Saturday, June 6, 2009

Still At It: Two Months of What? How? and Why?

Where have we been? Outside! It's been a busy and glorious couple of months here in the Pacific Northwest--way too nice to be indoors for one minute longer than we have to be. In other words, after working  8 or 9 hours a day, we're outside for the duration. Thus, no blogging.

We have been gardening, of course! It’s a good thing I’ve kept notes. This blog, which was supposed to be our gardening record, has been sorely neglected. Luckily, I kept up with the classic method of tracking planting dates, spatial planning, and reminders of what went where: my gardening journal:

And you thought we were modern! Not so much. The fact that we both write a lot every day for a living, including blogs of our own and three for ­a client of mine, makes the idea of writing after hours a wee bit unappealing. Obviously, our priorities are whacked—because this is the fun stuff. The garden has my heart and the rest is just work. Lovely, enjoyable, dream-job work; but work, just the same. 

So on to our updates. When we last left you, fellow gardeners, we were deliriously happy with ourselves and our amazing sprout-growing abilities. Turns out, we are pretty darn good at growing seeds. We make nice sprouts.

So nice that I could have cried when I had to thin them out. I called that my “Teresa’s Choice” day (after Sophie's Choice, the heartwrenching William Styron novel and film starring Meryl Streep, which I'm sure most of you are smart enough to know without me telling you) because I couldn’t bear to choose among my little seedlings that way. Who was I to decide who lived and who died? But I did what I had to do. I'm strong that way.

Sniff. That was me, taking the scissors to our babies on April 11. And then I got over it as we watched them continue to grow. In the meantime, things were hatching in the cold crop bed:

 We are peas! We love to grow under the protection
of King Cucumber!

April 21: Planted fingerling potatoes. Talk about late! I hear it was supposed to be done on St. Paddy’s Day, but we didn’t even get them in the mail from the seed company until early April. Then I had to cut them into pieces and leave them in the window sill to shrivel up and die sprout. Just when they looked too wrinkled to live, I finally got my butt out to the bed and put them in the ground.  The trenches were nice and straight: 

I planted four rows and couldn’t bear to throw the leftover potato pieces away, so I stuck them down in the ground between the rows. What the hell—I wanted to see what they would do.

Here’s what they did:

 I think they're going to be okay. This is today, June 6.

April 28: Planted some onion starts given to us by our lovely neighbor Kathy: Walla Walla, which are Washington specialty onions, and some yellow cooking onions. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which I put where, but I think the WWs are on the left and the yellow onions on the right. We’ll find out.

April 29: Everybody in the cold crop bed looked like they were struggling. Except the peas. Carrots were barely up, spinach and swiss chard not doing much. Lettuce okay: seedlings not above ground yet. What are we doing wrong? I started asking. On a daily basis.

May 1: Anticipating an in-the-ground planting day of May 8 or 9, we started leaving the seedlings outside on the porch during the day. They got a little late-afternoon sun but we brought them in every night. Like good parents.

May 7: We left the seedlings out all night. Full moon, and chilly. Oopsie?  We’ll see.  

Friday, May 8 was Plant the Garden Day. For reals. We put everybody in the ground. With much measuring, discussing, and reconfiguring, we transplanted the little guys. 

I was so nervous. I didn’t want to hurt them. Little did I know I already had.

We also planted seeds: squash (2 summer, 3 winter), corn, beans, beets, and kale. And we crossed our fingers.

In the cold crop bed, the carrots were finally showing feathery leaves—six weeks after we planted it! Geesh.  The lettuce was sprouting well, so I started my heinous chore of deciding who would live and who would not. As I was thinning the little guys out, David came to the rescue: “Why don’t we just move them around and replant them?”  Genius! We did that, and they are still growing all over the place!

We had lots of seedling starts left over, so we gave them away to our friends and neighbors. That felt nice. Little did I know I’d be jealous later.

Now we’re at June 6, almost a full month later. Here’s how things look now.

Swiss Chard: We have one, count it, ONE plant.
And some still-pathetic seedlings. 
People, this was planted on March 25!

