Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Adventures in gardening...

I love to watch things grow. -- Maybe I should qualify that. I get no enjoyment out of watching my waistline grow, or the mold and mildew that flourish in my bathtub. But I do love to watch my garden grow. I didn't know when we settled into our first home in Fall '03 that I would want to garden. I hadn't really considered it, but in the spring of 2004, when the first buds pushed through the thawed ground, I marveled at the miracle and resiliency of nature, and I could not wait to sink my fingers into the loamy earth, plant some seeds, and watch them as they reached for the warmth of the sun and transformed from tiny grains into fruits and flowers and vegetables.

That first summer, I learned that although we were in a busy suburban neighborhood, there were still plenty of hungry little animals waiting to decimate my first vegetable crop. I planted just a few tomato plants and was beaming with pride as they grew tall and bore fruit. As the tomatoes began to ripen, I anticipated picking that first one, smelling the unmistakable scent of the vine, and savoring it with a little salt and black pepper. Yummmm. Unfortunately, when I returned a day later to pick that first ripe tomato, there it lay... in the middle of my lawn, with one giant bite (or a hundred little nibbles) taken out of the side. Since I had planted my tomatoes among my perennials, I was not able to fence them without creating an eyesore, so I dejectedly watched as the squirrels and rabbits beat me to my harvest day after day.

The following spring, I decided to try "container gardening" on my deck instead, and was relatively successful, but I felt like I had cheated, as I bought all seedlings and small plants rather than planting from seed. I did lose a few seedlings to a late frost in May, but by mid-summer, I had tomatoes, an assortment of herbs, and some wonderful hot chile peppers. Buoyed by my success, the next spring I decided to do the same, but with seeds. I might have been successful, but last May it rained 29 out of 31 days, and most of my garden drowned. I did have a decent pot of lettuce and a few herbs, but not much for all of my effort.

This year, I went with mostly seedlings again -- what was I trying to prove in our short and unpredictable growing season? On a whim, I also bought some sweatpea seeds and planted them in two large pots, complete with bamboo poles for them to climb. By early June they were climbing, twining in curlicues two feet high around the bamboo poles, and budding with little white flowers that would evolve into peapods. Over the past few weeks, the peapods grew, and I waited patiently to harvest them.

... And after all that, this is the sum total of my sweat pea harvest....
If I put them in a salad, there might even be enough to share with my husband.

Footnote: I blanched the peas and did indeed sprinkle them on a salad. They were delicious! Now I just need to figure out a way to fit 100 pots on my deck next spring and I'll have enough peas to share!!!


Nancy Bea said...

This is so true! Peas in this climate are unrewarding and disappointing. Unless you have the acreage to plant hundreds of peas, you'll barely get enough for a single meal. Alas! Lovely photo though.

DEW said...

Growing plants from seeds is highly over-rated. Seedlings in this climate is the way to go! And I HATE those critters (in our case squirrels) who take one bite out of the tomato and leave the rest. Thankfully, some of them die of lead poisoning via Len.

I laugh at your first comment. I have acres of land but with that acreage comes hundreds of critters. I gave up and have only containers on my deck (which said squirrels hit). I know I won't win at "critter wars" (us humans are few...critters are many) and I get depressed when the deer mow down 30 tomato plants!

Whenever you have less of something, they are more treasured! XOX

Liz Ness said...