Earlier this year, Nicholas Rossis insinuated that my newfound interest in gardening might be an attempt to conquer the world using pod people. First, I’d like to deflect suspicion by pointing out this post on Nicholas’ site. Look at his pictures and decide for yourself who might be involved in the pod people conspiracy. Second, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m releasing the following photos which will put these pod people rumors to rest once and for all:
Nothing even remotely pod-like. I’m glad we settled this.
(The above photos are a cucumber and a butternut squash. The rest of this post will be about gardening rather than science fiction, so stop reading if the topic doesn’t interest you.)
As I’ve mentioned before, I rarely spend an entire growing season in one location, so I’m not an experienced gardener. So far, my garden has yielded a tiny crop of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and butternut squash. Some peppers are developing, but I’ve intermingled Cayenne with milder varieties, so they’ve probably cross-pollinated, leaving them too mild for my wife’s asbestos-lined digestive system. I grew a watermelon approximately the size of a ping-pong ball. (My brother thinks I may have stumbled on the newest fad to market in Japan.) I have a single sunflower and several stalks of Indian corn I’m growing for decorative purposes.
This yield doesn’t justify the time and effort I put into my garden, but I’ve learned many things which should make future gardens more successful.
My first challenge was that seeds and seedlings were being dug up by furry woodland creatures. I planted and re-planted, but couldn’t keep up with the depredations of a gang of fuzzy bandits. During nighttime walks, I identified a number of potential raiders, and was focusing in on the shady Mr. Armadillo. However, after a brazen daylight attack, I realized that squirrels must be to blame, as my other suspects were nocturnal. A few rubber snakes and a plastic owl with menacing glass eyes allowed my garden to thrive. If I choose a garden location in the future, I will place it further from trees, forcing squirrels to think twice about crossing open ground.
My second challenge was pollination. I could be wrong, but it seemed to me I had a very low ratio of fruit to flowers in my garden. Many of my cucumber and butternut squash vines stretched twelve feet or more from where they were planted and produced dozens of flowers along their length, but I was lucky to get a single fruit. I’m guessing that heavy rainfall had something to do with this. Right as the flowers began to open, we had several days of torrential rains which would have knocked bees out of the sky. I didn’t see bees for some time after that, either in my garden or on other flowers around town. I wonder if our local pollinators nest underground and were drowned, or were busy moving their nests after being flooded out. The only solution I can think of to this challenge is hand pollination. While I am looking for a job at the moment, “insect” is a bit lower than what I’m hoping for.
The final challenge, which has devastated my garden, is fungal attack. Several of the plants I chose are susceptible to fungi, and we had an uncharacteristically wet spring and summer here. Almost all of my vines have been destroyed, and my corn plants now have rust. If I had a choice as to location, this would be another reason to place my garden away from trees, as morning shade helped the fungi. I will also space my planting mounds further apart in the future. When watering during dry periods, I’ll need to be able to move among the plants and apply water to roots without getting it on the leaves.
If you’ve been gardening this year, let me know how your plants are doing.