Labor Day Garden Roundup

It’s that time of year again — the time to ask “so how did the vegetable garden do?”

Bigger Plot

I moved the garden out of its cute but useless 3×3 “one foot gardening” plot and into a real 4×8 plot along the side of the house.  I was a little worried it wouldn’t get enough sun in that spot but it turns out the fears were unfounded.  The soil drains pretty well and as long as the plants are in raised beds with well fertilized soil, they grow well.  Too well.  Jungle-level well.  

The Plants

2 grape tomatoes — No more cherry or grape tomatoes.  The smallest tomato I will ever grow again is a roma because otherwise the fruit has all kinds of problems at this scale.  First, the plants with plenty of room and plenty of support go absolutely berzerk.  I started cutting them back gently, then cutting them back aggressively, and then hacking at them and they still created an insane mound of tomatoes.  Second, once they start growing they grow so fast they explode.  I was losing half my harvests to overgrowth.  Third, no one eats the grape tomatoes, at least not at the rate they were growing.  I ended up ceasing harvest halfway through the season due to madness.  They are being replaced by two pole bean plants next year.

Grade: D

2 cucumbers — On the other hand, once the cucumbers had running room and plenty of sun, they produced about 70 pickling cucumbers between two vines.  This is an amazing amount of fruit.  We pickled them!  They have come out uniformly delicious.  Next year, they get special fertilizer and their own special trellis to make them even more productive.  The trick is to pick them before they get too huge and seedy.  I was very happy with these plants once they got going.

Grade: A

2 Cherry Bombs — They had plenty of sunlight so they produced and produced and produced and produced.  In fact, they survived the Labor Day takedown of the garden and they are still flowering.  3 straight months of hot peppers.  The only problem — the heat from a cherry bomb requires concentrated cherry bomb action.  One pepper is not enough.  It takes a village.  Eric did make a hot sauce out of them, though.  They’ll be aside the Jalapeños (with a third joining — enough room for 3) next year and kept going from May until first fall freeze.  I know jalapenos grow pretty well and fresh ones right off the plant have a good bite so we’ll have a variety of heat.

Grade: B+

1 Zucchini — The zucchini experiment was a disappointment.  One must grow a minimum of 2 zucchini plants because they do not self-pollinate!  At all!  Who knew, except for the entire Internet?  Will add a second zucchini because I greatly desire pickled zucchini relish.  The plants get pretty big and the number of flowers on the plant tells me if it could have pollinated it would have produced so many zucchinis I would have been breaking into people’s cars and leaving them baskets.  This is a state I greatly desire — overenthusiastic zucchinis.

Grade: B

1 Medium Yellow Sweet Pepper — An experiment.  Didn’t produce until late August and then was uprooted by the hurricane.  The few peppers we got off it were uninspired.  Will not repeat.

Grade: F

1 Small Red Pepper — See above.  Will be replaced by hot pepper plants.

Grade: F

1 Asparagus — Who knows?  It’s ENORMOUS.  HOWEVER, one cannot harvest the shoots until the second year of growth so it’s just been sitting out there merrily growing.  I had no idea an asparagus gets so huge.  Doesn’t look like it needs a mate or anything.  The plan right now is to carefully move it out of its corner to the original 3×3 box so it can just sort of grow and replace its spot with 2 zucchinis.  I hope to know what home grown Asparagus tastes like.

Grade: I (for incomplete)

Next year, the tomatoes and miscellaneous peppers get replaced by pole beans and more hot peppers.  The pole beans and the cucumbers will have dedicated climbing trellises.  And we might plant hops (!) in a new box!  

So, way better than last year, and will be much better next year.

I Hate Deer

I have declared jihad on my deer.

On Saturday we went up to Lowes and bought this stuff called Deer Off. A nice lady working at Lowes wanted to be helpful but got scared when faced with my wrath and hatred upon the deer. She fled when I started trying to make all deer worldwide explode with my mind. I hate the damn deer.

I took it home and this stuff is the foulest, nastiest, most awful stuff in the history of mankind. It’s basically coagulated deer blood and it comes out of the bottle in concentrate. Lumpy. It is a sort of brain-puree pinkish color. The smell is something to believed — it’s easily the most foul stuff I have ever contacted and I have wiped many a dirty diaper full of baby butt. It is horrible.

My hatred for the deer saw me through. It was mixed in the spray bottle and put down on my most edible, tasty plants until those suckers were dripping with coagulated deer nasty. One of my roses looked pinkish white when I was done. The entire yard stank of this stuff that claims, oh yes it claims, to dry odorless to humans. I certainly wouldn’t eat anything that smelled like that.

Once I was done, we went off to see Iron Man 2.

When I walked out of Iron Man 2, it was raining.

And to add insult to injury, a deer came along and ate more heads off another day lily. I hate them. I hate them.

Some of them are blooming right now (yay) but I am just furious. God wants the deer to have a buffet. Next up: the hamburger sign with “THIS WILL BE YOU” on it.

Deer Burgers

The deer had yet another buffet last night and ate the buds off two of my day lily plants. Thankfully it looks like they were scared away before they finished their little snack. I am still planning on putting a sign with a picture of a hamburger in my garden to remind them what they are destined to become.

I have coffee grounds to put down around my plants and they are going down tomorrow because they are good for other reasons but does anyone have any anti-deer advice other than sitting on the porch at dawn with a gun? … although venison is mighty tasty. I have to head to Lowes to get a hedge trimmer this weekend so I was looking to pick up some products to spray.

