June 23, 2008


I don't want to jinx myself so I am crossing my fingers as I type these words: I think this is my best garden season so far.

The poppies look great, the mint seems to be doing ok in the sink, the bee balm looks as though it's about to bloom and I've managed to survive the early bunny attacks. I'm already starting to get a few green tomatoes and its still just June!

For a while there the cucumber seemed to be getting eaten by some kind of bug, but even that looks improved.

I'm sure some unforseen calamity or obstacle is around the corner (there's always something) but for now I'm feeling very proud. Sadly, I think the secret really is buying the plants a little bit later from the farm as I did this year instead of from the non-profit like I used to.

It is true that the arugula has all pretty much bolted and the arugula, cilantro and basil I planted on my porch is going very slowly and doesn't look that great, but the plot itself seems pretty healthy.

I'm still a bit tentative (vs. ruthless) about pruning the tomato plants and removing suckers and "extra branches" even though I know that's really the way to go. I just worry about hurting the plant when a new shoot seems "established." I don't want to get too cocky. I think recognizing that I am doing well while seeing how much better I could be is a good place to pause and celebrate.

June 16, 2008

Garden Sitting Ethics

From June 12th - June 20th I have agreed to water another gardener's plot while they are away in California. That is really all they asked me to do, except for trying to keep their strawberry plants contained in the the little bricked in area they have for them and to encourage their tomato plants to stay in the cages. All of this probably takes about 15 - 20 minutes every other day unless it rains.

I've only had to water a few times so far, but I've already noticed a few things to feel torn about in terms of my moral obligations as a garden sitter.

1) When I first arrived at their plot, they had a big half-full bag of straw mulch sitting in it. It's gone now. I know they're on vacation so I don't want to bother them, but is it safe to assume that someone else was authorized to take the bag or should I be emailing them about the missing mulch?

2) When I water my own tomatoes I always water just the base of the plant so the water will get to the roots and not the leaves under the theory that tomato plants prefer dry leaves and the water can spread diseases. They didn't specify how to water the tomato plants and it does take longer. Obviously the rain gets everything wet so maybe this whole idea of carefully watering only the ground is a dumb one or a superstition, but I am clearly superstitious and I feel bad treating their tomato plants less well than I would treat my own. How far should I go with this? Prune the suckers? Add fish emulsion?

3) Weeding. I haven't done any weeding in their plot, but it could really use it. I think weeding is going above and beyond, but maybe I'll weed a little bit because of my guilt about their strawberries.....

4) They have all of these ripe strawberries! They're just going to rot out there or attract pests if they aren't harvested so...I've decided that it is ok to take them. I feel mostly like it's the right thing to do, but I am a tiny bit worried that they already promised them to someone else without my knowledge and I am essentially stealing them. I could e mail them, but who wants to be bothered on vacation right?

For now I'll water carefully and keep "stealing" the berries.

June 9, 2008

Soap, Hay, Heat

Saturday was insanely hot and muggy. It is likely a sign of my own gardening insanity that I decided to spend a couple of hours in the garden right in the middle of the day. I really had to. I needed to put in the dill and...sadly, plant some swiss chard to replace the final kale plant that the bunnies destroyed.

Physically, I felt 85% totally and completely awful (hot, sweaty, tired, light headed, eyes stinging from the sweat and sunscreen combo dripping in them) and 15% divinely transported, as I always do while gardening.

I am not quite sure what brings on this gardening euphoria and I think at least part of it is the satisfaction of putting in work and getting tangible (and edible)results. On this particular day my gardening glee was due to the following:

1) My California poppies are starting to bloom. These were my favorite flower to see when I lived in Los Angeles and I find it so wonderful that I can grow them here. Plus, they're orange.
2) All of the perennials around the sink (bee balm, purple coneflower, yarrow, chives etc.) look amazing.
3) The tomatoes look better than they ever have at this time during the year (knock on wood)
4) The cucumbers seem to be growing really fast and to have gotten over whatever was making some of the leaves have white spots.
5) Because I had run out of mulch a few weeks ago, I decided to buy a combination of hay and straw called Mainely Mulch. As soon as I started laying it out I thought it looked really pretty next to the dark mulch that I already had and it smelled incredible. It also made me really dirty which, in gardening, makes me really happy. The bag it comes in is a very full cube of hay which also provided an excellent seat for the breaks I had to take while working out there.

I finally made it back inside and slowly labored up the stairs to my apartment and then sat still for a very long time.

Yesterday I waited until after 6PM to get back out in the garden to water...deeply (today is another scorcher) and try out the Irish Spring to fight bunnies. I saw that fox urine was $18 at the farm which seemed VERY STEEP to me. I figured I'd try the soap and then move up from there if need be. The CVS knock off of Irish Spring was only 89 cents!

I wasn't sure what to do to apply the soap, but I took a knife and shaved off some pieces around the lettuce and chard. We'll see how it goes.
I'm just a little concerned about the fact that it has artificial fragrance and color. That can't be too good for the soil. It's just a little bit though so...hopefully it'll be ok...AND work!

June 2, 2008

Make room for Dill

I don't really like dill. I've got nothing against it per se, but it's not really a favorite of mine. In my worry about the dreaded cucumber beetle however, I've decided that dill might just be the herb for me...I just need to find some space for it.

You see, dill attracts parasitic wasps and lacewings which go after cucumber beetles. As my dad astutely commented: I need a thief to catch a thief. Really it's more like I need a killer to catch a killer (as in plant chewer and disease spreader.)

Either way I might take advantage of the sad hole left by the kale the bunny ate and try to put some dill in there.

One site I found even claims that growing dill near cucumber promotes better flavor in the cukes. Sounds good to me.