Pod People? What Pod People?

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:

Cucumber

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.

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20 comments

  1. I came for the pod people, but love gardening too. Mine consists of a few select fruit trees and some neglected roses. I don’t have room for a real garden.

    1. I was space-limited as well. This house has a large yard, but most of it is beautifully landscaped, and I wanted to cause as little damage as possible.

  2. I love gardening, too, but over the years, I’ve had to give up on most things planted in the ground. This year, I’ve collected styrofoam coolers to coat with concrete for planters & troughs.
    The problem here is the soil. It’s a claybank and has resisted every improvement recipe and chemical addition my husband & I tried. Hardy weeds love it, but I don’t remember how Grandma cooked poke. I refuse to look for things to do with ragweed, Virginia creeper, and poison ivy.
    Pinch pots made from this clay harden enough to hold water. I’m seriously considering building a giant kiln and glazing the yard. πŸ˜‰

    1. Our soil is clay here as well. I took over part of an herb garden where the soil had been improved, and built my planting mounds from soil bought at a garden-supply store.

      A terracotta yard would be unusual in North America…

  3. Damn! Looks like my ingenious attempts to deflect suspicion have been foiled again.

    Love the cucumber and squash! As it happens, we picked the last of the cherry tomatoes this mornings – orange nut-shaped bursts of flavor that explode in your mouth. We have eaten so many of them by now, that we decided we’d turn this last batch (some 5 kilos) into sauce. We’ll put it in the freezer, for those winter nights when you need something to remind you of summer.

    We have picked our zucchinis clean by now, but it was a good year, at least as far as size is concerned. We got fewer than last year, though.

    The rest were a bit of a disappointment. Our peppers only gave us a couple of fruit, while our aubergines were full of seeds and bitter – unlike last year. And our tomatoes (buffaloes) were… weird. Some exploded while on the vine. Others turned out all right, but were too thick-skinned and dry. And we lost a few plants to fungi.

    The only thing still going in the garden is the figs. We cut the first one today, and it was great – soft, sweet and juicy. I can only hope the rest of them turn out as nice.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s back to the drawing board for me. I need to come up with a new plan for taking over the world…

    1. My tomato and pepper plants have resisted the fungi so far.

      I wish that I’d remembered to plant some pumpkin seeds, for a homegrown jack-o-lantern.

  4. I really want to learn how to garden, mainly so that when I move to Mars I can get a job working in the colony’s greenhouse.

    1. Have you covered the weak/nonexistent magnetic field protection on Mars in your planet articles? You might need some strange kind of glass for that greenhouse!

      1. I don’t remember if I covered that aspect of Mars colonization or not. To protect ourselves from radiation, the best bet is to build most of the colony underground. I’m not sure what the best option would be for our plants, unless we create subterranean grow-rooms instead of actual greenhouses.

  5. Squash and cucumber plants produce lots more flowers than fruits. You can tell which flowers are going to produce by looking right behind the blossom, even before the flower opens you’ll see the beginning of the fruit forming.
    By the way, squash blossoms are edible, many people stir fry them.

    1. Ah, if you can spot them before the flower opens, that implies that they have separate male and female flowers. I’ll have to read up on it before my next planting.

      I’ve also heard of people eating the flowers, but don’t personally know anyone who has tried them.

  6. Alas, I have a dead thumb when it comes to plants, so I haven’t been brave enough to take up gardening. I do enjoy the results, though. πŸ™‚ Hardly seems fair…

    1. If you looked at my garden right now, you might think I have a black thumb, but I talked to another gardener today, and her plants of the same type were also killed by fungus. We’ve just had such a wet summer!

  7. I left my garden 3 weeks ago to go on holiday. I am hoping there will be something left when I return. I have left a friend in charge of watering but if she doesn’t eat any of the stuff it’ll stop fruiting.

    If you are looking at fungus, good circulation of air helps, so a breezy garden is also a good bet as well as a sunny one. I tend to have no luck with butternut squash as I get all boy plants or all girls. However, if you pollinate them all with a paintbrush (small artist’s one, I mean) you can get more fruit.

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. I’ll keep that in mind if I’m ever picking a new garden location. I probably won’t be in this house next spring/summer, so who knows what the land will look like, or what climate I’ll be living in…

  8. […] took the headline of my latest post, Pod People? What Pod People? to a headline analyzer at […]

  9. I just put a bunch of shrubs in the back yard about a week ago. I’m not fruit/vegetable gardening, but everything seems to be doing fine so far! πŸ™‚

    1. I’m glad your plants are doing better than most of mine. I’m still harvesting tomatoes, and it looks like I’ll have a bumper crop of Cayenne peppers.

      1. Well that’s exciting! πŸ™‚

  10. […] you remember last year’s gardening report, I had some initial success with butternut squash and cucumber, but the plants then succumbed to […]

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