The garden is growing crazy and now comes the real work.....weeding, keeping bugs away and keeping the tall plants from flopping over onto the ground when I am not looking. Fortunately, there has been enough rain that my forgetfulness with the watering can hasn't killed them yet. I wander out there every couple of days, smelling of bug repellant and toting my bottle of natural pesticide. It's lovely here. There are ducks (who I'll mention in a bit.) and owls and soon, I hope, our frogs will return. The backyard is starting to look like a botanical center The flowers are amazing, and the food patch is quickly becoming my pride and joy. Here's the food update...
Oh, man, there are going to be tons. I can't wait. No food from the garden is better than a sunshine-flavored tomato. The cherry tomato plant I got from the co-op is by far the monster of the group. I bought it at 4 or 5" tall and now it is well over 2 1/2 feet tall and I can't even estimate how far in diameter it stretches. I will head out there soon with a tape measure, because it really is ridiculously big. This is the overachiever in the group, though it hasn't made it past the flowering stage yet. There are many clusters of yellow flowers and I check them often for little green t'mater babies.
The plants that my neighbor, Deb, contributed were the most mature at the time of planting and they have oodles of green cherry tomatoes exploding everywhere.
Those plants, including the pot they live in, are almost taller than me. (i am 5'2") It sits outside the fenced area, but the rabbits don't bother it and the pesticide takes care of the rest of the pests, it seems. Those definately will be the plants we eat from first.
Joe's Row is doing well, in third place, getting taller, thicker and branching out, but there are only a few flowers at this point. They are making great progress though. The runts of the group are the plants I began from seeds. They are now getting tall enough that they are flopping over to lay their heavy heads on the ground and need to be tied to tomato stakes.
There are two rounds of snap pea plants. Deb's included some that were already quite tall when she got them. Those are in a large pot with a tomato cage for climbing. So far, this is the only thing in my garden that I have actually eaten. My snap pea plants were sprouted from seeds and are still working on producing some flowers. My little ones are in the ground and are climbing a homemade trellis I constructed with chicken wire fencing and 3 straight stakes. (! trellis construction blog coming soon !) I have discovered the peas grow best in full, all day sun, like the tomatoes. I didn't realize when I planted them I put them in ascending height order, so they look like the reception bars on a cell phone. Silly, but that's what I though when I saw them.
I picked a handful of pods off Deb's plants when they were a little fatter than they ideally should be when eaten. I hear that they are sweetest while the peas are still on the small side, but if that's true than they must be REALLY sweet. I ate them all in their pods; they were delicious. Some of them I ate raw and the rest I sauteed in butter. They're like a less hairy edamame, salty and fresh.
There was a period, about a week ago, when I thought some of the pepper plants were goners. They looked wilty and droopy and like they were giving up. So they got doused with a bit of tomato food (which I find works well on everything I am growing!) and they popped right back up. I wish I could prescribe a great natural fertilizer, but, shamefully, it's a generic brand of store-bought food that I mix in a giant pitcher and then share with all the plants.
There are some teeny jalapenos that are growing on the plants now - about 1/2 inch long and getting fatter by the day. The habaneros and serranos have buds but no peppers yet. There are still no flowers on the green and yellow pepper plants. Say a prayer for my two non-spicy pepper plants; they need some feist in them. None of them are large enough to need any additional support, but I bet the jalepenos are the first to need steaks to lean against.
I have confirmed that my lettuces (field greens, arugula and mustard greens) do best in morning light with afternoon shade and since they are growing in containers, not the ground, they are sitting towards the front yard with my herbs where they get shade from about 1pm on. Also, the immature lettuce needs shelter from the pouring thunderstorms that have passed through Iowa CIty lately. I discovered this morning that the baby arugula was drowning in it's own dirt. So it's back under the cover until it dries out a bit. ((What would I do differently-moment: put holes in the bottom of the shallow lettuce-growing tray))
Since the lettuces are not fenced in, I have been most dilligent about keeping my pesticide sprayed on them. (See previous blog entry for spectacular pesticide recipe I keep mentioning) There were a few days where I slacked off on this only to find that the buggies got to some of the field greens after a couple good hard rainshowers. So now it's an every-other-day/post-rain routine for the lettuce spraying.
The herbs, too, are growing faster than I can use them. This means I need to figure out the most effective way to hang and dry my herbs. ((I hear another blog topic stirring)) The dill is getting tall and stalky, the parsley and cilantro is a massive bush and the curry plant is grey and gorgeous. The rest are just normal looking herbs: sage, and italian and thai basil. The chocolate mint that Dawn gave me is flourishing and I plan to take some of the leaves down to the Dublin one of these days so they can make me a chocolate mint mojito.
The lemon tree has lots of little green lemons peeking out everywhere on the 3' tall tree that gets full sun nearly all day. The blueberries and raspberries and strawberries are itty bitty and cute and soon they'll need netting over them to keep the birdies from feasting on the literal fruits of our labor. Also the pot of salad cucumbers is getting elephant ear-sized leaves, but no signs of flowers yet. The eggplant plants have a few purple flowers on them and i am curious to see the itty bitty eggplants. Can you spell baba ghanoush? I had to look it up, but I know how to eat it!
As I play with these plants, taking them back and forth between various stages of growth and death, learning what they love, I am realizing (cliche but important) things about myself. Without enough light and nourishment in their lives and with the wrong soil, the plants die. If they don't die, they slump and produce no fruit. Since I, too, grow and have a desire to flower in my lifespan, I should pay much closer attention to what light and soil I allow myself. Like with the plants, the wrong combo of elements and you get no tomatoes in life. In that spirit, it is late and I should go to bed before I wilt.