Archive for the ‘bad stuff’ Category

Here’s my cute little harvest from yesterday afternoon:

Lots of tomato varieties!  I think I’ve gotten at least one tomato off of all my plants now, with the stars being the Black Sea, Black Sea Man, and Sungolds.  That big, gorgeous yellow one is the Azoychka, but this is only the third tomato I’ve picked so far.   They aren’t doing well.  Hardly any more fruit set and not growing much either.

I’ve also got some zuchinni there- all 8-Balls.   My Zucs are disappoing this year.  The plants are mostly still VERY small with the exception of 5 of my 8-ball plants, but those are now being stricken with what I think is the same Fusarium Wilt that killed off some of my tomatoes early on.  I thought it was Squash Vine Borers (same symptoms) but when I cut open the stems there was nary a sight of them.  Very sad.  I’m pretty bummed. 

I also dug the first potatoes yesterday, mostly because I was just curious to see what they were doing.  The week or so of VERY hot weather and no rain stopped them in their tracks about two weeks ago and I haven’t seen any new growth.  Most of them never even bloomed.  I dug some up to see what they looked like.  Well-formed tubers, but not many.  What you see there is the result of THREE plants. 

I did have one little victory!  Remember that big Black Sea tomato I posted a few weeks ago?  Well, he finally ripened:

He had some cracking around the top, but the bottom was beautiful- and don’t you love those striations?

He was heavy, too!

That may be the record for this year!  I have  yet to see any that are that big on the vines so far, but we’ll see. 

Share your harvests!  Check out Daphne and tell us what you’re growing!


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Garden horror

So, I have a fear of snakes.  And I don’t mean that I don’t like them and a get a little squeamish, I mean I have a legitimate phobia of snakes.  Full on panic attack if I see one.  Even pictures of snakes make my palms sweat and I have to take a few deep breaths.

And Thursday, the thing that I have been fearing all along finally happened: I saw a snake in the garden.

I thought that I saw him the day earlier, when I glimpsed something black and shiny and rounded struggling in the netting that we put up around the blueberries.  I hightailed it out of there IMMEDIATELY when I saw it, because I knew if I actually saw a full on snake I’d lose it, and at that point I also thought it may have been a turtle (he was in a shadow, and at the base of some other plants, so pretty well hidden).  Then on Thursday afternoon when I got home I was walking past the berry patch to the garden and I was looking toward that shady spot at the bottom of the net, just in case.   As I was looking something caught my eye and I looked down towards my feet and not two feet away from me was the snake.  And he was BIG.   (God, even writing about this is making me shake a little bit.)

In the .02 seconds between my eyes seeing him and my brain screaming “SNAAAAAAAAAAAKE!  YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!”  I started running.  Heedlessly, as I realized when I was about 20 feet away from him and regained control of my legs, since I ran RIGHT through my patch of baby okra and swiss chard plants, smashing several of them into oblivion.   I stopped, turned around to see him still there and partially hidden in the grass and just started sobbing uncontrollably, because that is a useful response to certain death.   Thanks a lot, EVOLUTION!

I kinda stood there for a little bit not knowing what to do when my boyfriend called and talked me down from being absolutely hysterical and unable to breathe.  I walked out through the back of the garden and around the OTHER side of the house to get to the porch where I finally collapsed on the stairs and shook and cried for about 15 minutes before I was able to breathe calmly again.   OF COURSE, I did not go back out to the garden for quite some time, but when Ann got home later that day I told her what happened.   And then I found out that her daughter had come by that morning and seen him too.  In the same place.  Curious.

Once the sun went down, and I was certain he had gone back to the mouth of hell (which must be where he lives), I went back out to the garden (the long way, of course- avoiding the berry patch) because I had ripe Sungolds and I couldn’t NOT pick them!  Also I was trying really, really hard to be brave when all I really wanted to do was just light the whole garden on fire and never, ever, ever go back out there again.   Ann was sitting on the porch of the house as I was picking the tomatoes (far, far away from the snake side of the garden) and as I looked over in the direction of where I had seen him, I could still see a telltale divot in the grass, and what looked like the smooth, shiny ridge of a snake spine.   Now I know enough about snake behavior to be pretty sure that if a snake is almost stepped on by a screaming adult, he isn’t likely to stay around, so I called out to Ann (remarkably calmly, considering…) “I think he might still be here…”  She came down off the porch with a garden tool (I can’t remember which one) and walked over to where I was pointing and said “Yep, that’s a snake.  And wow- a big one!  I think he’s dying…”

