Saturday, August 14, 2010

We Would Starve

My head is hung in shame.
My heart aches.
My thumb, once green, is withering on the vine.
Who am I?
Where did I stray?
Look away! I am not the farmer I hoped to be.

Yes, the four tomato plants are toppling over with lush, green, leafy branches, but alas, we have enjoyed five tomatoes this season. Five!? And four of them were the tiny yellow, pear tomatoes. Hardly a mouthful.

I was going to try canning. Ha!

I was going to make sauces, salsas, ketchup, pizzas, sundried tomatoes, tomato soup! I was going to share tomatoes with you, and you.


The beds were amended. I have added organic fertilizer. I hand plucked the aphids and caterpillars. I hand water, talking to the cucumbers, carrots, and beans with loving kindness, growing persuasion. Maybe I should shut up.

Not one pepper. Barely enough basil for two pesto dinners. An anemic sage.

We love Baba Ghanoush so we planted our first eggplants. They are tall, they flower... they will never satisfy our Baba Ghanoush appetite.

For all my tender, loving care, here is the fruit of my labors. I will be grateful if it grows and ripens, but honestly, this is the world's most expensive produce.

We enjoyed one single, solitary, delicious zucchini. The end.

Doesn't that seem impossible? Who ever plants zucchini and ends up with zero, zilch, nada? No endless platters of zucchini dishes, no bags full of giveaway zucchinis. No zucchini bread. No monster sized-overgrown-can't eat another-zucchini crisis. It's so sad.

No pictures of my stunted, withered, sorry zucchini plant. It's too pathetic.

I could cry.

This is a cucumber tragedy. It was sad enough that out of three plants, all my hopes were set on this one little fruit, who sadly will not be a crisp, cool, cuke. It is capoot.

The bees came. They buzz around still. The flowers on the bean vines see plenty of action, but I couldn't serve one plate of green beans. The corn is as high as an elephant's a gopher's eye.

I have kept some kind of garden since about 1977, when a friend and neighbor left me her seeds and cuttings. Genie. Of course my garden love goes back to all the beautiful gardens my mother kept. In a dozen or more homes, condos, apartments, I have tried to grow something. In pots, or barrels, in fields, along fences, in tight quarters, and wide beds... I have planted seeds. And I think of other people's gardens with awe and admiration... Grandma Nancy's flowers and veggies, her concord grapes, Grandma Eunice's geraniums, Abuela's lime tree, her fig tree, Anne's, Karen's, Janice's, Gary and Laura's garden. Time, passion, experience, reverence, books, love... it's all there.

The last six years have been my most challenging gardening years... no space at the TreeHouse, the careless Garage Mahal landlord, and so my eagerness to unleash all of my gardening dreams on this home have been quite potent and full bodied.

And because of all my garden love, garden experience, garden books, garden hopes, garden anticipation, it has been a bit embarrassing, kind of humbling, to finally have a decent opportunity at growing and harvesting, and come up with such sorry results. Even my smaller harvests of years ago, were satisfying and good. But five tomatoes, and three pumpkins are not measuring up to all my hopes, and expectations. Thank goodness we are not actually dependent on this harvest.


I have rarely, if ever, been able to plant more than two years in the same place, so every garden has been a new experience in soil, sun, and seasons. There is a definite disadvantage in this.

This summer has included a total of fourteen sunny days. Only fourteen. It is drizzling now. This is adding up to the greatest summer that never was. I cannot do much for that. Gardens need sun.

This is a new space, with new soil, and new atmospheric indicators to learn and adapt to. One bad growing season is a crushing disappointment, but so it goes, right? I think the beds will improve with more mulch and some help from chica sweepings (aka the "poop deck.") Certainly, we can hope next summer the sun comes out. For sure I would anticipate having a great cool season, when peas and lettuce will thrive, right?

What I am trying to say is: It can't be all my fault. I must have learned something about growing stuff. I have been successful in the past. And it's not that I ever bragged or considered myself a master gardener, but gee wiz... you know? I really would like to dispel my doubts and self disappointment. I would like to believe I wasn't fooling myself, posing as a capable gardener, only a wishful farmer.

That is all.
I return to contemplation.


Katie said...

I remember the first year at my "forever" garden - it was dismal! But the second year was better, as was the third...

I think the previous owners (of my home) used hardcore chemicals that took a couple years to leach out of the soil. After that, it was a beautiful organic garden.

Give it time. This year's weather was weird. Next year WILL be better.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to tell you... my luck with veggie gardening hasn't been much better (though on a smaller scale). Wonder if our mild summer has anything to do with it. But aren't you glad for grocery stores? :-)

Emily Cole said...

