Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Gourd watch and garden update

Nada. Yup, that's what my experiment in growing squash plants has produced.

This year, we kept all of our plants in pots on the deck, except for the few that like to spread long and wide: the mints, the cucumbers, pumpkin, zucchini and butternut squash.

As I had noted in an earlier post, for some reason the deer had left our yard alone this year. Until my birthday in late August, that is. We were celebrating on the deck when a deer decided to visit. Hubby scared it off, and I then told him he needed to make his "deer-be-gone" again (a mixture of urine, garlic and cayenne).

It was too late, however. The next morning, everything except the mints and the pumpkin were gone. The rest of the vines were completely stripped of all leaves, bulbs and flowers.

Why the deer left the pumpkin alone, I don't know. And now I know that if we try to plant pumpkin again next year, I do need to hand-pollinate (here is a handy set of instructions, complete with photos), since the pumpkin plants produced flowers but no fruits.

Nevertheless, I think we still had a pretty good year for the garden. We successfully grew spearmint and peppermint in the yard (not hard at all--mints grow like weeds), and in pots on the deck, we've grown tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, basil, collard greens, and for a short while, Swiss chard. Surprisingly, we've even picked a few cucumbers from the yard--apparently the deer missed a few. As a result, fresh salads have been a favorite meal for us this summer.

We did fail at growing a few other random herbs and once again, spinach. However, on a visit a month ago to an otherwise verdant urban community farm, I noticed that their withered spinach patch looked much like my poor spinach pot. A farm staffer informed me that spinach is very tough to grow, so I don't feel so bad about it.

Add to this the joy of discovering fresh blueberries, blackberries and plums growing in our yard this year. The plums, sadly, were ripe for only about two weeks and then withered into prunes right on the branches. The blackberry bush, I have also learned, is considered an extremely invasive plant that can easily choke out other plants growing around it, so we may at some point have to try to get rid of it. Still, eating freshly picked fruit all summer has been wonderful.

I know we have a long way to go in being gardeners--for example, we have yet to grow enough to not only feed our family but to share with neighbors or food pantries; grow a winter crop; or learn how to preserve/can foods and save seeds. Still, for year 2, after being afraid I couldn't grow anything during year 1, I'm pretty satisfied.

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