I didn’t care to look, so inside I went.  The next morning she went out and he was still laying there, this time with flies buzzing around him, certainly dead.   Still too scared to go anywhere near him (I KNOW!  It’s a phobia, ok?  Nothing rational going on in the old grey matter here…) I called over a friend to dispose of him, and he was deposited somewhere far, far away where I will hopefully never come across him.

So, a happy ending, right?  (Well, for me at least- not so happy for the snake) Except now the neuroses are kicking in and I can’t go near the berry patch without my chest hurting.  I was out there yesterday trying to pick some blueberries and I heard a rustle in the raspberries and next thing I knew my legs had carried me 30 feet away without any active input from me.

Sigh…what a frustrating phobia for a gardener.   What I wouldn’t give to trade it in for a fear of heights or crowds or something…

(And yes, I know it wasn’t poisonous and I know they are useful and they eat rats and all that stuff.  Rationally, I get all of that.  I can list off all the reasons why I shouldn’t be afraid.   And listen, I grew up in the woods of Alabama where there are about 17 varieties of snake that will kill you as soon as look at you and some of them will even open your doors and crawl in your bed and BITE YOU IN THE FACE (or something like that…) and this wasn’t one of those snakes.  I KNOW!   If you are about to tell me why I shouldn’t be afraid, I invite you to go to Wikipedia and look up the term “phobia.”)

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Glad I didn’t suck it up and cram another tomato in to make an even 90, because one up and decided to kick the bucket anyway- so I would have been back to 89.

No idea what happened here- one day it was as happy as the neighbors, lots of blossoms, strong growth- one of my better plants, in fact.  And now it looks like this:

This all happened over the course of about 4 days.  On Saturday morning I noticed he was looking a little droopy, so I gave him a good watering.  Perked up, but by the end of the day was sad looking again, even though all the others next to him were happy as ever, without a drop of irrigation.   I stopped at that point- no use worrying over a plant that can’t hold it’s own.  By Tuesday morning he looked like this.  Bye bye- we hardly knew ye!  

And the strange part is- it is the only one.  The only one in the whole garden that isn’t doing well (or at least holding steady- apologies to those little guys I just threw in the ground so recently…).   The tomatoes on either side are chugging along, nary a wilted leaf or droopy flower in sight.  No idea what happened to him.  A garden mystery!  Any guesses?

(UGH.  I wrote this post last week and somehow forgot to publish it, and yesterday I found ANOTHER tomato doing the same thing- and this one with two big, lovely fruits on it!  WHAT IS HAPPENING?!  And the one picture above is now almost invisible and gone.  It is TOTALLY dead)

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Garden Truths

Another undeniable lesson learned in the garden:

Deer are jerks!

This pepper plant was lucky, but the eggplant that they trod into the ground and the tomato they knocked over were not as unscathed.  Eggplant was a lost cause, but the tomato (a Black Sea) deserved some TLC:

A tomato sling.  Hopefully it will support him long enough to perk back up and throw out a few more roots!   C’mon little guy, you can make it.

I do appreciate the fact that the seem to no longer be munching on my tomatoes, but at least they could watch where they walk- sheesh!  And maybe do a little weeding?  Is that too much to ask?

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Wow…another post about a pest, of sorts.  Though this, like blight, is actually another plant disease.

Here at my house my roommates and I have a small, messy garden.  I say messy because we crammed a lot of plants into a small space and they are doing aggressively well.  Certainly not a terrible problem to have, but everyday I have to go out and yell at the cucumbers to stop climbing up the tomato plants and for the Zucchini to stop shading the eggplants with its massive leaves.

The two squash plants (aforementioned Zucchini of an unnamed variety and Zephyr summer squash) are two of the most impressive, productive squash plants I’ve ever seen.  They are keeping the three of us- though one doesn’t cook, so I guess the two of us- in enough squash to choke a hog.  I love it!

