Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Purely Selfish Gardening Recap

Move along, move along. Once again a post of essentially no interest to anyone but me. Not even gardeners should find this of any interest as it pertains to my little patch of heaven on the frozen Wisconsin tundra, where only those of desperation and little sense dare to plant. USDA Zone 4. Motto: Well, At Least We Are Not Zone 3.

I'll try to come up with something of broader interest later. Say, the effect of prolonged whining about having to (moan) do (sob) one's homework (anguish) before playing, on one's mother's sense of compassion. (Answer: No effect at all. Actually, a negative effect as one's mother, after coming home to such, will actually sit next to such a suffering 6-year-old son and mock him in his performance mercilessly, while shoving dinner in her face.)

So, for me, me, me!

The Great Gardening Round-up Of '05

Late start to planting due to very late spring and the construction of the raised bed from hell. Make that the "raised bed walls" as the lack of time to fill the big bed with soil to actually raise the level of the bed prevented realizing the whole plan. Actually, it worked well as the bed became a sort of prison / fortress for the containment of the vegetation gone wild. Some of the squash vines did manage to scale the 2+1/2 foot walls, but seemed at a loss as to what to do with all the new found freedom, actually then growing back over the wall in a sort of "U" shape or lurking in the shadow of said wall, skulking to avoid the security cameras and guard towers. Next year: top the wall with razor wire.

Conditions: Very dry. Maybe 6 rainfalls from mid-June to mid-Sept. Soaker hose placed at time of planting and then covered with mulch. Do this always.

Compost was almost entirely from the big ol' pile of horse crap and straw from the former horse stable. (Now housing remnant cottagestone, boards, gas cans, and the inexplicable table the prior owners left in the basement. Some day, as God is my witness, it will become a potting shed.) Damn but that stuff was potent! Crack for the green leafies. Crack with growth hormone.

Mulched with pinebark mulch, approx 20 bags. Grass was by far the worst problem, primarily in the former grassy area. Go figure. Need to remove this better. The spring tilling was NOT adequate. (Work harder or you will be sorry, well, sorrier.)

The pest situation became progressively worse, but only shut down the cucumbers completely about 2 weeks ago and everything else is sort of soldiering on, still. Cucumber beetles (both the striped and the spotted varieties) reigned. Action must be taken to prevent this next year. Some squash bugs, which should also be dealt with next year (question: will BT work against any of these?), but nothing like the obscene infestation from Illinois '03, which had all cuke and squash plants decimated by late July (the carnage lives in my memory, still). The 13 Lined Ground Squirrels, while doing some damage to long, green veggies (based on the tooth marks), probably did their share of insect control, and did not kill any plants with their burrows, despite tunneling directly under the zucchini and strawberries. The blueberries did not fare as well, and about 4 or 5 plants dead as a direct result of the direct burrows directly under the roots, causing direct exposure to the direct rays of the sun. Damn but they are cute, though, the way they sit up, paws hooked, tails straight out. Need to watch Caddyshack. Must strengthen resolve.

Plant by Plant:

Tomatoes: Only planted 6 varieties. The yellow pear tomato had to be yanked out after just a couple of weeks due to development of virus. Some spread to the other plants, which diminished production but did not kill. The 2 Sweet Million cherries did well. (Next year, plant 4. And 2 yellow pears.) Early Girl actually lived up to her name and out produced the others. (Plant 2.) Brandywine was a bust, both for quality and production. Has failed me before, so do not plant again. Big Beef and Better Boy did OK. (Plant one of each again and see.) Next year, try to plant a couple of heirlooms if you can get the seeds started in time. Over all, recommend 4 miniatures and 6-8 large bushes.

Peppers: Once again, bell peppers disappointing. Many rotted before turning orange and none turned the red they were supposed to. (Plant 3????) for one last try, but may be better to just buy the damn things as it takes until early September to get any. The poblanos were a surprise, and not least for their incredible pizza-topping-ness. (Plant 3.) Consider a 3rd variety, say a mid-sized yellow one. Maybe in place of the bells. Damn bells. Bah.

