Skip to content

Spare Parts Keep the Garden Up and Running

June 27, 2009


A view of my side yard “edible estate” today reveals hedges of tomatoes and beans, thatches of herbs, various peppers, and an odd selection of things holding up tomato cages. A three-tined spade fork, the graceful arch of a shepherd’s crook, the two halves of an adjustable closet clothes rod, and several dark green metal fence posts stick up from the mass of green that is my summer garden. I almost discarded several of these items last winter. Good thing the packrat prevailed.

The garden started slowly this year. We both had beans in, but John across the street said he wasn’t planting his tomatoes until Easter. It just always works for him, he said. I thought that seemed too late, and his reasoning had religious undertones I didn’t want to fool with, so I planted earlier when the weather seemed nice enough. By May 1 my tomatoes were no farther ahead than his, because while he planted once, I planted twice, replacing several frost-damaged plants, and the soil had been too cool for the rest of them to be happy outdoors that early. Oh, well. Christianity or not, that holiday (what was the pagan version it replaced?) is a good demarcation for happy gardening here in North Texas.

My tomatoes are now heavy with fruit, huge, and growing all directions. Without the aid of the assorted objects listed above, they would be leaning drunkenly in their cages. Last year I had to search for the few fruits that emerged after I pollinated them myself with a cotton swab. The eggplants are also the opposite of last year. Then, I had purple abundance draped around the garden, three plants produced many bushels of the orbs; this year I have so far had only two flowers set fruit. The plants I bought from my local garden center look like normal eggplants, sans fruit. The contents of one bedding plant pot from Home Depot are turning into two huge-leafed bushes that don’t even have flowers. They are mutant elephant-eared aubergine leaves on compressed stems and branches. Only the Swiss chard leaves are larger. Eggplant and chard are old friends and I will manage to get a crop of some kind.

I’m growing corn this year for the first time, so I’ve planted a small patch, just for learning how to grow corn. It is clustered in a corner of the garden, not in a row (better for pollination, I am told). The worms have already discovered my knee-high plants and I have to research corn pests. I figured out how to turn away the caterpillars on my own. After BT didn’t work fast enough last week I manually removed the worms I could reach (and I squeezed a few stalks to kill those I couldn’t) and I’ve dusted with diatomaceous earth (DE) just for the annoyance factor if for no other repellant reason. They are growing again. A friend tells me there is a trick with mineral oil and to watch out for ear borers of some sort. It can be a knock-down drag-out struggle to get vegetables to the table sometimes.

One afternoon's work in last year's garden. I'm learning to can; lots went into the big freezer.


That said, my windowsill is filling with ripening tomatoes, and peppers and bush beans are in bowls in the fridge. There is a bin full of drying onions in the hall. I pull up carrots as needed from under some of the tomato plants. All of the lush color and shapes are beautiful and on their own are a work of art. I produced a print document at work several years ago for a program about Old World plants in the desert Southwest, and used the author’s huge vegetable still life painting for the illustration. I am not a painter; for my artistry my tools are the spade and the camera, and I am pleased that my crop is one that can happily satisfy both palette and palate.

Coming up: clotheslines and bug sex.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: