I haven’t given a gahden update in a little while, mostly because I was between crises and not near to harvesting anything. So what’s the fun in reporting on that? For the flowers, I lost the petunia battle against the evil budworms, but I may have won the war. After my first description of clearing out the varmints, they launched 2 more attacks, and I couldn’t keep up, so I just let them eat all the flowers. The hummingbird did not seem interested anyway, and the stems and leaves are still a lively green. They are a delight to look at, as long as you don’t look too closely — you’ll get an view full of the worm poop. Bastids.
But then I realized I’d pulled a mom move on them. “You ate all the flowers and there are no more coming. And this is why we can’t have nice things.” Turns out the way to get rid of them is let them eat themselves out of house and flower. Although, recently there was one lone flower blooming on the end. I noticed there was a hole in it, and sure enough, there was a little worm hiding his sorry ass under the bloom. I did enjoy plucking him off and sending him to his death. No nice things for you. Bastid.
As for the tomatoes, even though my gardening friend Becky made sure to give me an early blooming variety this year, it’s late August and I have nary a ripe tomato to show for it. Half the plants (including that early one, I’m guessing) were in arrested development through July. Becky and I puzzled over the 3 that weren’t dying, but they weren’t thriving either. With no signs of bugs or disease, Becky was stumped. Finally, I understood why the master gardener couldn’t solve the mystery. It was user error — me. I did that bad gardener thing I had been warned not to; I reused the pots and soil from last year. Apparently tomatoes are nutrient hogs, so I basically put them in with nothing to snack on — no wonder they were just sitting there in their hand-me-downs. I usually only have 3 plants, but since I got 6 this year, the extra ones got new pots had new soil and they were fine. COVID prevented me from getting the fertilizer sooner, but once I did the late bloomers continues on their way. I’m just hoping I get some tomatoes from them before October. Now I have 6 wild, bushy top-heavy plants, with a fair number of green tomatoes.
Before I left on vacation I had two huge green tomatoes, and I thought by the time I got back they might be ripe. When I got back, I went out to water them and noticed the two tomatoes had been cleanly picked. I will confess, despite how nice my neighbors are, I seriously considered one of them had picked the tomatoes while I was gone, or one of the their kids did, even though all the kids are under the age of 2. Babies can be deceptively dexterous. I mean, what other animals can cleanly pick a big tomato off the vine? Squirrels would have gnawed the tomato on the plant or cause some other mayhem. Cats don’t like tomatoes, and dogs aren’t that neat. Then as I turned back the apartment, I saw this sad mess on the back steps.
Then I remembered that we’ve been having raccoon issues. One considerately left a dead, half-eaten squirrel under our back porch. Raccoons have those creepy hand-like paws, and this one had already shown he eats half of stuff and throws the rest away. So I’m pretty sure he was the culprit. Hopefully he will consider all the varieties of cherry tomatoes beneath his notice.
Earlier this month I had plenty of ripe tomato envy as people were posting their red ripe tomato porn all over the internet. But if COVID has taught me anything it’s to not sweat over stuff I can’t control. Or at least not sweat over my rookie gardening mistakes, even though I’ve been growing tomatoes for years now. It’s all about the process, and I am not attached to the outcome. Right?
When that becomes too tall an order, I like to fall back on “shift my focus to the gardening winners.” In this case, it’s the sweet potatoes. Their vines are spreading out happily, and all the animals are leaving them alone. I’m dying to dig in the dirt to see if I won a potato prize, but the longer I wait the bigger they could be. It feels a bit like gambling. I’ve feverishly got my hands on the edge of the pot, eyes glittering, mumbling “hit me again” If I wait another day, week, month, I could win big. Or I could wait that long for containers with just dirt and non-tuberous roots. But every day I don’t dig them up is another chance to win. Let it ride, she said.
The guerrilla sweet potato plants are having a bit of a harder time, since they are not little princesses in a comfy back yard with easy access to water. Of the original 8 planted, 5 are left. 4 of them are like their easy living cousins, happily sending out the vines all over. The 5th one is still small and hanging on. I try to water them when I can, as we’ve had so little rain. They are drought resistant, and were OK during the first week I was away on vacation. I got a little too relaxed (“they’re fine!”) and didn’t water them until late in the second week of vacation and they were definitely drooping. That was the day I learned the thin line between “drought resistant” and “drought proof.”
The other winner is the basil plant. I started it from seed this winter, which I am ridiculously proud of, and have made 2 batches of pesto so far. I’m already plotting how to bring it in for the winter to do my pesto bidding for months to come. “Come closer, my dear.”
And that’s about it. I’ll wait for the tomatoes, make another batch of pesto, and eye those sweet potato vines possessively and whisper, “mama needs a new set of spuds.”