thefourthvine: A drawing of Poison Ivy. (Ivy)
Keep Hoping Machine Running ([personal profile] thefourthvine) wrote2011-05-31 12:25 pm

[Garden] Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth

At a recent earthling speech therapy session, Amber the speech therapist revealed to me that she had, for the first time ever, planted a garden this year. I told her my first time of planting was last year, and we exchanged the Look. I am not sure if gardeners everywhere exchange this look, or if it's just Southern California ones. It conveys a combination of fear, amazement, and just a tentative hint of delight - tentative because you only really want to be happy about something if you're sure no lives will be lost, and gardeners cannot ever, apparently, be entirely sure of that. I have never lived in avalanche country, but I am assuming this is the same expression you see the faces of tourists there when one goes off.

Amber told me her cilantro was going crazy, and I explained to her the sad truth about the cilantro life cycle (when it goes crazy, it's about to bolt), and we compared the heights of our children and our cilantro (cilantro wins!). We talked about how you can never be really sure how big your zucchini plant will get, largely because zucchinis expand to fill all available space. Hers are currently eating her peas; mine is in a fight to the death with the Persian cucumbers. God only knows what the outcome will be. Zuccumbers? The apocalypse? No way to be sure!

And then I told her what I planted this year. You know you're in trouble when a fellow novice gardener stares at you, stunned by your stupidity.

"It's not my fault," I said weakly. "[Earthling] picked out most of those plants."

It's true, he did. It's also true that I planted them. And let them flourish. And, in some cases, allowed him to plant even more. We are still basically in the wettest, coldest spring I can remember in California. (Although keep in mind that this is relative; by "wettest," I mean that the drought warnings have gone down to only high alert level, and by "coldest" I mean "we mostly haven't had to use the air conditioner yet.") And yet. I have already learned some hard, hard facts about gardening, the kind they never seem to share in gardening books. (My current theory is that this is a form of hazing. "We all know this," the gardening book writers say to each other. "But we're not telling. If they really care about gardening, they will learn the hard way, just like we did." Gardening is one of those sports that only the strong survive, apparently.)

I planted a Juliet tomato this year. Because it was described as an excellent balcony or patio tomato - perfect for container gardening! - I assumed it was a small, modest plant that would grow only in moderation.

This is absolute bullshit, it turns out. What "patio" plant means is "if you plant it in the actual ground, it will act like it just got hit by Lex Luthor's Amazing Supergrowth Ray." If I had listened closely while planting it, I probably could have heard its cries of, "Free! Free at last! TOMATO FAME, HERE I COME."


The Juliet, seeking tomato fame, or possibly fresh human brains to snack on. Yes, I know I borked the spacing again this year. In my defense a) I'm doing better and b) tomatoes appear to expand to fill whatever space you give them, so if I'd spaced them properly, the Juliet would now be the size of Anchorage, Alaska.


Because of my touchingly naïve belief in the Juliet's decorous, restrained nature, I put it in one of the two wolverine-sized tomato cages that survived last year's tomato Armageddon. (This year, I am buying only the bear size. I may be slow, but I can be taught.) It was over the top of it by the start of May, and is now taller than I am and, as you can see, encroaching on the cages of the other tomatoes. My mother, who views my urge to grow tomatoes as perhaps the sole evidence that I am genetically related to her, recently visited and suggested I buy a second tomato cage to train the rest of the Juliet onto. (I would, except when I think "train" I can only picture myself out there with a packet of biscuits and a clicker, and I don't think the tomato plants would respond. If you could teach a tomato plant to heel, someone would already have won a Nobel Prize for it.)

If I had known about the Juliet's ambitions, it's possible I would have reined in the earthling's, at least a little. But he was so determined to buy tomato plants that I'm not sure I would have. I mean, I do remember last year. There was no excuse for planting more tomato plants than I did last year. And yet. I did. With earthling encouragement, yes, but the fault was mine. (This is why we have winter: so gardeners will forget the thorns and terror of the previous year and get cocky again.)

