Friday, August 13, 2010

How to do Everything Wrong in the Garden

It's kind of amazing, looking back, that we have anything growing in our garden at all.  We have done everything imaginable wrong.

You may remember a post early in Spring about starting from seed?  In which I posted a few pictures of our impromptu seed starting station, full of happily sprouting little seedlings?  Well, I promised to post updates about our garden thereafter, but was too depressed to do so, as almost all of our seedlings withered and died.  Most, we now believe, because we just waited to long to transfer them. The sprouts grew big and tall, and then toppled, then shriveled and dried right out.

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The seedlings that survived this first neglect had even worse horrors visited upon them by us amateur gardeners.  We failed to harden off our little upstarts before just leaving them out in the elements, and many were shocked by their first frigid night into committing suicide, or whatever the herbaceous equivalent is.  The tomatoes, previously only exposed to fluorescent light, were scorched by the brilliant sunlight.  Those that had the tenacity to withstand the cold and sunshine, though surely terrified by the treatment they and their fellow sprouts were suffering through, fared better.  But not by much.

For our next trick, we watered our plants when the sun was at its zenith, not realizing that we were splashing water all over the leaves and creating little lenses that literally burned the growing leaves alive.  We almost lost our strawberries to that one, but luckily they regrew from the roots.  Finally, we left on a trip to see family and asked someone to water the plants for us.  However, because we were afraid of being a burden, we only asked them to come by every two or three days.  As you more experienced gardeners will surely already know, we came back to a bone dry desert.

Not all of the destruction was directly our fault, there were pests, parasites and pestilence as well.  Aside from the havoc wreaked by the slugs and the inexplicable deaths that we chalked up to diseases, there was the mysterious case of the disappearing carrot sprouts.  We sowed tons of carrot seeds in a little patch, and every day a few would sprout in the morning. By sunset every single one would be gone.  No slug trails, no shriveled dried out remnants, just an empty patch of dirt.  We couldn't figure out what was going on until one day my cat Whiskey was banging frantically on the glass of the back door. I came over to see what the ruckus was about, and saw a little finch in our carrot patch, hop-hopping around, looking about in that particularly birdy way, and pecking up our carrot sprouts one by one.  Peck peck, hop, look around, hop, peck, until there was nothing left but dirt.  Apparently he was a bit of a sprout connoisseur, because he neglected every other type of sprout in the garden, just ate the carrots and split.

In short, as first time gardeners, Courtney and I unwittingly perpetrated a tiny vegetable holocaust in our little backyard this spring.  We were shamed and saddened by this, of course, but luckily nature's abundance knows no bounds, and there was plenty of summer left for us to give it a second go.

It was too late in the season to start from seed again, so we bought several starts at the Lane County Farmer's Market.  We started watering our plants in the evening exclusively, after all the direct sunlight was past, giving the plants all night to soak up water.  We potted everything, which helped to reduce slug attacks and diseases.  And when we had to make an unexpected trip to Seattle for Family reasons, we were not afraid to ask someone to check on the plants every day.  We are still figuring out how to repay her, perhaps a jar of homemade pesto would do the trick...

I sincerely hope that someone out there can learn from our mistakes, and avoid the sad and needless vegetable death that we brought upon ourselves.  Just goes to show, I guess, no matter how much research you do, you don't know how to do something until you done it.
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1 comment:

  1. It's great to read about mistakes as well as achievements. I just started a little garden project of my own today, which I'll blog about of course. Basically, it involved weeding/pulling most of the dead "growth" out of the pots our landlords left for us, mixing in some new mulch and planting new plants. I'm trying zucchini from seed and a few herbs and such from starter plants.