First Garden Post-Mortem, Amateur Status Safe

The past few weeks have severely tested my newbie gardener perseverance, sense of humor, dedication, patience, hidden talent for recovery, and sense of humor. Did I mention sense of humor? Twice, eh? Yeah, I figured.

staghorn sumac after a royal cat-chewing

Staghorn sumac is broken a bit but even more determined to grow after having acted as a morning snack for Growler, our elder cat.

I may have hinted at a few of the challenges Gaia has thrown at my usually barefoot feet – climbing heat, choking humidity, winds that threaten to remove roof tiles, more humidity, cloudbursts (which should be welcome in this drought, but did not much more than hammer my outdoor plants into pulp).

First Garden Harvest Post-Mortem

I think we got a total of

  • five yellow squash, before the plants went belly-up and “icky,”
  • two Roma tomatoes, and we may get more still,
  • three scared-looking stems of parsley,
  • more basil than I’ll use this century, and
  • what may or may not turn out to be jalapenos.

The potato bin yielded two inch-long gutted shells of potato that were probably the thingies I planted to get potato vines. No taters.

The cauliflower produced a dozen Great Big Green leaves on rangy stalky stems – but nothing resembling any cauliflower I’ve ever seen.

The beefsteak tomato vines produced lots and lots and lots of vines and leaves, some flowers, no tomatoes at all.

The spinach plants produced strange Martian-looking weedy stems, each bearing one solitary anemic leaf. Well, it was called “Space Hybrid” after all.

The orange mint is doing fine. The more I ignore it, the more it grows. If I leave town for a week, it’ll co-opt the rest of the dining room and take control of the pantry before I return. This has nothing to do with my significant gardening skills, and more to do with the fact that this stuff would grow happily in the middle of the fast lane of the 405 Freeway if it had a chance.

The garlic produced nothing.

The clumping green onion produced about 6 clumpy stems without the strength to stand up on their own.

The tamarind trees are growing like they own the place, which they do.

The staghorn sumac is recovering from a morning of being munched upon by Growler, our older cat. Growler shows absolutely no sign of harm, despite being shrieked at to STOP EATING THE TREE! but since she’s nearly deaf of old age, she probably has no clue what I was yelling about.

Garden in my Future

One lovely big bright spot in all this was the arrival of the VegTrug which, thanks to very handy drill skills of my much better half, is now poised on the patio waiting to be scooted into position and filled with fresh gardening soil.

Yet the new garden a la VegTrug is going to have to wait until after Labor Day.

Albert Einstein once said, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Does this mean gardening is an insane venture? Perhaps.

But this time I’m hitting Season Two with more experience, a bit more caution, a bit less raw enthusiasm, and a more refined sense of humor. Definitely got schooled by Mother Nature on this first time around.  I need to learn my lessons, figure out what went wrong with this first gardening effort. Stare at it like a crow on the fencepost, head tilted left then right.

Bottom Line

Next season: Fewer tomato vines (like NONE). More homework. Less chutzpah. I hear there are classes in gardening available online. Maybe I’ll go sign up for one. Maybe that’s not too much of a cop-out either. After all, one cannot be a Renaissance Woman without at least one compass.




First squash harvest crucial to Friday lunch plans

Yellow squash is slightly smaller than a Michener paperback

Our first yellow squash is slightly smaller than a Michener paperback

It is difficult to refer to this morning’s actions as a “harvest.” I picked the one and only yellow squash off the overachieving plant in the sunny former dining room and carried it with way too much pride to the kitchen, where it posed for its last portrait — last because it’s going to turn into lunch shortly.

That’s it, reclining in front of “Mexico” by James A. Michener, a sprawling, complex historical fiction relating the growth of a na— whups, sorry. Seems my Inner Book Critic wants to come out to play.

You may remember my mention of a lack of bees in the house. In their stead, I’ve been watching patiently for “girl” squashes, q-tip in hand, to emulate Gregor Mendel and a whole host of bees, dabbing pollen from the dozens of male fruits onto the rare female blossom. So far, only one has taken. We’re calling her “Baked Squash Lunch”  — or “Lunch” for short.

The half-life of a squash blossom appears to be about five hours. They begin to open just before I wake up… about 5:45 AM.

By the time the sun is hitting the dining room window, they’re fully open and waiting for the bees that never show up. Instead it’s me — groggy, half-awake and suffering from a lack of caffeine.

In about five minutes I check all the open blossoms, q-tip in hand, searching a crop of brilliant yellow for the telltale bulb beneath. One plant can produce both male and female blossoms at the same time, depending on several variables including humidity, sunshine, temperature, and its mood in general.

Female yellow squash blossom

One lone girl, “Yeah, baby!”

Ok, kidding about the mood (maybe), but these are on a macho trend this week – all guys for days, then FINALLY a lone girl, to the tune of wolf whistles and shouts of “Yeah, baby! Let’s see them petals!”

By noon they’ve begun to retire, each furling to form a wilty looking cone. By afternoon, they’ve closed up shop — and by nightfall, they’re history.

If one “takes,” then we’ll have squash for lunch again someday. If not, then there’s always the supermarket less than a mile away.