So, yes, we have ten tomato plants in the ground. (We had eleven, but one of them experienced what might have been some sort of tomato disease, but was probably the Juliet, its next door neighbor, using special attack powers to bring it down. The space where the deceased plant was is full, now; the Juliet and its friend across the row have combined to make sure I can never plant anything there.) We have six Japanese eggplants, currently flowering (gorgeous, and worth planting just for that) and setting fruit. We have two large containers full of bean plants. I put the seeds in one of the containers, following the recommended nice, orderly spacing. The earthling put the seeds in the other one, following a plan of his own devising, called "poke some seeds individually into the ground, and then decide it would be more fun to dump a whole handful in at once."


Beans, two weeks after sowing. (Really, I was just looking for a way to entertain the earthling one afternoon.) He planted the ones on the left. Note that they are higher than the ones I planted.


We also have Japanese cucumbers. I do not believe these are actually Japanese, except possibly in the sense of "we found these seeds over here near Kyoto, and we're exporting them all before we lose the island." Japan is simply not big enough to grow these things. (The planet may not be big enough.) There would be no more room for people. Also, I refuse to believe that anyone, anywhere, except possibly someone cackling in some remote mountain laboratory - the kind of person who would make a half-pony, half-monkey monster - would deliberately breed these. They are spiny terrors and clearly plotting something. I planted ours in a small side bed that had previously been given over to volunteer palms. (I fucking hate palm trees. The previous owners loved them. My major plan for the next ten years in this house involves killing all the palms.) It's a really small, narrow bed, so my intention was to put strawberries there, and in fact there are some strawberry plants over at one side, but then the earthling bought the Japanese cucumber seedlings and I had to put them somewhere. I thought they'd probably die anyway, so I just stuck them in the narrow bed in the meantime.


They did not die. The trellis in this picture is about five feet high. Note the cucumbers' proximity to the top of the wall.


In retrospect, I wish I had not put them along the fence that we share with the friendly neighbors. Pretty soon I am going to have to go over there and apologize because our cucumber plants are menacing their incredibly tidy, orderly yard. (These neighbors repaint their gutters and siding every six months and trim their bushes each day. They would never do anything as reckless or chaotic as planting vegetables.) I mean, two weeks ago I put a trellis up for them. (I bought it last year for the beans, but the beans spurned it. It is marketed as a tomato trellis, but I can only laugh hollowly at the news. The tomato plants last year crushed the one near them just for kicks.) The cucumbers are now at the top of the trellis and sending feelers up the concrete wall. If you get close - not recommended - and shift away the lower growth, you find yellow flowers. A lot of yellow flowers. And baby cucumbers. Enough that you will, if you are me, realize that you don't have a lot of use for cucumbers, and you may be in a lot of trouble very soon.

The trouble is coming. I can sense it, rumbling and green out there in the yard. In the meantime, garden questions!

Poll #7140 2011 Garden Questions
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 308


What would be an appropriate "Sorry the cucumbers came beween us" gift for the neighbors?

View Answers

Flowers!
31 (10.2%)

Tomatoes.
107 (35.2%)

Why not just give them some cucumbers?
267 (87.8%)

How about something - anything - NOT plant-related?
29 (9.5%)

What should I do about the Juliet and its tomato cohort?

View Answers

Stand well back.
85 (28.1%)

Hope for the zombie apocalypse; maybe they'll fight each other to a standstill!
95 (31.5%)

Have you considered sowing the ground with salt? Sometimes the old ways are best.
61 (20.2%)

Get in there with some clippers. If you'd wanted a safe life, you never would have planted a garden.
154 (51.0%)

Kill it. I don't care how. But kill it NOW.
11 (3.6%)

Other. (To the comments!)
14 (4.6%)

Are you growing food this year?

