap!:: off the vine in my hand.

Usually I would call that a sign that it was ready…but I'm not quite sure. I wouldn't have bought this one at the supermarket; it's mostly-almost completely tan, but still has greenish white stripes right at the very top. Hmmmmm.

But, what's done is done. So, I'll just have to hope for the best…and resist the urge to prune out the dead leaves around the remaining squashes, I guess. (eeeeeeeeyeah, not going to be able to do that…it's like not pulling on a loose thread, I just can't do it…)

The first round of cucumbers failed to even sprout, thanks to the drip system being off when we thought it was on. Yeah. Funny thing there: No matter how much time you give a seed, if there's no water, none at all, it's probably not going to do much.

But the two plants that we planted later are doing just fine – and one of them went and made a cucumber!


It's not the prettiest I've ever seen, but it's the first one this season – which tends to make up for an awful lot of hawk-nose-like skinniness.

Also, it was sweet and juicy and I ate it standing over the sink. Because, quality control is my middle name.

The roma tomatoes are heavy with fruit. Really heavy, with really green fruit.


They are taking a fair bit longer than the projected time on their seed packet. I can't blame them, of course – they had a rough start in life and all. But still, it's making me crazy to go out there day after day, week after week, and see the same couple fruits with the same tiny bit of almost-blush on them.

The sweet potatoes, though, are doing awesome.

sweet potatoes

It's like an ivy ground cover, and spreading fast. If I were doing "edible landscaping" and I wanted something that looked like a traditional ivy, I might go with these little guys. The only tricky part is, they like to send down little anchors into the ground – and apparently if you mess with them too much, they get pissy. And who wants pissy sweet potatoes? So you've got to keep a good eye on them and move their runners quick if they're going somewhere you don't want them to go. Or risk the wrath of the tubers. Which sounds like an excellent name for a rock band. Or a 1950s sci-fi movie.

They're going to take over the area where I moved the artichokes which, alas, have not survived. One already died completely, eaten by the cats. The other two sickened badly where they were, probably due to a combination of being chew toys and litter box fodder.

I've got a few new peppers that are settling in nicely. Say hello to my little friend…


This is an "Inferno" chili. It's all mild and green looking now, but it's supposed to turn a bright orange when ready to go and kick like a mule.

I've also got some "cherry bomb" chilis starting to fruit (they're milder than the Inferno, and allegedly make good red pepper flakes when dried), and some good old green bell peppers, and some anaheims.

The corn is getting ears, unevenly. Although every time I say that this stalk or that one is "obviously" not going to "do anything," it will immediately swell up and stick out its silk at me. Nyah.

corn with ears

This variety (Kandy) is producing two ears on just about every stalk! The variety we planted last year ('Gotta Have It') had a strict rule: One stalk, one ear. And we only planted about fourteen plants. Which led to fist-fighting a lot. We still won't have "plenty" this year, but we should have a satisfying round – followed by another one in early fall, when the second little field hopefully gives us one last hurrah.

Last night, I noticed that the summer squash I planted in the reclaimed-from-the-neighborhood-cats front boxes is starting to sprout; naturally, because I planted too many of them due to poor success rates from that particular seed packet, every single seed I planted is coming right on up. Sigh. I'm going to have to thin, which is not my strong suit. I just hate doing it, is all. Perfectly healthy little plants, but because they're too close together, some of them have to go.

Seems so darned unfair.

Like the romas, the white potatoes are also taking longer than I expected to get to the finish line; I'm coming to the point where I'm going to need to just pull them in, regardless. It's getting hot, and when it gets too hot, the potatoes stop growing – all the plant's energy goes into, well, surviving the heat.

Just like the human energy does.

I brought in about eight pounds of red potatoes last week, but left the majority of them in the ground because the plants seems to be sending out an awful lot of new little babies – I figure if they're willing to give it a try, I'm willing to let them. For another week or so, anyway – but pretty soon I'm going to want to take whatever I can get so I can cycle the patch to something else.