Cantaloupe: Meh. Planted 2 mounds of 3 seedlings and got 3 melons, each the size of a newborn's head. Flavor of 2/3: Well, what flavor? The 3rd was OK. Can buy much better. Do not plant again, at least until you forget this crop and, yet again, succumb to the lure. Harvested in early September. Why bother.

Watermelon: Tricky. Planted 1 hill of 3 seedlings and harvested 1 melon the size of a small bowling ball. But. Damn good melon. "Popped" as soon as knife touched it. Seeds saved. (May or may not be "true" depending on the hybrid, of course.) OK, here's what you do: Try to start the seeds, plant 3 hills of seedlings x 3 and buy additional 3x3 starts. (6 hills total).

Bush Beans: A contribution from Colin via his teacher, Mrs B. Wonderful! Had 2. (Save seeds, plant 4 or 6. Yes, 6. Space 1+1/2 feet apart, they are quite compact.) Especially nice as they were supposed to be sunflowers, according to Colin. Oddly, the small seedlings did look like sunflowers. That I will never figure out as I certainly know what a sunflower baby and a bean baby look like. Elves? Gnomes? Anyway, serendipity.

Winter Squash: The butternut were amazing. (Planted 3 hills x 3, do the same or more, depending on room.) Sat with closed eyes and moaned while eating. Got very odd looks from Charles, who is used to my oddness. Apparently he thought I was in pain. Silly man. Acorn and Turban squash are so similar in flavor and texture, not really of use to plant both. Plus the butternut put them both to shame. (Plant 2 hills of 3 plants of one or the other.) Pumpkins produced 4 large fruit that the grubs burrowed into. Constant vigilance! Rotate those puppies as well. I think I planted 2 hills of 2. (Plant the same.)

Summer squash: Zucchini did well if left alone by pests. 3 x 3 hills. Do the same. You really need yellow crooknecks. Get off your duff and start from seeds as no nurseries seem to have these as seedlings. (plant 2 x 3 hills.)

Cucumbers: Fanfare did well. Not bitter. Burpless not so good and much spinier. Beetles liked all, though. (Plant Fanfare 3 x 3). The constructing of the boxed string and pole "L" shaped trellis worked fairly well but next year, maybe make it narrower. Hard to harvest the inner area. Ended up with about 12 Andre The Giants at the bottom who escaped your eye. Get thyself down there and find them next year. Down! Down on your knees! Down on your belly! Stooping is just not good enough.

Cauliflower: BAH. Don't waste your time. I think they need to have their leaves tied around the heads. If not, they will become freakish, yellow, tough, creatures covered in bird and bug poop. Do not plant again. I mean it. No room in this garden for anything that needs coddling or needs to be white to be consumed. Bah.

Broccoli: Did fine. Bolted late. Caterpillars munched the leaves. Closer caterpillar patrol would be good. (Planted 6, do the same.)

Eggplant: Ichiban wonderful. 'nuff said. (Planted 4. Grossly inadequate. Plant 12 or 56 or 872.)
Strawberries: Did well. Infiltrating the fortress through chinks in the stone. Beat back this fall. Planted freebee Giant-Something-Or-Others from Stark Bros. Will see next spring.

Raspberries: Coming along nicely. Also encroaching under the wall. Transplant squatters this fall.

Blueberries: Losses covered above. Memorial service planned. Here's hoping the second site by the slab of pavement (dog kennel site of former owners) works better.

Herbs: Chives, Sage, Thyme (no shit), and bit of Oregano perennial here. Also planted Italian parsley, Marjoram, Basil, Rosemary and Chocolate Mint. I anticipate the mint will come back. I anticipate a full-out turf war between the mint and the thyme in 1-2 seasons with the others caught in the crossfire. Damn, but I will miss the herbs this winter. Dried just not the same.

And, finally, The Great Thistle War of '05? Well, after a good start, it got hot and humid and then there were other things to be done, like take walks along the path in the shade with the kiddos and dog. Plus, do you know what hard work it is to dig up each one individually? The area around the house is certainly better. Some went to seed, but not as many as last year, so we will see what happens next spring. Maybe Rozanne's suggestion is not such a bad idea, after all?

So, there, dunderhead. Here's hoping you follow the advice of your wiser self next spring.




Blogger Jamie said...