View Answers

No. I prefer to get my food from the market, already safely dead.
83 (27.4%)

No. I would if I could, but not this year.
118 (38.9%)

Yes. And I'm scared. Hold me?
19 (6.3%)

Yes, and I'm not scared at all. In fact, I'm going to go buy a Juliet RIGHT NOW.
61 (20.1%)

Let me tell you allllllll about it in the comments.
22 (7.3%)

james: trees against a cloudy night sky (Default)

[personal profile] james 2011-05-31 07:41 pm (UTC)(link)
Freeze the tomatoes for winter! Er, after you harvest them. Easier to get them in the freezer that way.

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kass: lilacs, "zen fen" (zen lilac)

[personal profile] kass 2011-05-31 07:46 pm (UTC)(link)
Man -- a post like this does make me envy y'all who live in warmer climes than we do. Most home gardeners here don't plant until Memorial Day, for fear of their hubris causing a freak late snow. *wry grin*

We get our summer veggies from a CSA. I am looking really forward to taking Zaphod there this year -- and hoping it may entice him to actually enjoy vegetables. Right now the only green thing he likes is avocado, and he would eat several of those each day if we let him. But those won't grow here. :-)
kouredios: (Spring)

[personal profile] kouredios 2011-05-31 09:07 pm (UTC)(link)
Right? I had the same thought. I wish my tomatoes were so big right now! :)

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cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)

[personal profile] cesy 2011-05-31 07:52 pm (UTC)(link)
My plant-killing skills are still going strong - my bulbs are all dead now. I think the spider-plant survived, though. I planted some busy lizzies in my balcony boxes yesterday. I hope they will still be alive when I get home on Thursday. (I don't have a garden, just house-plants and the two long boxes outside the flat.)

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via_ostiense: Eun Chan eating, yellow background (Default)

[personal profile] via_ostiense 2011-05-31 07:57 pm (UTC)(link)
I am so jealous of your garden! This year's my first non-container garden, and the weather, which is usually hot and sunny, is raining on my parade. Literally and figuratively. On Saturday, the weather forecast for the week was clear and sunny, so I planted some pepper seeds, which need hot, 75-80*F soil. Today, it started raining, and now the forecast is rain all week and temperatures that won't break 60*F. This is not supposed to happen in California!

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reginagiraffe: Stick figure of me with long wavy hair and giraffe on shirt. (Default)

[personal profile] reginagiraffe 2011-05-31 07:58 pm (UTC)(link)
I have one big pot that has two basil plants and a single cherry tomato plant. I've been pruning the ends of everything to keep them compact. So far, so good.

If it works out, I may expand next year. Although it's kind of a pain watering the pot every day.

ETA: Ohhh, baby cucumbers. Pick when it is no longer than 5", rub on your pants to get rid of the prickles, eat. Nom nom nom.
Edited 2011-05-31 20:00 (UTC)
jenna_thorn: a cowboy hat and Texas flag bedecked Dreamsheep (Texas Dreamsheep)

sighs of jealousy from N Central Texas

[personal profile] jenna_thorn 2011-05-31 07:59 pm (UTC)(link)
for the cucumbers, pickles are easy enough to do after certain small fingered ones are safely in bed and they last for long enough to give them all away to extended family and only have to take a couple of jars to work. and small cucumbers are easier to work with then big ones, so harvesting early and often is a smart strategic move.

I've only had one bumper cuke year, though, one that let me take two jars to a potluck (where one of the jars was confiscated and returned two weeks later, clean, with a recipe request that I could give, because when I put the damn things up, I was winging it so hard there were feathers in my kitchen. There was garlic involved.) and didn't involve mailing any jars to family, though.

But my so-called garden is a line each of stunted tomatoes and peppers and the grapevine, which is reaching for the asparagus with malign intent. I'd be happier about its enthusiasm if the darn thing would set fruit.

On the other hand, the annual invasion of the neighborhood squirrels has begun, as the peach trees are setting fruit. Maybe the squirrels, bugs, and birds will let us have a few this year.
avendya: blue-green picture of a woman's face (AtLA - curious and curiouser)

Re: sighs of jealousy from N Central Texas

[personal profile] avendya 2011-06-01 01:36 am (UTC)(link)
Gardening in N Central Texas killed my mother's desire to ever garden again. She did garden in Colorado, and then moved to Texas and decided it was too damned hot to go outside after April.

