Seedlings on the Rise

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Yesterday I managed to plant some lettuce, arugula and beets. Due to our Mother’s Day activities I had to get to the garden beds late in the day. I ran out of time to plant carrots. The garlic is going gangbusters and the spinach is leafing out nicely.

Inside, tomatoes and peppers and basil are reaching for the sun in the windows. Onions and leeks are ready to get outside. Things are growing nicely.

I am a little behind since I want to spread some beneficial nematodes. My official workplace is right near a garden supply store where I can order some of these handy microscopic critters, but since I usually work out of my home, I have not had the chance to get there in far too long. Before I plant cucumbers and pumpkins and melons I would prefer to work on reducing the cucumber beetle situation. I am not fond of those attractive little pests. They do a number on the fruiters.

This year I have planted a good number of flowers, however. Sunflowers and bulbs and annuals. I don’t usually get to those so I can say I am proud of myself for that. Every year I have the ambition to keep up with all the amazing landscaping that came with the house. That has not happened. Maybe this year. But don’t hold your breath. Of course, I would not recommend holding your breath for much, except maybe the paper mill in Rumford, Maine, so maybe that advice isn’t worth much.

I hope this week to make more progress on the nematodes and then the rest of the crops. And the garden will grow.

Stuff I’ve Noticed Recently

I hung up a bunch of old CD’s recently  over some garden beds, to keep out the birds.  This morning I looked out the window to see a robin pecking at the dirt at the edge of one of those beds.  Then it hopped right over the bed.  It nearly got clocked by the spinning disk.  It worked last time.

Our dishwasher has a whole slew of adjustable bars and rods, the better to efficiently stack all one’s dishware and cutlery.  One of them seemed to have lost its adjustability recently.  It flopped.  I removed it today to find that it had rusted right through.  The little rod was pointy, yet crumbly, with rust.  I took out one half and wrestled with the second for a while before deciding to leave it for tomorrow.  I figured a dishwasher is for lazy people anyway so I had good reason to be lazy with that task.

Our neighbors have a small pond, just over our property line.  What its intended use what I can’t say.  It doesn’t seem to get much human use at all–no swimming, no irrigation, no livestock watering.  It just sits there, leaking onto our side, home for ducks and frogs.  The bullfrogs are especially loud these days.  The groan and croak at all hours, but seem to especially like the hours just after dark.  All of us pretend to respond to them now and again.  Cracks us right up.

For Father’s Day I got a book of crossword puzzles.  I am pretty hooked on crossword puzzles and have been working my way through a book of 200 of them from the New York Times.  This new book is a little different.  One of the clues was this:  Royal mistake maker.  The answer?  Dumbshit.  Cracked me right up.

We have been watching old science fiction movies lately.  You know, the classics.  The Day the Earth Stood Still, for example.  Last night we watched the original 1950’s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  It was pretty well done, eerie and even a little scary, but not gore-filled.  All of these movies have the year listed on the sleeve from Netflix.  Last night’s said 1956, but when the film opened it said 1955.  The other films have had this same one year discrpancy.  My guess is the the film posts the copyright date and Netflix notes the date the film actually was released.  I guess they used to do things a little slower back then.

We went up the road this afternoon to pick up our share of produce.  This was given to us as a gift again at Christmas.  Great gift.  As we walked out to the field to pick strawberries, the children found a mud puddle.  Well, maybe puddle isn’t quite right.  It was a mud puddle and had become a thick bowl of muddy paste.  The children were wearing mud boots so of course they slopped about in it until their footwear was gray and wet.  They had a blast.  Then they sat in their dirty boots and ate all the strawberries we picked while I picked some daisies to bring home.

The cucumber beetles are starting to hatch.  I have been slow to attend to them.  I hope to get some Neem and see what that does.  I have heard good things about it, that it makes the beetles go away.  I want them to go away.  I picked one off a pumpkin plant today and slayed it.  They are beautiful little bugs.  And I want them to live far away from here.  I want some cucumbers this year, dammit.

Garden Woes

Ready for Planting

Ready for Planting

We started our garden at the house in which we now live in 2007.  That garden was limited.  We dug up some lawn and gathered some compost and got going.  We planted tomatoes and carrots and lettuce, pumpkins and strawberries.  Last year we expanded, adding more compost and digging more beds.  This is year three.  That first summer we had no problems at all.  Everything grew like gangbusters.  Now the troubles have started.

One mistake was getting compost from a new source last year.  It was filled with weeds and contained the larvae of cucumber beetles.  Cucumber beetles eat the roots of young plants and then, after they hatch, eat the leaves of the same plants.  I have had to replant zucchini and yellow squash and cucumbers, and the melons are pretty much bumming.  I have done nothing yet to get rid of them this spring so our problems persist.  I thought turning the soil late in the fall would help.  I turned it all again early in the spring.  No dice with that simple plan.

I planted peas for the first time this year.  They started off well but now the rabbit that hangs out in the woods has discovered the plants.  It keeps whittling them down to nubbins.  The pea plants are no taller than they were six weeks ago.  Then our cuddly friend discovered the carrots and the lettuce.  The little pecker is nibbling down our salads.  And a squirrel is eating our strawberries.  These critters are killing me.

I planted popcorn today.  Last year I had to plant corn three times.  The first time the turkeys ate the sprouts just as they emerged.  Then the crows did the same after I put up a scarecrow (can you say misnomer?).  Finally I hung a string across the bed with old CD’s hanging from it.  Those spinning reflectors kept the birds away.  I hope that this trick will keep them away again.  The popcorn was one of our best crops last year.

At this point the onions, at least the ten out of 26 that survived (no idea what was up with that) are healthy.  The leeks (except for the handful some crazy bird yanked out but left on the soil) are shooting up, and the pumpkins are spreading.  The tomatoes and peppers (planted a few days ago) are still alive but my optimism is wavering.  We will have some food out of this endeavor but not as much as we might.

I’m not all that upset, really.  I am disappointed, of course, but not upset.  This gardening adventure is about persistence over the long term.  I planted red zebra tomatoes the first summer.  They grew well but were not the sweetest.  I may plant them again as sauce tomatoes, or I might consider trying to grow them over a few years to breed sweeter fruit, but I learned that another variety might be better.  I also have not had much luck with melons.  They need warm weather and lots of it.  The beetles snacking on them don’t exactly help.  So melons will require much more trial and error (hopefully with diminishing error).

I have had luck with seeds I saved for peppers and pumpkins.  I will try more of that this year.  I like the idea of keeping the cycle going–planting seeds from plants that grew the previous year, then doing that again.  It is amazing that it works at all.  Plant a few seeds and they grow into plants that provide food?  That is plain old miraculous, really.

So I do what I can to keep things growing.  I weed and water and hang old computer discs.  I need to get on the cucumber beetles.  They haven’t hatched yet, but I know they won’t wait for an invitation to sit down to dinner on my cucumbers.  Their social graces, it seems, are less than refined.