I am making similar reviews and resolutions. I also bought some diatomaceous earth, which is supposedly going to control my squash bugs and cucumber beetles next summer. I hope it lives up to the promises!

I loved your Zone 4 motto. I recall muttering something similar when I lived in St. Paul. :-) But look at the bright side: You can grow three of my favorite things on earth--things I simply can't grow down here, although, heaven knows, I have tried. Promise me you will plant lilacs, peonies, and rhubarb (if you haven't already) because you are lucky enough to live in a place where they can flourish.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Not surprised the melons didn't work out. When I was a kid we tried to grow them a few times (in northern Illinois) and the growing season just isn't long enough. They were always a big disappointment. Grow squash and pumpkins instead.

'Brandywine' was a dud for me last year. And if it didn't do well for you in the Midwest, I think that's just further proof that it is a big LOSER.

I know I'm in a totally different zone, so any tomato suggestions I make are essentially meaningless, but I had very good luck both this year and last with yellow tomatoes. Last year I plabted 'Old German' (an heirloom) and this year 'Taxi Yellow' (not sure if it's an heirloom or a hybrid). Yellows are supposedly a bit less acidic. I think they taste great and they're very juicy and productive.

2:34 AM  
Blogger Babs said...

The only things I ever manged to grow properly was some gladiolis and sunflowers at the old house.

They only lived because I didn't touch them.

People in my family have been known to kill catci.

Gardening, for us, is a dangerous endeavor.

3:06 AM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

I am sorry to tell you this because we know that I don't garden but I love, love, LOVE your gardening posts. Not because I am filled with a need to dig in dirt (yuck) and poop (yuckier) but because you are so damn funny.

Seriously. The whole razor wire on the walls? Classic Diana. You are brilliant. If you wrote a book about gardening, I would so buy it. I wouldn't understand half of it but I would be laughing for the other half.

5:58 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Jamie- Please do write one. I will read it with gusto. Tcha! Of course rhubarb (red and white) planted, peonies (3 so far) and lilacs (2 so far) are thriving. OK, I didn't plant them, the previous owners did (the ones with the horses who never mucked out the stable, leaving me with what turned out to be a stinky old pile of gold), but are "must haves" for me as well. I had no idea that they did not thrive in the South. Huh. I will certainly not mention that they go nuts in Portland. Nor will I tell you of the Lilac Garden, just below the VA Hospital, on Terwilliger. Going there in April just to breathe will have you wimpering. My friend and I used to run down there several times a week just to do that. Good thing I am a kind, considerate person who would NEVER taunt. Zone 3 Motto: If It Can't Be Grown In An Hour And A Half, It's Not Worth The Bother. And why did I not think of diatomaceous earth? I have been wanting to use that stuff for years. Brilliant!

Rozanne- Thanks for the suggestions, as always. I grew yellow tomatoes a couple of times in Illinois and loved them. Sadly I haven't been able to find them in the past couple of years. Even the nurseries have cut their varieties by about 75%. Seeds are becoming the only option. The difficulty is that I suck with seeds. How the hell these plants do it is beyond me. I have about 30% chance of sunflowers planted directly in the ground sprouting. Sunflowers, I tell you! I follow the packet directions, including the depth. Maybe the birds devour the seeds? Planting inside, finding adequate light that is away from small hands is difficult. I'm hoping next spring when she is 3+1/2 will work.

Babs- I am pretty good with the outside ones but have a rather dismal track record with the ones confined to the inside and totally dependant on me. I, too, killed a cactus. It literally keeled over one day. Pathetic sight. My husband is the bane of all things outdoor, having a streak of orc in him (inherited from his father). Thinking he was doing me a favor, he once took a weedwacker to my flower bed. Amazing what will regrow with only the roots intact.

Dana- High praise from the woman who had a plant actually suicide on her. (For those wondering, as I recall, it leapt from the balcony to it's death.) Sadly, I don't make this stuff up, merely reporting.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

"I had no idea that they did not thrive in the South."

Why do you think I was trying to move? ;-) Well, I'll live. I can always visit the north at strategic times. And I think I might ask the s.o. to Teleflora me some peonies for my birthday every year.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

"Nor will I tell you of the Lilac Garden, just below the VA Hospital, on Terwilliger."