(Well, that and the two golden retrievers who had other ideas about how to use our flower boxes. (They are exactly dog-sized.))

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libitina: snake across an open book (Default)

[personal profile] libitina 2011-05-31 08:02 pm (UTC)(link)
I grew Juliet tomatoes two years ago, loved them, and am trying to grow them again (though I might have gotten those seeds I saved mixed up with the grape tomato seeds I was saving).

And, yes, that plant was easily half again as large as my other tomato plants. But it was made of awesome!

Feel free, however, to just lop off main branches. Tomatoes are good with that and you can even just break them off by hand (but be careful that they snap off, instead of pulling strings down with them and exposing the stem to disease)

So the Juliet I had was incredibly prolific - I could go and pick 20 tomatoes every other day at the height of the season. But they were the most adorable, tiny roma tomatoes, so 20 would be about the same space as 4 tomatoes from another plant.

They're good in caprese salad, but I mostly ended up despairing of eating them outright and worked out a plan with a friend where she'd dry them for me, and then we'd split the haul. They make lovely dried tomatoes! Two years later, and the few still left in my freezer are still bright red and delicious.

However, if the bag of scores of picked tomatoes sat for more than a week, I'd have to start going through them regularly to catch the ones that were trying to explode white pus out their asses. I don't even know. But, serious, get yourself a dehydrator (or read up on drying things in the oven) now.

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ldthomps: (Default)

[personal profile] ldthomps 2011-05-31 08:03 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm with my mother - if you give them more space, either they or weeds would fill it, so you may as well crowd the plants. I'm afraid the Sudden Summer Boston got this weekend has killed my lettuce, but that just means I can plant other stuff in those pots now, right? :D

And I agree with those who are amazed by the growing season there - no wonder the Central Valley grows most of our food! My sugar snap peas are just now blooming, though, so some local food will abound! Yay!

Maybe you can make pickles with those cukes? When I was the Earthling's age I would wander the neighborhood gifting folks with veggies from our garden - no one can resist cute toddler presents :).
ldthomps: (Default)

[personal profile] ldthomps 2011-05-31 08:04 pm (UTC)(link)
Also, nice Neko Case reference! Now I have "The TOMATO loves you.... what will make you believe me?" going through my head :D.
saraht: writing girl (Default)

[personal profile] saraht 2011-05-31 08:03 pm (UTC)(link)
DELICIOUS PICKLES. GIVE YOUR NEIGHBORS DELICIOUS PICKLES.
keerawa: Coyote in a dreamscape (Default)

[personal profile] keerawa 2011-05-31 08:08 pm (UTC)(link)
PICKLE the cucumbers, and then give some to the neighbors. Yes, it's an escalation, but I think a Shock and Awe strike is the only way you have a prayer of winning.
mara: (Default)

[personal profile] mara 2011-05-31 08:12 pm (UTC)(link)
The only plant that looks anything like yours in my patio garden is my yellow squash, which does appear to be planning a takeover of the nearby pots...
sapote: The TARDIS sits near a tree in sunlight (Default)

[personal profile] sapote 2011-05-31 08:14 pm (UTC)(link)
So all that my part of the Southeast is any good at growing is deer. Our tomatoes die of drought, our squash are all borered-to-death by July, you have to start the lettuce in February or it bolts, but we have the fattest, happiest deer I have ever seen. These deer will stand and look at you through the window, chewing contemplatively. In the night, if the window is open, you can hear them munching.