(Note: I have netting around my vegetables to keep the animals out. The netting is very effective but wrapping my whole garden in netting is a little prohibitive.)

Quick Gardening Update

The world is too depressing to blog about and it’s thunderstorming outside, so here’s something real simple: a quick gardening update.

I have a little 3×3 plot for organic vegatable gardening. One of the squares doesn’t get enough sunlight during the day to grow adequately so that leaves me with 8 squares. Last year I had some massive vegatable planting over reach — I tried to start the seeds myself, I started too many seeds, etc. This year I decided on:

– 1 plant/foot.

Now, I am pretty certain if I went for density I could do 2 plants/foot, but this year I am trying careful planting. I bought my plants instead of started them from seeds so I don’t have to deal with hardening the plant. And beside, at Behnke’s, a plant is $1.69. Each plant already has a stake and is tied loosely to its stake to guide it properly as it grows. I have:

– 3 cherry tomato plants, each of different breeds to see how cherry tomatos do.
– 1 hungarian pepper
– 1 regular green pepper
– 1 jalapeño
– 1 cherry bomb pepper
– 1 pickling cucumber

Note the one cucumber. Last year the cucumbers ran amok and I had all cucumbers and nothing else. I had too many cucumber plants. This year, I reduced them by 2/3rds and already staked it so that it cannot go anywhere. Also, no herbs this year. While herbs grow fantastic, really fantastic, unbelievably fantastic, unless you’re really a huge fan of herbs and you cut them constantly, all that happens is they overgrow and overrun and then die.

I was tempted by the eggplant but no one I know eats eggplants. No squash for the same reason. I considered a zucchini but that means a lot of zucchini and I hear they overgrow worse than cucumbers.

We’ll see how this works out. I have serious high hopes for the cherry tomatos. Not only will they get cooked, but they’ll get eaten right off the vine. One thing from my childhood — fresh grown cherry tomatoes off the vine!

Unbelievably Busy Weekend

This weekend I got through…

– Vacuuming the house.

– Doing about seven hours of gardening. This included laying down 2 more bags of mulch, building an entire veggie garden (3×3 raised box), planting 36 vincas, 6 calibrochias, 1 overgrown lantana, 36 carrots, 3 cucumbers (which did not survive I don’t think), 2 tomatos, 2 jalapeno peppers, 2 basils, and 2 cilantro plants.

– Teaching myself enough of the basics of knitting to be truly dangerous.

– Knitting with a basic garter stitch, some boucle and some fun fur 4 feet of fuzzy, goofy scarf for Katie. I just can’t sit and watch a movie.

Meanwhile my parents came over and stripped 90% of the baby wallpaper off the walls in Katie’s room and put up chair rail in preparation of turning it from a nursery to a little girl’s room. This is sort of wimpy but the paper had to come down. Sooner or later, the bears and blocks must be upgraded to bright pink dancing fairies. (Sigh)

I am extremely sore.

Museum and Gardening

We took Katie to the Maryland Science Center on the Inner Harbor on the diagonal on the water from the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The Maryland Science Center is a hand’s on science museum focusing on dinosaurs, general Earth Sciences, Newtonian physics, (incredible amounts of) Biology, Space Sciences in cooperation with NASA and whatever special exhibits they are showing that season — right now, surviving Antarctica. My impressions:

  • Four year old pro-scientists can run free and touch everything. This makes this the best place on the planet.
  • The exhibits were pretty comprehensive.
  • They have a full wet bio lab for kids, but it’s a very much “7 and up,” which made 4 year old who really wanted to wear a lab coat and play with microscopes have a meltdown.
  • I liked the Planetarium.
  • All in all, we will return to the museum. It was accessible from 95, straight forward with parking, and lots of things to mess with. It was about the same size as the National Aquarium, so it’s a 4 hour museum, not a two day mega-haul like Air and Space down on the Mall. I want to look at what the benefits of being a member are and weigh if I want a family membership or not.

    My tiny proto-biologist got out with a Cat in the Hat book that is an introduction to basic human anatomy, a second Cat in the Hat book with an introduction to Space Sciences, and a Discovery DVD on anatomy. (Katie is obsessed with how the human body works, and today’s organ was the lungs.)

    Then I came home to resume my war. My Mom thinks I garden because it’s relaxing. I know I garden because I get to destroy my enemies, the weeds, with extreme justice. I’ve been working on it for the last month and I’ve actually de-garbaged it, pulled weeds, cut back plants, cut back the Rose Bush of Doom, planted more bulbs, and finally started laying down mulch. But right now I am out of mulch so I have been thwarted by reality. I don’t know what annuals are going to go into it this year. I haven’t thought that far. I am thinking things that grow big and aggressively instead of little sedate, timid things. And I am tempted by clematis on the side of the house just to see how insane the vine goes. It will need something to climb…

    I’m doing a very small 3×3 vegetable garden with Katie Rose this year as an experiment in horticulture. It turns out Aerogarden has a vegetable seed-starter kit so we’re doing the daily observer-and-record cycle in the dining room while starting plants from seed. I find that I don’t care if I get a tomato out of it this year or not, but if Katie learns about how plants grow then it’s a score. After the seedlings move outside, the Aerogarden is going to be repurposed for cherry tomatoes.

    It is very clear out so we’ve promised Katie Rose astronomy night. The Dob will go into the driveway and we’ll look at the Moon and see what else we can see…