Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gardening: Not for the faint of heart

In my last post, you got a taste of the frustration I've been having with my garden.  This is the first time I've ever planted a garden.  I planted lettuce, basil, oregano, parsley, chives, cilantro, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.

I've always wanted to plant a garden.  Growing up my grandmother had the BIGGEST garden.  She had this big fenced in yard and all the way around the perimeter of the yard were rows and rows of vegetables.  She grew lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, herbs galore, and even pumpkins!  She probably grew more than that but those are the things I remember because those are the things I would eat.  I have fond childhood memories of my family frying up zucchini blossoms, getting my picture taken atop a human sized pumpkin, eating entire cucumbers sliced up with seasoning salt, having to give up my pet ducks because they were eating her lettuce... needless to say I miss my grandmother very much.  If it weren't for her I might have never developed a passion for food, let alone planted a garden.

The first thing I learned about gardening is that you have to be patient.  If you've ever met me, you know that patience is not a virtue of mine.  If you had told me in the beginning that I would plant this stuff in April and not start reaping the benefits 'til July I may have never planted at all!

But I planted.  And I waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  A few weeks ago I got excited when my first tomatoes popped up.  Little did I know that it would be three more weeks before they actually ripened.  Around this same time I had beautiful lettuce that we were eating.  My pepper plants also started blossoming and pretty soon I had 5 peppers growing.

Then the trouble started.  My tomatoes started coming up with end rot.  I have been told this is a very common problem, yet no one I know has ever had it.  First it was just one or two, so I chalked it up to overwatering.  Two weeks later I've thrown away like eight tomatoes.  Eight beautiful tomatoes that I waited two months for, just so they could be fed to the squirrels.  Then, a couple days ago, one of my peppers fell to the same fate!  Meanwhile, my cucumber plants were taunting me with yellow blossom after yellow blossom and not a single fruit.

That was it, I'd had enough.  I marched my way to the nursery where I'd bought all my plants and asked what gives.  A quick consultation revealed that I had a calcium deficiency in my soil.  Which can be fixed by adding calcium.  Seriously?  That's it?  You mean if I had done this two weeks ago I would be eight tomatoes and one pepper richer?  I also bought some organic fertilizer, which apparently I should have been using all along.  Who knew they even made organic fertilizer?  Not the rookie over in this corner.

When I went out to apply the above mentioned products, I got a little piece of mind.  Two tomatoes were FINALLY ready to pick!  At last, my bounty was here!

In the spirit of picking, I also decided to pick this guy before he rotted like his brethren.

And last but certainly not least, while I was lifting the cucumber leaves to lay down the fertilizer, I found this little guy!  He may be tiny, but he's proof that I'm not a total failure as a gardener.
It may seem silly to you, but when I found this cucumber I totally geeked out.  It made my day.  I even forced my husband to come outside and look.  I'm smiling just thinking about it.

Once the excitement settled a bit, I started to worry.  I was excited now but this cucumber still had a long way to go.  What if a squirrel or rabbit came in the middle of the night and ate my cucumber? (yes I really thought this and even posed the question aloud to my mother)  I mean, he was only two inches long and about a centimeter wide, so clearly he was vulnerable.

Well, upon inspection this morning, to my delight, not only did my cucumber survive the night, but I found TWO MORE!

If you've ever seen a cucumber plant you know they are very viney and covered with huge leaves.  Finding a cucumber is like finding an egg on Easter.  You know it's there, you just have to search for it.

It's too soon to tell if the calcium and fertilizer will fix my garden's ailments but I have a feeling that things are about to turn around.  I can't wait to to see what next week brings.  No seriously.  I can't wait. Waiting is the hardest part.


  1. That is the cutest little girl! What wonderful memories you have of your grandmother. She would have had so much fun watching you grow your first garden. Hope you have found the cure for end rot. I think I had the same problem many years ago with one of my first gardens too, but we didn't know how to fix it. Looking forward to updates on your garden.

  2. Oh mylanta - I loved this post (yes I am a 70 year Quaker with my lame-o sayings)

    I am so glad your patience and persistence is paying off. And it'll get easier I mean at least you'll know what to expect. Whenever I do something the first time it always seems so much more difficult because you literally are just "winging it"

    I am about to make your blubbery muffins in a minute :) I can't wait~

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  4. Katie, Start composting, and your garden will improve year after year. Egg shells in the compost should help with the calcium deficiency, although understandably you probably won't be in your current house long-term.