You know where I'm going with this - unless the plants, puny, sad things that they are, are contained by mesh on four sides and the top, the deer eat them. Even if they're not edible plants! Last year it would go like this:

Me: I plant tomatoes and hope the weather doesn't kill them!
Deer: Ooh, tasty. ::munch down to ground::
Me: D: I will put a fence around the remaining tomato! And a cage on top of the tomato! Also, tomato plants are poisonous, deer!
Tomatoes: ::grow two pathetic inches::
Deer: Ooh, tasty ::munch down to ground::

I repeated this three times with different waves of tomato plants before I gave up. This year my lettuce is the only thing I've had the heart to plant, and it lives in a full cage made of plastic mesh and bamboo stakes.

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stasia: (Default)

[personal profile] stasia 2011-05-31 08:19 pm (UTC)(link)
It's funny, I'm in Northern California and I'm not getting anything like the growth you have. Admittedly, my yard is small and not very sunny (damn the owner for putting in two trees which have now outgrown all the houses. I wish I could just pull them out!), and it's been rainier here than usual (it's raining NOW and the forecast is for it to rain for the next full week. It's June. Where's my summer, dammit? I miss the sun.), but we have two tomato plants and they're growing, but not like crazy.

Geordie and I would be delighted, if we were closer, to help you dispose of those tomatoes. He'd avoid the cukes, but I'll eat them. *grin* Or help you pickle them. Pickle the tomatoes, as well!

This isn't a great photo (I just took two quick pictures with my phone and chopped them together), but if you have anyone handy in your family, they might be able to make something like it. Geordie would be happy to share how he made it. Tomato Cage

Stasia

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toft: graphic design for the moon europa (Default)

[personal profile] toft 2011-05-31 08:25 pm (UTC)(link)
I am for the first time in my life in possession of a small balcony with some access to sunlight, having moved in with my gf just in time for spring, and I have, somewhat to her and my alarm, discovered heretofore unsuspected gardening urges. I have acquired pots and planted basil (which we quickly moved inside after my mum warned me how sensitive they are to cold, as we've had one of the coldest and wettest springs for a while too, except this being Canada, that means *actually* cold), oregano, lavender, mint, lemon thyme, and some geraniums and red dragon flowers (I don't know what they are or what they looked like, I bought them because they had dragons in the name). I also have one GIANT pot in which I'm growing four tomatoes. I'm so excited! I love fresh tomatoes, I would eat all your tomatoes.
lolaraincoat: (tomato)

[personal profile] lolaraincoat 2011-06-01 12:10 am (UTC)(link)
I'm in Ontario, and yes, that's what our spring has been like. Record rainfall, close to freezing at night, so our poor plants don't know whether they're drowning or dying of cold.

But don't worry - nothing kills mint, as you will see.

*laughs a hollow laugh*

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sage: Still of Natasha Romanova from Iron Man 2 (Default)

[personal profile] sage 2011-05-31 08:31 pm (UTC)(link)
We're in an epic drought plus super-early summer (it's already hit 100 more than once this year), so the only edibles I'm growing are basil, thyme, and catnip. I'm allergic to tomatoes now, but I used to grow them every year. They're easy, you just have to prune them diligently. Cucumbers will go nuts just like tomatoes. You might look into making pickles -- it's not hard & Earthling might like them. But, yeah, when I was a kid my brother and I would go around to ALL the neighbors with a bushel basket of cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, and whatever else we had too much of, giving away everything we couldn't eat.

You should try sunflowers, too. It's not too late to plant them, and Earthling will be FASCINATED by the giant spirals the seeds make when they're ripe.

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quinfirefrorefiddle: Van Gogh's painting of a mulberry tree. (Merlin: I See)

[personal profile] quinfirefrorefiddle 2011-05-31 08:41 pm (UTC)(link)
Have you considered square-foot gardening? It may help with a bunch of your issues, and the Earthling could help!

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monkey5s: Chinese golden monkey (Default)

[personal profile] monkey5s 2011-05-31 08:41 pm (UTC)(link)
As far as the neighbors go, you don't have to actually give them cucumbers. It looks like the plants will be hiking themselves over the wall shortly, and will most likely rain cucumbers down upon them, even if they would sincerely rather they not.