Noted! Of course, it means I will have to cross over to the Dark Side, I mean, the West Side (which I tried to do yesterday--was shooting for John's Landing and ended up in Hillsdale), but it will be worth it.

I can't grow anything from seed either. I have even worse luck with sunflowers than you do. And I can't grow marigolds or nasturtiums or hollyhocks either. Basically, everything that's supposed to be so E-Z a child can grow it, I fail with.

I do have decent luck with "harder" stuff like delphiniums (but not from seed).

4:36 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Jamie- And here I thought it was all for the good beer, coffee and company. It is for the lilacs, rhubarb and peonies.

Rozanne- I lived in Hillsdale for 11 years total! It is pretty cool for a (sneer) Westside burb. We were just a couple of blocks from The Hillsdale Pub. Definitely check out the gardens. At the foot of the hill, right where you veer off to the VA, above the evil Metro YMCA and across the street from the Carnival Restaurant where you MUST (trust me here) order an orange sherbert butterrmilk shake. Trust me. Even if you hate buttermilk, as I do. Trust me. To die for. Do it. Trust.

5:08 PM  
Blogger moegirl said...

Diana, You impress me with your elite gardening skills! Wow. I generally kill plants that come anywhere near me, though I did one summer have a bumper crop of tomatoes when I was renting a house in SE Portland. My neighbor told me to put some bone meal in the ground before you put in your plant. Worked like a charm.

I have some sad tidings, The Carnival is closed! I noticed that on one of my walks. Sometimes I get sad that everything that makes Portland unique is going away. I feel like it will probably end up another Red Robin, or Applebees, OR...insert generic strip mall chain here. Sigh.

6:20 PM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

I don't even know what some of the instructions mean and yet, the envy is eating me up! What is that all you have, good God? Extreme salivation occurring as we speak. And the herbs??????? *bursts into tears*

Também quero!!!!!!!!!

[And Babs, you are becoming a morning fix, THANK YOU!]

5:37 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Stace- Say it ain't so!!! The Carnival gone? That cheezy, cheezy landmark? And I'll never have another shake again. Guess I'll have to experiment at home. I think they just put in scoops of the sherbert and added the buttermilk, topping it with a dollop of softserve. Chin out. Lip stiff. (sniff)

Johnny- Well, when you get out to the fabulous Midwest to visit the Minnesota State Fair and eat crap on a stick a la Dana, you all will just have to swing south a bit and dine on garden with us. We will hide the tomatoes in a covered dish so as not to offend Dana's sensibilities. Hey, does your flat have a sunny window? If so, try a few herbs in pots. Mine never worked as I kept neglecting them and had inadequate sun, but you are much more nurturing than me, I am sure.

(How did we get through the days without Babs, I ask you. Jamie is the only one who can sit knowingly nodding and smirking.)

7:28 AM  
Blogger Teri said...

I am mourning the blueberries. I love blueberries.

1:23 AM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

Sunny window? Are you mad? In the middle of the Lisbon smog? What would that taste like! Actually, I don't want to know where my veggie scome from, ichs.

"You are much more nurturing than me, I am sure." Again, are you fully demented? I have a scythe-wiedling thumb, apparently! I kill greenery just from sneezing in its general direction! And what I don't kill, Tripod does.

Plus, window sill is tilted, I could literally kill someone. Again.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Teri- Apparently, while you and I love the blueberries, the ground squirrels see them as evil and seem to be systematically taking them out, one by one.

Johnny- That's right, Tripod! How could I forget the scourge of plants. Well, her breath would smell oh-so-herbally fresh.....Wouldn't surprise me if your produce comes from whence ours does: South America.

7:32 AM  
Blogger Babs said...

Awwwwwwww shucks, kids.

If I were at the beach just now, I'd have my toe in the sand :)

I'd also keep a sharp eye out for whaling boats, they nearly got me last time lol

As for plants that commit suicide, we once had a fish that committed suicide. And I babysat for another (long story)

*Mental note: post one day on all suicidal fish I've known

2:06 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Hey! I know suicidal fish as well. I'm going to have to go and check out Babs now.

1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen Asparagus this BIG
They grow up to 15in long and 2in wide.

4:26 PM  

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