Adventures in Gardening
A challenge. I can count on a challenge every year in the garden. If it isn’t the weeds, it’s the bugs, or too much water. I’ve had plants burn, shrivel, or disappear. Onions that grew beautifully, with bright, tall and sturdy stalks peeping outside the ground, only to produce a bulb the size of my thumb. Tomato plants have wilted one by one. Watermelons rot right on the vine.
But this year? This year I was ready. My husband had the best idea to turn old hog water tanks into raised beds. He filled them with sand and topsoil, placed them near the house. We planted each planter with one or two different plants.
The tanks were in a great eye’s view, so I wouldn’t forget to tend to it. I could arrive home from a ballgame, see the garden as we drove in, and spend 5 minutes weeding or watering before suppertime. The placement of the tanks drew attention from others as well. Whomever was visiting The Meat Shed, or office would grab a weed or two to help along the process.
It was working.
I could find each plant, nothing was dying, new growth was spotted weekly. After a month or so, I did notice the meek color of most plants, so I threw some fertilizer onto the soil. New eggplant, squash, and zucchini blossoms popped up daily. The most fruitful tank of them all was the one with 6-foot-long cucumber vines hanging overside. The kids and I made refrigerator pickles every day, and devoured every jar to the very last crunch.
It all felt like a dream, until the watermelon leaves started curling. I spent a couple days observing the plant and found plenty of ants rummaging around the soil. Then noticed the back of the leaf covered in tiny black bugs. Well look at there, the aphids have moved in, and the ants found a great food source. To remove the aphids, I doused each leaf with water from the hose. Every day, I gave the leaves a little bath until they started growing again. I was determined to grow a darn watermelon this year! Alas, the new growth took over, and the aphids moved out.
Unfortunately, they moved two doors down to the Brussel sprouts. The poor Brussel sprouts didn’t stand a chance. They were devoured within a couple days, the sprouts and the leaves. The kids cheered as I whined about my Brussels. Oh, happy day, they wouldn’t need to choke them down to amuse me.
I wish the Brussels ended my challenge this season, but oh no. The aphids weren’t enough. It was time for some powdery mildew to show its face. Typically, the powdery mildew sticks to one plant species and has its fun. But this year, it infected everyone. My beautiful cucumbers stopped growing, with the zucchini, squash, and watermelon to follow.
I introduced some neem oil for the first time this year, and started making some progress on the mildew. One day I’d spray with oil, the next I’d give the leaves a water bath, and repeat until I saw some new growth. I finally have a couple cucumbers sprouting again, and a zucchini plant come back alive.
Honestly, I couldn’t have dreamed I’d care a lick about a garden as I was growing up, but here I am. Taking pictures of vegetables and telling whoever lends an ear about this year’s produce.
Oh, happy day.