But just moments ago I went outside to pick some and I noticed that the plants are absolutely covered with powdery mildew!  It came out of nowhere!  I didn’t notice it yesterday (hell, even this morning in my ritual glimpse I didn’t see anything!) so it’s come on quick and dirty.  Yikes!

I’ve never dealt with this before.  Will it spread to the other plants that are around it?  The tomatoes are literally touching the squash plants- are they in danger of catching it too?  I’m not sure what to do?  Anyone ever had a problem with powdery mildew in the past?

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Well, it’s happened.  My potatoes have been struck all to hell by late blight.

I’ve been watching them with consternation for a few weeks now…hoping hoping hoping that those little brown spots I was seeing weren’t blight.  Silly me.  I should have chopped them all down right then.

I went out of town last weekend, so almost a week went by without a stop to the garden.  On Thursday I sped by after work (note to self:  keep some better shoes in your car…traipsing up a hill that is a foot deep in thick weeds in your heels is a terrible, terrible idea) and saw that my potatoes were wrecked.  Oddly enough, it seemed to be creeping up the patch.  I have two long rows, and the vines at one end were rotted and blackened while the ones at the other ends were still green and strong, just showing lots of spots. I figured it would hit them all at once…guess not.

I’ve read a couple of sources online that say if you cut down your vines, not leaving any green, and let the potatoes sit for at least two weeks in the ground, you can dig up the tubers and it will lessen the chance that the blight actually gets on the potatoes. So today I went by the farm and cut them all down, leaving only little nubs sticking up so I know where the plants were growing.  I stuffed all the vines in a old feed bag and gave it to the farm managers.  They are going to see that they get incinerated.

Shockingly, none of the tomatoes at the farm seem to have even a touch of it (they don’t grow any potatoes, so that isn’t an issue).  Almost every farm around us is reporting that they are getting hit hard- many of them have lost their entire crops.  But today we picked a few handfuls of early cherry and plum tomatoes off of perfectly green, healthy plants.  My little plot is on an isolated hillside with a forest between it and any other plants of the nightshade family.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I could personally care less about the whole tomato crop being wiped out, but it would break the hearts of most of the people who belong to the CSA, so I’ll hope for the best.

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High Fructose Corn Syrup

I’m staying home from work today with a lingering flu-like thing so I was luxuriating in the glory of Golden Girls on Lifetime.  (Picture it:  Sicily 1922…I was home from the vineyard with a Miasma…)  During a  commercial break, I saw one that was unnerving to me.  A man and a woman are sitting on a picnic blanket in a park.  She offers him a bite of a cherry-red Popsicle and he says to her, “I thought you loved me…that has high fructose corn syrup in it.”  She asks him what is so bad about HFCS and he stammers while he tries to name something wrong with it.  She finishes his thought by saying, “what?  That is has the same calories as sugar and no proven health dangers?”  (I’m paraphrasing here, I don’t remember it word-for-word).  Then he quips, “You only brought one?”  The commercial ends with a link to a website called sweet surprise or something like that and states that it was paid for by the Corn Refiners Association.

Corn Syrup, and especially High Fructose, is in a shocking amount of processed food.  Many of them, like ketchup and bread, that you would never expect.  Most sodas and “fruit” juices are almost entirely water and HFCS, and it is found in almost every cookie, dessert, and sweetened cereal in the grocery store.  There are a lot of signs that it’s very bad for you, and indeed diabetes and obesity have climbed to harrowing numbers ever since it was introduced in the 1970s.  Admittedly, none of these issues have ever been linked directly and unequivocally to HFCS, but there is clearly a connection.

The fact is, it isn’t good for you and we are consuming it in very, very large amounts.  It isn’t an innocuous ingredient.

Here are a couple of articles about the problems with HFCS:

One, about the environmental impact of a country consuming millions of gallons of the stuff and one about the move to eliminate an unhealthy additive to our collective diets.

(Full Disclosure:  As I’m writing this, I’m drinking a 7UP that of course contains HFCS.  I don’t drink soda frequently, but it makes my tummy feel better.   I’m not saying that we should be giving it up 100%- though I’d like to- I just don’t want people to see propaganda while they are watching Golden Girls and think that it isn’t something that they should be concerned about.)

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