June 27, 2011 by Leah
My last garden update included a full confession that I’m not exactly gardening with gusto these days. Our impending three weeks out of the country, plus what was most recently thought to be a move in August, made successive plantings seem like too much to deal with this summer. The latest news about the move (all of which is heard third-hand and based on speculation) is that now we think we might be going in September. Which means maybe we could go backpacking in the Sierras with my dad and stepmom over the last weekend in August. But I already applied for a job in Walla Walla, what if they want to hire me? I’m more than willing to fly up ahead of Aaron and install myself and my three remaining work-appropriate outfits in a B&B.
Sadly, my job application track record for the past year does not bode well for me getting hired and moving early. (I’ve been consoling myself by remembering that I got interviews, at the very least, for all the jobs I applied for in Anchorage over the last few years. Maybe things would be different here in Long Beach if I was from here, or had gone to school here.) I’m a planner, though, and I hate, hate, hate this uncertainty. I want to be able to put the move on my calendar and make to-do lists.
That said, we don’t always get what we want (and I’m pretty sure it builds character when that is the case). E.g. my yellow crookneck squash has blossom end rot. This is, apparently, not uncommon. I’m not too alarmed by this, as the squash has been producing for several weeks now and we’ve gotten a great return on the initial investment of money and time. Two of the plants are looking really unhealthy and brittle and brown, and those plants have the fruits with the most rot. I’m thinking about pulling those out and seeing if the eggplants below them are still viable.
When I realized how lengthy the productive lifetime of squash was, I transplanted one of the eggplants to an empty spot in Bed Three where there was formerly lettuce. It’s hanging on, I’m pleased to report.
Our weather is finally warming up, so I hope some of my many tomatoes will start ripening. I ripped out a broccoli plant that was crowding the tomatoes and the condition of the tomato plants instantly improved (leaves went from yellow back to green). On a related note, my okra, melon, and tomato plants I’m growing from seed have all grown noticeably in the past couple of weeks.
Regarding the squash, I’ve been reading about blossom end rot, and apparently it can be a result of erratic watering (yeah, that’s me) or poorly draining soil, both of which make the plants unable to get enough calcium. I planted Bed Two in a way to maximize the amount of food grown in a finite amount of space, and while it’s been very productive, I don’t plan on retrying this strategy unless I find myself living somewhere with extremely limited garden space. I really had no idea how large the squash and broccoli plants would get. I recently discovered mushrooms growing beneath the squash, which, while they are adorable, probably signify that there could be better drainage and air circulation under there.
For my next garden, I envision long strips of soil where I can grow multiple kinds of squashes and broad leafy plants like broccoli and collards neatly, with space between them and underneath them. I’d also like to dig out the entire area in which I want to garden, and then build up raised beds. Having grass between and surrounding Beds Two and Three has been difficult. It is constantly encroaching from the outside and erupting from beneath. One of my two tubs of potatoes went through a sad change where all the potatoes died and lots of grass replaced them. The other tub is still hanging on, kind of. I wish it would just blossom already. Although maybe I should rip out the grass more frequently (I cleared out all encroaching grass last Wednesday and it’s back already). *shakes fist at grass*
Something else I plan to do differently in the future is successively planting lettuce and other quick-growing crops, which can theoretically be done by planting seeds and seedlings simultaneously and planting more seeds every couple of weeks until they quit germinating. We had far more lettuce than I knew what to do with (and that was after giving bagfuls to the neighbors), and then it was all gone to seed and rotting in the ground and I’m back to buying organic Romaine at the farmers’ market for $2 a head. I pulled up all but two plants and am planning to save seeds from the lettuce now that it has flowered. I was keeping some collards in the ground to go to seed, too, but they got so giant and messy I ripped all of them out, after which I finally had several poppies bloom (and in several different colors). I have one broccoli plant that is flowering that I think I’ll keep in the ground for purposes of seed collection. I’m very close to ripping out the other broccoli plants, since they are huge and I’m only getting like, two one-centimeter florets off them every other day.
When I was cutting the grass away from Bed Two by hand last Wednesday I found a fully grown cucumber, which was exciting. The corn and green beans are also doing wonderfully. These things, of course, are (either naturally or with help) growing vertically, so they’re not dealing with the same kind of issues as the squash and broccoli. I planted bush beans as well as pole beans this spring, and the beans-per-square foot yield one gets from pole beans is far superior to that of bush beans. The pole bean plants just keep growing as long as there is something to climb, the bush bean plants seem to stop just before (or, in one case, after) they fall over. (I know, everyone knows this. I’d read it in several books. I’m just one of those people who learns by doing.)
Problems aside, I’m really glad I have almost a year of experimental gardening under my belt. I feel like I’ve learned a ton and am actually starting to build a foundation for the horticultural knowledge I’ll keep gathering over the years. I’m excited to plan a new garden for our new space, whenever we get there. I am also kind of addicted to the feeling I get when I step into the yard to get something for dinner – I feel so productive and connected to my environment, and more than a little bit proud.
(Sorry about the photos. I’ve been fighting WordPress to get non-blurry images in every imaginable way this morning – manually resizing and uploading, using different photographic devices, etc. and it’s just not happening.)