Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rain rain, go away...

Every day I pop up to the garden to see if my highly coveted tomatoes have started to ripen. Last week, much to my surprise, I could see a little hint of red through the dense green. I was so excited that I ran into the garden and started pulling leaves back to take a closer look. In my excitement, one fell off the branch and hit the ground with a dispirited thud. I picked it up. From the top it appeared to be fine - but when I turned it over, there was a dark depression on the bottom, like an ugly, mouldy pockmark. I gasped. Of all the things that I wanted to work out in my garden,  the most important were the tomatoes. These were my San Marzano (Roma-esque) paste tomatoes and I had big plans for them.

After consulting the handy-dandy Encyclopaedia of Insects and Plant Diseases, I discovered that my tomatoes were suffering from blossom rot. Usually caused by drought, blossom rot can also occur after too much rain - and, there's been no shortage of that around here! While the roots of the plant rot slowly, water and nutrients find it more and more difficult to travel to the fruit. First the leaves start to die (turning yellow and spotted in the process) and then the fruit gets the dreaded spot, falls off and dies. And so my excitement turned to grave concern. I was mentally picturing fewer and fewer jars of delicious tomato sauce on my shelves. As you can well imagine, this has caused me great anxiety.
Unfortunately, there is nothing one can do about blossom rot, but beg the rain to stop and hope for the best.
This is my first time growing a garden of this calibre and all I really wanted were my own tomatoes... Rain rain, please go away. Don't even come back another day.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tips: Things I would do differently next year

It's been a while since I have had a chance to write for pleasure - my apologies to those of you who look for more frequent updates. I have been in the process of launching my career as a freelance writer - which means a lot of work and little time. Unfortunately, the first thing to go has been my blog. But, I must admit, I miss it.
The garden. What a beautiful, wondrous place! It has been a TON of work - more than I had anticipated, but so so so worth it. I can't explain the feeling that I get everytime I walk out there; a combination of wonder and anxiety. Weeds grow at an alarming rate, but then so do vegetables. I have been too busy to go up there for a couple of days at a time and what I'd left as a tiny little growth has exploded into something ridiculously large. The following is a list of tips about growing your own food for
first time gardeners:

  1. Gardening, although A LOT of work, is deeply rewarding
  2. Plant many seeds but space them apart when they start growing - 6 carrots cannot grow out of the same space
  3. Don't plant everything at the same time, especially the greens
  4. Don't plant too much - you can't possibly eat everything!
  5. Give your plants enough space - they need it to grow
  6. Fertilize before you plant - fresh fertilizer will burn leaves and sometimes kill the plant altogether
  7. Don't make your garden too big. It is a lot of work and can be overwhelming to a newbie gardener
  8. Don't plant too soon - especially in our northern climate, the risk of frost is too high
  9. Don't plant too late - plants need all the time they can get to grow
  10. Don't cheap out on soil - if your soil is weak and low in nutrients, pay the extra money for fertilizers (horse manure compost is like gold around here!)
  11. Don't let the weeds run wild! This is really, really hard to do in your first year, especially if the garden is freshly dug. Seeds lay dormant for a really long time, so be prepared to be bombarded by them constantly.
  12. Keep an eye on the bugs.They can do a lot of damage, but the bulk of the damage can be avoided if you nip it in the bud early.
  13. Make sure you have enough sun and protection from the wind
  14. Stakes! Stakes! Stakes! If I had known how many stakes I was going to need I wouldn't have considered gardening a cheap endeavor. That being said, once you have them you always have them.
This is all I can think of for now. I bought some amazing books on organic gardening before I started so I was prepared for what might happen. I tackled each problem as it presented itself. Unfortunately, the only thing you can't control is the weather, but it hasn't been too terrible this summer.

My garden has produced an abundance of food this year - more than I could ever hope to eat myself - and it just keeps coming! I have a variety of mixed greens, romaine, baby bok choy, arugula, 3 different types of carrots, beets, radishes, squash, eggplant, patty pan squash, pickles, cucumbers, pie pumpkins, red and rainbow chard, spinach, snap peas, basil, peppers, and 5 varieties of tomatoes!!! Everything produced beyond my expectations except the parsnips. For whatever reason, I didn't get one. Or maybe I over-zealously weeded them out. No matter how much work has been involved, the entire process has been so enjoyable and rewarding that I have nothing to complain about - and the food is amazing! Hope the tips have helped a bit.

If anyone else has any tips, please post them here.