Monday, July 21, 2014

Not Killing Plants

I love gardens, but I kill plants. I wish I didn't! I wish I had more time to focus on my garden. Let's be honest, it's not just about having time to focus on the garden. It's also about having the mental energy to focus on the garden and not forgetting. Every year I start some seeds, and then I forget about them, I don't put them in a sunny place and they get all leggy, I put them outside and they get eaten or frozen…basically I have a black thumb. 

But that doesn't stop me from trying again! 

Potatoes in a Pot!
This year I was determined to grow potatoes in a container. I felt I was really letting my husband's ancestors down by not growing this simple root plant. And I found a bunch of potatoes in my pantry that had already sprouted, so why not try growing them? I read directions online and got the supplies I needed, cut the potatoes into cubes and let them dry a little, and put them in a pot with good drainage. Then after a few days I glanced in the pot and realized squirrels had probably unearthed all my potato cubes and eaten them. Failure. Then we went on vacation, and when we returned I saw leaves peeking out of the pot. Assuming they were weeds, I took a closer look and thought, "they resemble the tobacco leaf." (I lived on the Eastern Shore of MD for four years. I know those plants.) I dug a little and found potatoes! I hadn't failed after all!



Green tomatoes
In an attempt to reduce my failures, I scaled back my expectations for this year.

I stuck with tried and true tomato plants, and then my friend gave me two more tomato plants - even though she was fully aware I had already killed two broccoli sprouts we got from Phipps. I managed to get her tomato seedlings into the ground and they are busy producing fruit. I've also started pruning these plants back sooner to prevent them from getting all jungly.

We've already enjoyed one delicious, ripe red tomato this summer and I imagine we'll have lots more to come.

The spinach we planted as seeds didn't make it, and neither did the chamomile. We started purple basil…and we ended it. Luckily two green basil plants made it past seedling stage alive. We tried cantaloupe and I am sure a seedling or two sprouted but then they died, too. The pumpkins are flourishing, and I think the kids will be pretty excited to decorate pumpkins from our very own garden. If they make it to October.

The pepper plant managed to cling to life, even after I pulled it from the garden when I mistook it for a weed. But the beans I planted near the adorable bean trellis was eaten by some hungry critter. I'm not sure that's my fault.

But the squash, zucchini and pumpkin seeds we started survived! The squash and zucchini have wonderfully large blossoms on them. I do like to cook some squash blossoms, but I'm leaving them on the plant. I'm not worried about them now, they usually produce excellent fruits in the spot where I grow these hardy plants.

What I'm worried about now is pollinators. I've heard that we're losing pollinators and it worries me. Bees are essential not just to little gardens like mine, but our major food production orchards.

So in addition to the vegetables and fruits we're growing in the back garden, I went a little nuts buying native plants that attract pollinators, like bee balm, rudbeckia, zinnia, mallow, larkspur and lavender. I'm really hoping butterflies, hummingbirds, bumblebees and honeybees find some delicious places to hang out and do their jobs in my garden. Because I owe those little pollinators a lot of gratitude for helping produce the fruit we love in this house.

I'm still working on a fiction-based-in-non-fiction story about bees. I read some incredibly interesting books about bees, how they dance to communicate, how they carry pollen, how they change jobs in the hive and basically work and fly until their wings literally fall apart and they die. I gained an incredible appreciation for the little ladies and I'm hoping to get to a honey farm with my friend this summer.  

Some come on little bees, bring your girlfriends and visit my garden.