And here in Ohio, it is nowhere near as scary for growing. My yard is very shady, though, and I have repeatedly failed to even get containers out for the past few years. Oh, I want to- I would like to have my own tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers and beans. Oh, and butterbush squash, love the winter squashes. But I just never manage to get to it. Years ago we had a nice garden, lots of vegetables and flowers. It took a few years to get the soil well conditioned, but it was worth it. When we gave it up, and planted grass seed over it, that area of the yard still has the nicest grass.

Where I work, we have a community garden out back (full sun, water it yourself with the hose we provide). The contract the gardeners sign includes their guarantee that they will have their gardens started by the last Sunday in May. This year, it has rained so thoroughly and daily that the guy who will come to do the plowing has not been able to get here for it yet. He says he needs at least three rain-free days in a row for the ground to be dry enough. We've gone ahead and extended that deadline for the gardeners.
winter_elf: Sherlock Holmes (BBC) with orange soft focus (Default)

[personal profile] winter_elf 2011-05-31 08:49 pm (UTC)(link)
My sister has a garden. My christmas prezzy from her is: Marinara! and noodles and usually a jar of pomegranate jam. A friend of hers has a pomegranate tree that is kind of like your tomatos - it's huge.

My sisters Marinara is usually full of veggies (squash! mushrooms! tomato chunks!) and sooooo good.

I would look up canning recipes, get some canning jars and prepare to teach Earthling how to make gifts you can hand out later.

[personal profile] adina 2011-05-31 08:55 pm (UTC)(link)
I was insane enough to plant twelve beefsteak tomatoes and four Romas. In new planting beds, freshly topped off with composted manure. Sixteen tomato plants for two people. I have a feeling that we will be picking tomatoes with a whip and chair and donating to the food pantry.

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sasha_davidovna: (prairie)

[personal profile] sasha_davidovna 2011-05-31 09:02 pm (UTC)(link)
Heh, I enjoy your gardening posts almost as much as your Earthling posts. Coming from Nebraska, I must say it's given me new appreciation for the existence of killing frosts! No matter how bent on world domination my tomatoes and squash may appear to be in August, I always know that come November they will collapse into a heap of withered leaves and stems and be yanked out and deposited gratefully into the compost pile to feed future plots for world domination.
sasha_davidovna: (we recycle in this house)

[personal profile] sasha_davidovna 2011-05-31 10:10 pm (UTC)(link)
By the way, my dad uses heavy duty wire mesh (the kind used to reinforce concrete) and steel fence posts for his tomato cages, kind of similar to this: http://yourhomegardenblog.com/vegetable-gardening/constructing-tomato-cages-using-wire-mesh

You might have better luck keeping them somewhat in check with something like that.
illariy: uhura smiles (uhura: smile)

[personal profile] illariy 2011-05-31 09:03 pm (UTC)(link)
Hehe, this post filled me with happiness at the plants' happiness. Though also with a wee bit of sorrow concerning their world domination plans. >.>

I assumed that the container-gardening recommendations are for plants that are pretty much unkillable and that appears to be true. Also, judging by the bean pots, the Earthling might just have a green thumb. Under the conditions, this is slightly worrying. *g*
florahart: a bunch of unrefined produce being bountiful (food)

[personal profile] florahart 2011-05-31 09:12 pm (UTC)(link)
I am again trying, with the growing things. So far the tomato plants do not look like yours, but are not dead. The peppers are mixed. The squashes are maybe dying, not sure. The basil is inside because last year I learned that, according to snails, basil/snails OTP OTP OTP OMG.
tesserae: white poppies in the sun (Default)

[personal profile] tesserae 2011-05-31 09:23 pm (UTC)(link)
If the yellow flowers are naturtiums they're great in salads. Since you're going to need to eat all those tomatoes...
laurashapiro: picture of a bowl of fresh greens, kitchen shears, and my hands holding the bowl (garden)

[personal profile] laurashapiro 2011-05-31 09:27 pm (UTC)(link)
I love these posts, but I have to tell you I am BITTER.

