For all of my careful seed starting, running the lights, keeping the baby seedlings warm, going through the motions to get a jump on the season, I am woefully late getting my garden up and running this year.
March was incredible. We didn’t have much of a winter, and March, when we all sat with fingers crossed, went over without incident. We all expected Old Man Winter to look around and proclaim, “Hey, Mother Nature! We forgot Connecticut!”
It didn’t happen. March came and went with no real problems, and April came in with a promise. My little seedlings grew inside, getting ready for their exciting adventure in the Great Outside. May, on the other hand, was chilly, wet, miserable. The nights were too cool for the small plants. I started hardening them off slowly, took a good couple of weeks to get it done. We started pulling out of the cool spell, and in the middle of May, when we are all supposed to start transplanting seedlings out into the garden, I was still hardening off. That’s okay! The longer you let babies harden off in “iffy” weather, the better. Finally, got the nerve to leave them out there overnight. It was working!
And then…the temperatures at night plummeted, it started raining, misting, getting all-around icky. I lost about a dozen seedlings. I started bringing them back inside, under the lights. My Little White Rabbit tomatoes needed special attention. They have a tendency to be delicate. Worth it for the fruit, though.
Finally, the weather started to turn. Still cool, but…better. I started planting out, into my bucket jungle.
Then I got sick.
Don’t feel sorry for me. I knew this was coming a year ago, and I ignored it. We, the Uninsured Americans, tend to ignore that which will eventually knock us on our collective butts until our individual malady actually does knock us down. Mine…diabetes. “The Sugar,” as Mike, who grew up in West Virginia calls it, hit more than 600, and I got knocked on my butt. Oh, I was still functioning, still gardening…for about five to ten minutes at a time. Bah.
I am happy to report that I am on the mend, on medications, and seriously altering my eating habits. My glucose levels are now normal, and I am gardening like a dervish.
It’s a good thing, too, because here we are, coming into JULY, and I STILL have seedlings that need to go out.
Today, I’ll plant out the remaining tomato and hot pepper seedlings. If it is, in fact, too late to plant them out, I’ll take whatever this garden wishes to provide this season, and be happy for it.
The plants that did make it out into the garden are all doing well. Well, except for the sunflower seeds I planted. Sunflowers came up, and something ate them. I planted more seeds. Something ate them. Fine. I used the space to plant more winter squash.
This year, I have tomatoes in loads of colors. My “challenge” tomato, from my mentor, is this Arkansas Traveler. What a beautiful tomato! It’s short, stocky, sturdy…just like me!
I have three of these containers growing, all doing well.
I planted some cool Green Grape tomatoes in the inverted planter,
And some awesome pink and red Brandywines.
I do love this plant! The “potato leaf” is unusual, I think they’re pretty.
I decided to go upside down with the Gold Bar melons this year,
And the cucumbers (cousins of the Gold Bars)
And the Sugar Baby watermelons, too!
Got some cool string beans, bush type, planted in one of the raised beds,
and put some “Peter Peppers” in to keep them company.
I have my Cayenne peppers in topsy-turvy planters, and they’re growing well. Cayenne take a long time. I have two varieties of Cayenne this season…one long, one thick. My hot pepper aficionados will tell me if there’s a difference in taste between the two.
Got some great green onions going, too, and they’re actually almost ready to harvest. Here they are, with my Hungarian Sweet Wax peppers.
Eggplants are in, and as of this photo, doing well. Next photos will show that everything is starting to flower out there.
It’s really happening!
In the other raised bed, my Zapotec tomatoes are happy.
I got cages around them for now, but have yet to go around and start pounding stakes into the ground. That has to happen this week, for sure.
Now that I think about it, I don’t even know how I got these raised beds built this year. Blind determination, I guess. I’m glad, at this point, that the weather stayed cool enough to work with.
Around the side of the house, I have a little spot in the Dahlia bed that I raised and dropped my purple bunching onions into. And that’s where I found my first volunteers from last season! I have no idea of what these little tomato plants will grow to become, but I’m letting them grow, just to see.
Further back, the garden grows, and expands. I planted blueberries this year!
These are year-old plants that I picked up on a whim. That’s when I learned that you should not grab an unknown plant on a whim. These guys sat in their store buckets until I was able to acidify the soil with sulfur. I mulched the heck out of them with pine bark mulch after I planted them, to further acidify the soil, and I feed them with an acid fertilizer…bless Miracle Grow! I’ll look for more natural alternatives next year, when I have a better compost pile.
I also learned, while I learned to do my homework before I buy an unknown-to-me plant, that blueberries like to be planted next to at least one more blueberry. Back to Lowe’s!
I have one of these little guys caged with bamboo and yarn because, as you can see, they’re loaded with berries, for little guys. The berries weigh more than this plant.
I planted corn in a big bucket, and so far, it looks good. Might move this corn bucket out to better sun next season. This year, it’s a science experiment.
That’s my Patio corn. Mike laughed at me, said, “That is sooo Fairfield!”
The cauliflower, in their little buckets, has been extremely happy with the cooler weather this season. The Cheddar is coming up faster than the Graffiti, as usual, but both are forming heads.
As you can see in the background, bags of manure, planters…hey I might even get some “housekeeping” done this week!
The cheddar cauliflower will be the first to the table
Look at that spiral! Got another one just about the same stage of development.
I’m here to tell you, this is some seriously good cauliflower. My favorite! It has a nutty, buttery taste that the others don’t have. Yum!
Now we come to my big challenge. Mike gave me a banana tree. I was to amend the soil, nice and rich, which I did with sheep poop and compost. I was to plant, and temporarily stake the banana tree, which I did. It looked like…a stick. My neighbors, who, thankfully know me and my quirks, got a huge kick out of the fact that, “Wendy planted a stick.”
My poor banana tree sat there, looking for all the world like I went nuts and planted a stick, until Mike asked for a progress report.
“Do you have a leaf yet?” he asked.
“Nope,” I replied. “I have a stick.”
He explained to me that these guys get so “tight” that they get bound up at the top, and sometimes won’t allow new growth, instructed me to go “prune the tippy-top” of the plant..the skinny part at the very top of the stick. I did. I felt, with fingers, down from the top and cut away everything that felt hollow. I made the poor thing bleed a little. Panic! But, it worked, and lo and behold, I soon got the start of a leaf!
Now my neighbors are all excited, coming from across the street to see the stick finally growing.
And growing, it is! I’ll make sure to get back here in the next day or so with new pictures. That tiny leaf is now more than a foot long, and unfurling. According to Mike, this tree will put up another, at the base. I will take everything out of the ground at the end of the season, bag the root, and put it all in the basement until next spring. In a couple of years, if I don’t mess it up, I’ll have bananas!
My neighbors can’t wait.
So…the Bucket Jungle of 2012 has begun.
Today, I’ll stress myself, get all of the remaining seedlings into planters, either upright or inverted. I’ll take more pictures. Next time, I’ll bring Chauncey and Earl out to see the new growth. They’re bouncing up and down, bugging me, “I wanna go to the gaaaardeeeen!”
So, yes, I will bring them out to see all the new stuff.
And…what’s that, you ask? How is Reggie?
No, of course I haven’t forgotten Reggie!
Reggie has transformed into an incredible cascade of tiny seed blossoms and a thick blanket of pollen. He’s putting up seed, magnificently. I imagine this will take the rest of the season, and that I will be able to plant Reggie babies next year.
Isn’t this a handsome lad! The flowers are so tiny!
He’s drinking a lot of water. A LOT of water. Not surprising, look at what he’s doing!
I’ll make sure to bring the boys out to visit him. Believe it or not, he misses the little stuffies!