Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Winners & One Big Weird Loser

When things go wrong in the garden, it's hard to explain the disappointment. It's not quite like if your child or even your dog were suddenly ill. No, nothing like that at all. But it's not quite as insignificant as a failed pie crust or accidentally overcooked fish. Those are easy disappointments...simply pour your guests a little more wine and all will be forgiven (if not forgotten). No. When something goes wrong in the garden, it's somewhere in between. It's like ruining the pie and then being told that, as a consequence, you can't have pie for another year. Mild horror could ensue (depending on your sweet tooth), followed by a heaviness that feels better, only momentarily, after stomping your foot a few times. Then there's a mad dash to research books and raid the internet, trying to find out what you did wrong, how you can fix it...can you fix it?...And you try to save it, but sometimes, the opportunity is just gone.

That's how I feel about my tomatoes. It seems that there is something wrong with the soil. A bacterial wilt issue. How? Why? When? It's not the end of the world...the plants aren't dead. They're just SLOW. And a little brown. And not all that happy. And we can't plant tomatoes in that patch for 4 to 5 years. So I will not be presenting my coworkers with any three pound heirloom tomatoes this year, or leaving little paper bags full of cherry tomatoes for the neighbors. I will savor each one of my skimpy bounty. I will supplement with the farmers market and try not to feel bitter. And in the meantime, I will celebrate what IS working in the garden.
Speaking of which, these hollyhocks are WORKING. For the last three years, I've tried to grow hollyhocks from seed. And they've sort of worked. Sort of. Except for all the weeds surrounding them, tangling their roots, preventing them from ever getting much taller than my knees. This year we decided to mulch the flower beds and it was a life changing experience. Mulch is a miracle that keeps weeds from growing so that your plants can actually, just, GROW, and not get all buried in the ivy monster like they have in previous years. And this year they are growing and growing, taller than the broccoli, taller than the rhododendron...
And they are just getting started! Just look at all these future budlets, just waiting to burst forth with their papery fuschia petals and mesmerizing stamens.
Taller, of course, than the hollyhocks is the single mammoth sunflower that has taken off like a rocket. It's currently about 6'5" and still growing, its stem as thick and strong as a tennis racquet (the handle part anyway). It's funny...there's another mammoth sunflower on the opposite side of the yard, but it's only at about 4 feet. It's in a slightly shadier patch, but isn't it interesting what a difference an extra hour of daily sun can make?
And here it is from down below, all overexposed so that you can see the large leaves against the sky. In this photo I especially love that you can't see the top, so it's easy to imagine it just keeps going and going, like Jack and the Beanstalk. (Cue Sondheim theater nerd reference: There are Giants in the Sky....)
Is Sondheim a good transition to melons? Why not! In the photo above I present to you the most darling thing in our yard right now. A tiny little watermelon! It's so darling, in fact, that I'm honestly scared that jackals are going to come steal it at night. Or someone will step on it or hit a croquet ball right into it and there will be some sort of Humpty Dumpty-esque accident. It's just so....cute! And it's the only one, and we've never successfully grown watermelons before. So, you know, I'm feeling protective. Say a little fruity prayer for this one because we really like him.
And here, a major success story...the pepper plant that we brought indoors last year. It's alive in a BIG way. Look at all of these peppers! It's laden with them! Although I must point out that we tried to eat one earlier this week and it was a little...funky. It smelled hot but it wasn't. The skin was a bit chewy. It was a bit bitter. I dunno, but something wasn't quite right. So, Frankenpepper lived to tell the tale, but he was never quite the same. (I feel like there's a lesson to be learned in this...maybe about cloning. Listen up, future! Some things are better left un-messed with!)

Note also in the above photo just how damn much is going on. There's a basil plant right below the peppers, a strawberry plant to its left, cucumbers behind it, a big sunflower leaf overhead...madness! Once again, we've let things get a little out of control.
And because it wouldn't be a KYP blog post without something shameful, it is now time to present to you the biggest weirdest loser of them all: this corn. I mean, jeez!!! What is HAPPENING here? It's like a vitamin deficient old man! One of those old skeezers that has like three strands of hair that he keeps real long and combs over his bald head...hygiene be damned, he's going out on the town!

Every year we check the seed packet to make sure we're not actually growing horse feed, and every year the corn still grows like this. What is UP with that?

Well, clearly we have a lot to learn. And we've been very lucky, despite our tomato issues and terminally ill corn. A cucumber beetle scare last week seems to have passed (knock on wood), and there's still hope for the carrots and the onions. But you never know what potential disaster or enormous success is waiting around the corner. Each day is so emotional! Such an adventure! It's really shocking sometimes--almost embarrassing--when I look out into our yard and realize how much I care.


  1. I'm right there with you, with every wilted plant I cringe and obsess, and plan what I will do right/differently next year.

  2. that watermelon is the cutest thing i have ever seen. also, your corn is CREEPY. i vote you use it as a halloween decoration!

  3. Seriously, that corn is WEIRD. Is it, like, inbred?

    The tomato story made me so sad. But then I thought about the Hollyhocks, which always remind me of Mom, and I also thought about how I don't actually like gardening myself, and I wasn't sad anymore. At least your garden looks gorgeous!

  4. Nicole, do you remember last year when we drew a face with sharpie on the single weird corn that we grew? I actually just found him recently. He was all dried out on a tray in our liquor cabinet (go figure) and he basically WAS a Halloween decoration.

  5. Save some of the hollyhock seeds for me, ok? They are beautiful. Now, the corn....don't send any of those nasty kernals. It would be shameful to propagate more of those. Actually, we have had similar looking corn in our garden.