This spring, we planted six cauliflower plants, nine pea plants, six kale plants, a parsley plant, 6 mizuna plants, and 12 lettuces, plus a pot of turnips I started from seed.

Within two weeks, slugs had eaten all the cauliflowers down to pathetic leafless nubbins, and consumed the peas so thoroughly that nothing at all was left.

Two weeks after that, they had eaten three of the lettuces, but fortunately the rains stopped and the slugs retreated in the face of warm weather that caused all the mizuna to bolt before I could harvest any of it.

Frantically, I harvested lettuce for salad and watched with dismay as two of the kale plants failed to thrive. I watered like a motherfucker and held my breath.

Last week, the turnips were ready to harvest, so I pulled them, shrieked, and dropped them to the ground in revulsion. They were infested with cole maggots and what was left was barely the size of my thumb.

We have remaining 4 lettuces in various stages of health, and four kale plants that look sluggish and unhappy. The parsley, OTOH, is almost thigh-high and having a rocking great time by the look of it, and of course that's the one thing I planted that I can't really use much of.

BITTER, I tell you.
jamethiel: A pink lotus flower (LotusFlower)

[personal profile] jamethiel 2011-06-01 01:24 am (UTC)(link)
Oh! If you don't like putting down slug/snail-bat, you know you can fill a plastic cup with an inch or so of beer, bury it in the ground and the snails/slugs will come and drown in it? It's surprisingly effective, but you do end up having to discard a cup of fermented snails every so often.

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feanna: The cover of an old German children's book I inherited from my mother (Default)

[personal profile] feanna 2011-05-31 09:34 pm (UTC)(link)
I remember well the year that I decided to sow zucchini and I bought this nice big bowl (about half a meter across?) and I put in all the seeds in the bag (why would I want to have spares lying around?) and then they started growing and when even the first (not!)little leaves came out, I found that I had severely underestimated the space they'd need.

I gave some (I had about 8?) to my grandma, some to the neighbour and kept the others. We also found out, that the earth (very heavy) in our garden wasn't any good for zucchini plants and that the ones planted not-in a pot didn't produce much of anything. But the ones in (BIG) pots sure brought us plentiful zucchini! (I shudder to think what would have happened in a climate like yours.) Because my mother and I share an attitude about books, we totally bough zucchini-cook-books (though only one or two). While most of the recipies aren't my thing (or use like 1(!) zucchini, we did find some great ones! So my advice would be to go to a recipe site and look up cucumbers. I'm sure you can find some nice salads. They can also be included in a warm herb sauce (to fish f.ex.) and they're always good on almost any kind of bread/sandwich (cheese/sausage/whatever). Also tell any family memebers that live close enough (and that are not growing their own, which becomes a problem if you foisted of plants at an earlier point) that they should never ever buy cucumbers at the store.

Personally, I'd probably have no issue with simply cutting off whatever parts of the cucumber plants reach the top of the wall.
If you have no problem with it, you might also tell your neighbours that they can totally cut off themselves whatever crosses over to their side. That way they can do something about it, if it bothers them before you notice. (And keep any cucumbers if they grow on their side? Is that likely to happen?)

I haven't planted anything for years, because I don't live with my parents anymore. I did decide to simply plant something in the little beds in the patio this year, but the plants don't get THAT much light there and so on, that my zuchini plants look unlikely to ever actually grow anything (I was expecting this though) as they are pretty much not growing at all (which is the other extreme in gardening that can happen to you, things simply DO NOT grow), and I have one topinambur plant, that I'm also not really expecting a harvest from, I'll mostly be glad if it actually blooms. Along with some flowers. Of course sice I mostly put in seeds (and not plants) and considering the climate in northern Germany (though we did have a very warm and nice April) and the lighting conditions, most plants are still under 10 cm in height. (The topinambur has reached about half a meter, which makes me happy, but that WAS a root package and not a seed.)

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