I knew it would happen – only a matter of time, really. CRITTERS IN MY GARDEN!
Thursday, I found animal tracks (looked like the fox, and perhaps a good-sized raccoon) as well as flea beetles on the tater plants and a lone cucumber beetle on one of the cukes. An aphid on a tomato plant! Spittle bugs on my green-headed coneflowers! Oh noes!!
Well, here is where we put the companion plants to the test. I hadn’t yet strewn marigolds throughout the garden to mitigate bugs, but there are a bunch now. I’m putting in Even More Onions, nestled next to rows of collards, mustard greens, rutabagas and whatnot. I put a radish in each of the cucumber and potato hills to see if it would, indeed, act as a delicious trap/repellent. So far, I’m not seeing a vast amount of insect damage – just their simple presence and a couple of holes.
Except on one of the rhubarb plants, which has a huge, gaping hole in one leaf:
I couldn’t find the little dickens who did it, so maybe it has moved on. And maybe I’m an Albanian jet pilot. We have a metric plethora of frogs and toads about, as well as insect-eating birds and bats – for once, I hope the predators win.
Another huge garden invader is Bell – the cute, busy little dog – who slips under the fence and stomps up and down the rows in search of toads, grass, bunnies, mice, who knows what. She doesn’t care about the plants, doesn’t even notice them. This is frustrating. Mike is going to place some raised beds outside the fence at her usual entry points to help deter her.
In other news, I was a planting fool yesterday! Largely because I didn’t want to be a weeding fool, mind you, but still – stuff Got Done. Bush beans, collards, kale, rutabagas, more cabbage, onions, watermelon, winter squash, black-eyed peas, and maybe some other stuffs. We’re so close to having everything done for the first planting! Mike Neir is building me another nice raised bed, so I can get the spinach, and other tasty green things in – yes, a bit late, but better than never. I hope. Things may insta-bolt from the hot weather, but we shall see.
Here’s a shot from Friday, before a bunch more rows of seeds went in, but it gives a pretty good idea (and also a nice shot of our neighbor’s house >.<) – this is about half of the garden space, total.
As I may have mentioned before, this year is not about The Perfect Garden – this year is a learning process, a “getting to know how to garden” time, a “yup, I’ll do this differently next year” experience. Next year – more raised beds, earlier mulch, better planting scheme, better watering scheme.
Currently, watering the garden is a nightmare, a menace, a horror. dragging the hose around, in betwixt and over the rows is not only unfun, but tends to damage the plants, too. I’ve seen little black plastic reel-type things that one can place at the ends of rows to help keep hoses off plants, but I’m not 100% convinced that would be enough here. I’ll figure out as I go along. I’ll also have a better idea of which plants need what space. Currently, I’m loosely following the seed catalogue, but only relatively loosely.
Too, I’ll be able to more quickly identify the weeds from the seedlings – this year, I’ve been waiting for seeds to sprout and grow a few days before pulling any weeds near where I’ve planted for fear of yanking out something precious. Hence, The Carrot/Weed Problem noted yesterday. Weeds grow a hell of a lot faster than veggies do, man. With things like the pea plants, though, I realized I had this very clear memory from when I was a little girl about what a pea sprout looks like as soon as I saw one. It’s got a very distinctive color and shape – how could I have forgotten that?
I love pea plants. I love their leaves, their color, their exploring little tendrils, reaching out to grab ahold of whatever they can find.
The cheater collards and kale (“cheater” meaning I bought started sets for an earlier yield – I put my own seeds in yesterday) are doing quite well, despite being beset upon from all sides by the advancing weeds, and despite my having abandoned the planting map I made before everything in flats was dying in the scorching heat a couple of weeks ago, despite twice-daily waterings. Everything was wilting within hours, so I just threw it into the ground as quickly as I could. Most made it, a few didn’t.
I have essentially lined up a total feast for the insects who prey upon green leafy things, sticking them between potatoes and peppers. Crossing my fingers they won’t get decimated.
I’m guessing these will be difficult for the critters to resist, as they mature.
The broccoli in the raised beds are doing very well. I have two cheater plants that are enormous, and even my own sad little seedlings are starting to catch up.
My lettuce seedlings have caught up to the two red cheater lettuces, and are starting to surpass them, even. All the rain is making them very happy, and I figure all the compost in the soil is, too.
A few days ago, when I offered up a succulent leaf of lettuce to Mike Neir, one of the first tiny harvests from the garden, he asked:
“Lettuce!” I replied with pride.
“Isn’t it supposed to be bigger? I thought lettuce was bigger.”
No more fresh garden lettuce for Mike Neir.
Although, he did build me an herb bed off the deck. Maybe he can be redeemed, after all.
Cutting the boards on an angle required math, and he knew just the math it needed, which was pretty sexy. I suppose I’ll keep feeding him.
We’ll get a few raspberries this year, if the birds don’t get them first, but the blueberry outlook isn’t so hot. Several clusters like these on the raspberries, though:
Sally, one of our neighbors, had suggested nailing up white plastic shopping bags around the garden fence as a deer deterrent. As the breeze blows, they inflate and make unpredictable noises. Thus far, it seems to be working quite well, but I suspect soon, once the succulent green things are bigger and smellier, they will come on over to the banquet, bags blowing and rustling in the breeze or no. I’ll need that deer netting up – which is more Work, holy cow.
Speaking of plant smells, I so adore the smell of tomato plants. Granted, it’s probably a defense mechanism, since they tend to put off the smell more strongly when disturbed, but it still smells like summer and green succulence.
Several tomato plants have put out flowers, and one early, ambitious youngster (a June Pink plant) is already setting fruit:
One thing we are very very good at growing on the unlikely homestead is grass. Holy cow, there is grass everywhere. Persistent grass. Fertile grass. Grass with rhizomes that extend as far and as deep as the eye can see. It worms and weasels its way everywhere. It resists pulling by breaking into tiny bits that just spawn more. It is Hydra grass, I’m telling you.
The flowers and plants around the yard are busily growing and flowering, too, which is a treat; last spring, we didn’t get to see the early blossoms since we bought the house in July. It’s very neat to see the springtime stuffs, including these peonies:
It took quite a few shots to get a white peony in direct light to expose properly, but I like this one.
We’ve had buckets and buckets of rain lately, a lot of it storming torrentially in, leaving standing water everywhere. Much more, and I’ll begin to worry about the plants drowning. The garden soil is generally well-draining, but it can only soak up so much. I will be very sad if I lose a bunch of things to too much water – it would somehow be worse than not enough water, because at least I can control how lazy I am about getting out there with the hose. Not much to be done about too much rain, though.
Ok – I have prattled on at length here. Lunch break is over, back to work I go.