I find that part of gardening so strange; unlike landscape gardening, where you plant a bush or something and expect it to hang around pretty much forever, the vegetable garden is in constant flux. Bare patches, barely-there patches, big beautiful plants that start to bear fruit…and then, you rip it out and plant something else. Back to a bare patch.

I often feel a little sad, or even guilty, when the time comes to take one thing out and replace it with another. Sure, the pea vines are wilting in the heat and we've already got a freezer stuffed with peas and everybody is sick to the point of tears of spending their evenings shelling pea pods (and begging me to buy a sheller), but still…it worked so hard for us. It gave so much. And I'm just…ripping it out? Just like that? "OK, that was swell, thanks ever so, now get out – we want watermelon now"?

I mean, what kind of message is THAT for the Denizens?!

Although I have to say, the watermelon is a thumping success. The vines, just two "little" vines, are taking over the whole patch…and we have about eight baby watermelons forming. I pointed the first one out to the girls, and they cooed over it like it was a cute widdle baby bunny wabbit.

They haven't been that interested in anything growing back there before. Oh, they're interested, sorta. They like to pick the tomatoes, and to peer through the corn. They love bringing new friends over to see their yard, and are always begging to "plant something."

But that's about it. They're not that interested in watching over what they plant, and have to be dragged out and forced to admire any progress, and will generally have that air of "I'm just waiting for you to shut up so I can go back to playing" about them the whole time.

Also, I think they find my Fascinating Facts to be…less than riveting. Like, did you know that each individual bit of silk is attached to an individual corn kernel? Yeah, and if any one strand doesn’t get fertilized, well, that's a kernel that won't plump up with sweet, juicy deliciousness.

Now, when I learned that, I was all, "WOW! I HAD NO IDEA!!!!" and got this lovely glow of I just learned something kewl all over me.

The Denizens just looked at me like, Ya, whatever and waited for me to shut up so they could get on with what they actually wanted to do, which was pull every single cherry tomato that could by any definition be considered red-ish off the bush.

Furthermore, they have not suddenly developed a deep, passionate love for vegetables. No new-found respect for carrots (one of my personal favorites, cooked or raw). No epiphanies around green beans. No sudden clamoring for "more peas, please!" (In point of fact, one of those little heretics looked at the peas on her plate one night, sighed heavily, and said, "Mommy, why can't we have real peas anymore? The ones in the cans, that taste good?" So I threw her out of the house yelling, "…and don't you come back until you are dating a guy named Snake who plays the drums in a two-bit wanna-be metal band!!!!!") (OK, I made that last bit up.)

But undaunted, I carry on, pushing more and more vegetables on my family like a grimly determined drug dealer. I grow them, I cook them, I serve them with ever-dwindling amounts of meat and pasta. I hide them in sauces, and leave them brazenly whole on their plates. Season copiously. Sweeten on occasion.

Eventually, they'll learn to love them.

And then, they will move out, get married, start families of their own, and call me moaning, "I don't understand it – little Johnny won't eat carrots! Carrots, mom! I mean, seriously, who doesn't like carrots?!"

And I will go, "Oh my gracious, imagine that, not liking carrots, tsk-tsk…"

And then I will hang up and die laughing, the end.


Brian said...

Try this with Cherry Bomb Peppers. I did one year. They're very good:


Unknown said...

Oh my gosh, I love your posts. I can totally relate to the kids not being at all interested in the garden. We started one this year and as things have gotten exciting, the kids' eyes just glaze over and they really could care less about it. I have 4 kids (2 have flown the coop while the other 2 are held hostage to garden and canning marathons) and I have already started to have those fits of laughter when they call and say things like "my roomates are pigs! I have to clean up after them!" Yeah. The very same ones who couldn't pick up their rooms to save their lives! Much giggling happening for sure.

JustGail said...

Wow - your garden is a veritable feast! As far as the squash, I think most squashes are edible at any stage, usually I waited until the vines and stem on the squash were drying out to pick. This one may have a bit of different taste (not bad) and may not keep as long.

I should go look at my garden one of these days. I've left the weeding to the child this year.