I had a disastrous garden year too... Big Lush tomato plants... about 1000 cherry tomatoes, 3 or 4 Cherokee Purple (but they all kept splitting) and one Celebrity (I think) that was eaten by ants... then my tomato plants all decided to die. I got lots of cucumbers, but they weren't the variety I expected. They were white skinned, and tasty, but not pickling (which is what I planned them for)... the kids liked them until we had had too much. I also planted beets, turnips, and carrots - I have yet to harvest anything from them and all but one turnip got eaten by an invisible caterpillar. I DO have TONS of basil... I could ship some over to you, but I doubt that would be cost effective! Just know you're not alone in the garden-disappointment club... I'm just thinking about planning a fall garden now!

Alison said...

Darling, it has been a horrible year for all my gardening friends, both here in NC, and for blog friends in Indiana and Vancouver. I suspect part of it is the hot, sticky weather--pollen doesn't transfer well. And part of it may be lack of the right kind of pollinators.

Here, we have had months of fruitless bean blossoms, and neighbors have harvested a sole summer squash. (I do worry if climate change and/or bee colony collapse will soon have effects on our "real" food supply.)

I'm sorry your first, exciting year in your very own garden has been so disappointing. But no, it can't all be your fault. And you still have those gorgeous, lush plants to enjoy. Just pretend you planted decorative varieties for their foliage and flowers! And maybe start planning a fall garden?

(my word verification: "rehot" Nooooo!!!

CaJoBo said...

It's not just you! I'm in California too and this has been a very strange and unsatisfying year, garden-wise. At least yours is beautiful - love the purple eggplant with the green basil, and those pumpkins are going to be fun!

tara said...

My zucchinis didnt produce fruit. I thought they would grow even during a nuclear winter.
My tomoatoes are still green. i didcovered a few years ago that making pasta suace takes a bizzare amount of tomatoes. I could never grow enough. All in all I have alot of green leaves but not much else.

hoj said...

Plants need sun.

mtnchild said...

Awwww Natalie. A lot of folks here plant corn and I have only seen one group of cornstalks that are taller than 4 feet. The ones I saw today were at least 7 feet and I was totally awestruck!!

Not one of my friends here have had a good garden year.

Here in S. Oregon we had snow on May 22! May for goodness sake!!! We usually have nice plants and flowers.

No it's not you, it Mother Nature ...


Anna Banana said...

you are in good company, no one has a great garden this summer. but we grow year round here, so your first "year" of gargening is not close to over. plant your cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli soon. Kale, chard, beets. winter squash!

judy in ky said...

I hope you don't mind if I say I would trade your cool, drizzly summer for our brutally hot, humid summer. We have had sun, sun, and more sun. In fact it creates the opposite problem. All the plants have withered from too much heat and too much hot sun! Why can't there be moderation? Mother Nature is not being kind to anyone this year! Yuck!

Cathy said...

It hasn't been much better out here in Wyoming. It was still winter-like til the middle of June so our short 90-day growing season was cut even shorter. My husband had to replant the beans three times due to cold soil and when we finally got to eat a few they were stringy and tough. Pepper plants but no peppers ... maybe next year will be better for everybody.

Tracy said...

Oh, I do sympathize with you, Natalie! When we bought & moved into our house 5 years ago, we were so excited to give veggies & fruits a try. During these years it's been very variable success. So much depends on the climate. And our growing season is short enough, so get too much rain, or too much sun and the scales tip toward little or no harvest of some things. We just picked green peas. Enough for two dinners. No luck with basil here either--I was imaging making TONS of pest... *sigh*... We've not done tomatoes for two years now--no luck. So you are not along, dear friend. :o) Let's root for next year, 'eh? ((HUGS))

Susan said...

I feel for you, my dear. It has been an interesting gardening year, for sure. I can think of a couple of things that might have contributed to your problems. Your tomatoes look a little crowded...I have that problem carried away with the number of plants and available space. IF you are getting at least 6-8 hours of sun on them, then it could be too much of a good thing, namely fertilizer.

Your zucchini may have a squash borer problem. That happens to me as often as not. I actually had a decent crop this year, but I've had many more failures than successes with it. Could be the same thing with the cukes, since they are also in the squash family.

Sage likes LOTS of sun and doesn't like too much watering. Same with basil, but a little more watering. I usually plant them in with my full sun flowers and they do very well there.

But, whaddya gonna do when the sun don't shine? You can't fool Mother Nature! There's always next year.

amy smith said...

such a "seedy" story :)