09 August 2009

Let my words, like vegetables, be tender and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them

Like this ear of corn. It was very tender and sweet and I ate every last kernel. It's quite an amazing feeling, to eat a vegetable that I grew from seed and have tended all season long in great anticipation of the meal to come.

Here it is nestled in a box of onions, also from my garden. While these were grown from transplants started by the Senior PG's, I still had the pleasure of planting them and watching them grow throughout the summer.

Aren't they beautiful!? Do I sound like a proud parent showing off pictures of her kids!? Heck, yeah!
As there is drama in the life of every teenager, so there has been in the garden. Not too long ago a big storm threatened my corn by pushing it over sideways. We're talking completely recumbent, some of it. I tied up what I could and left the rest to their own devices. Lo and behold, a few days later all the stalks had righted themselves and were once again sending their tassels skyward, trying to tickle the sun! My kids! Doesn't it just get you right here *cough*!?

It was the same with the Broom Corn - and now it's towering over everything else in the garden!

Meanwhile, the Turks Turban squash is running around and getting into everything. I had to pull it out of Greg's broccoli with a stern wag of the finger to behave itself. It seems to be playing well with the artichoke so I'll let them mingle for now.

Another plant I grew from seed and had high hopes for was Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights'. It was supposed to be a colorful foil in what was turning out to be a very monochromatic veggie garden. Just as it was putting on color, the dreaded deer devoured it.

I yanked the remaining shreds out the other day and made a mental note that next year I would erect battlements with embrasures and and arrow-loops in the merlons for our deer hunting friends. Maybe even a flying parapet with machiolations! A woman's garden is her castle, after all.

Unfortunately, no amount of crenellation will defend the garden against unseen invaders like blight. Our tomato crops have been decimated by late blight and Phytophthora. The Phytophthora - a water-mold that lives in the soil and is spread in cool, wet weather, kinda like what we've been experiencing (she types confidently, as the rain comes down in sheets outside) - was responsible for the Great Irish Potato Famine in the 1800's and now is tainting our tomatoes. Everyone on the Row who had tomatoes in their garden yanked them out and piled them up on the bonfire. I managed to get one 'Yellow Ruffles' tomato; all the others were goners. And now, let us observe a moment of silence for our friend the tomato...
I haven't yet decided what will go in its place, but we have ornamental gourd seedlings that need a home. The one reason I hesitate with the gourds is due to the on-going challenges with my Zucchini. Last week I ripped out all but two plants that were infested with the evil Squash Vine Borer. Sometimes their murderous mastication only affects one stem but lately they've succeeded in taking down entire plants. So while this plant had a hole in the side shoot, the rest of the main stem was still healthy and pumping out zucchini like a machine.

This one, on the other hand, was attacked right at the base of the plant and when I pulled it out the stem snapped and there was the loathsome Lepidoptera caught in the act!
He was immediately dispatched. There are chemicals that take care of these pests but I'm not yet licensed in the state of PA to apply them and anyway, I want to keep my garden as organic as possible which is why row covers are on my shopping list for next year to keep the little moth from laying eggs on my plants in the first place.

Speaking of Lepidoptera, that favorite of insect orders, our class in Entomology has illuminated my way of thinking and I now realize there are both good guys and bad guys in this order. This is one of the good guys, Papilio polyxenes, otherwise known as an Eastern Black Swallowtail. He's nibbling happily on my Italian Parsley, which shows what good taste they have. I don't mind the damage they do which is interesting considering both species are eating my crops. So why do I harbor such hatred for one and tolerance for the other? Possibly because one does nothing but leave a trail of destruction in its wake while the other nibbles for a bit then transforms itself into a beautiful pollinator? We gardeners can be so prejudiced, can't we?
While the rain continues to fall outside I think I'll spend the morning planning next year's garden - more of this, less of that, a new variety of something else (RED sweet corn! "Really red, really sweet", the seed catalog said! I can't wait!). I also need to check the yellow pages for castle builders...a portcullis at the garden gate would be perfect!

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