 Fairly healthy squash, one month after planting. (But really, who CAN'T grow squash??)

And it looks like we can grow peas. Slow peas. Seed package said we'd have some to eat about May 20th. This is June 6. At least they're blooming!

So pretty!


Our transplanted seedlings have had a rough time:

Poor little eggplants.

Tomatoes are looking pathetic. Yellow leaves, weak stems, sad little things. 
I am especially upset about the tomatoes. I feel we really failed them. I mean, look at our tomato plants at our neighbor's house:

 What is he doing that we're not?? Maybe I should have kept them for us. Grrr.

Poor peppers: haven’t grown since the day we put them in.


Cucumbers: my beautiful sprouts!

Shriveled up and died. And I had already given all the rest away.
So, I planted some leftover seeds, and they’re starting to come up.
Remind me not to give away starts next year!

The rest of the seedlings have met a similar fate. I think the leeks are still barely alive, but they need a miracle. Same with the basil, which are hanging on by little threads.

Today I crossed over to the dark side and purchased a big, beautiful basil plant. At Trader Joe's. For $2.99. What is wrong with me? Do you think the basil plants will think I've given up on them? That I don't believe in them? How can I explain that it's me, not them? I'm the failure. Oh, why did I even bother with seedlings? (the drama) Why is it only now that people tell us how difficult it is to start from seeds?  I thought that's how everybody did it! 

Always the calm one, David called the Cooperative Extension or Master Gardeners or some plant savvy department and they said we planted our seedlings "way too early." What? We read the books! Everything said our last frost date was April 30. We waited another week! Next year, I'm waiting until May 15 at least. Maybe later. I can't bear to see everyone die. And I really can't bear to see all the other gardens in town that started with greenhouse-grown starts--now full, beautiful, and producing food. It's enough to make me pout.

But we've learned. We'll see. The person on the phone (?) told David that everything would "probably" come back. Oh, please do.

And David learned how to take care of our wee slug problem:

Here are his thoughts on that slimy, ickky subject:

Slugs drank my beer    

Ill give up a lot for a garden.  A beautiful sunny week that I could have been kayaking was spent moving 12 yards of dirt.

The countless hours that lie ahead of us this summer weeding and tending to the babies (thats what we call our plantssick, I know).  Its a symbiotic relationship and I know well get a lot in return.  But the latest sacrifice was almost too much to bear.

Finally, as brave little pea shoots began to emerge a few weeks back, Ts motherly eagle eye spotted a baby slug in the dirt, likely plotting its attack.

We thumbed furiously through the stacks of gardening books, jumped on Google and searched for not just an answer but the right answer.  How to control slugs without harming the babies (the green and the furry ones) whom we shower with so much care.

Seeing that look in her eye as she arrived at the solution I tried to dissuade her.  No, not the…”

Beer! T exclaimed, and ran to the fridge fetching out an ice cold Fish Tail Organic Amber Ale.

Now this took the cakeand the beer.  Slimy critters.  Things French people eat for dinner.  And theyre drinking my beer!

Oh well, Ive seen no evidence of late night parties or glistening trails leading to the refrigerator.  So I guess one beer wont hurt.

But theyre not getting my potato chips,  even if they knock on the door and ask!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

That's it for today, folks. Hope you're garden is growing better than ours. But we still have much hope. We know all those little plants are trying to survive. And tonight we're having salad for dinner, made with our greens--all is not lost. Happy gardening! 



  1. Tomatoes and Pepper need lots of heat and humidity...go to Charley's Green House Supply in Mt. Vernon and pick up a "tomato tent". It's basically a big, clear, plastic umbrella that acts like a green house, very warm and humid. The largest size they sell goes for $20 - smaller tents are less. It keeps rain off of the tomatoes - a good thing because rain can give them fungus. My tomatoes are going completely nuts in mine, a little too nuts actually, I over planted it. You can also try the "deep watering" method. Put holes in a plastic pot or piece of PVC pipe with a drill and put it in the ground next to your tomatoes. Water into the pipe or pot and you'll get water right next to the roots of the tomatoes, something they really like.

  2. or for a do-it-yourself approach to the cloche, hoops made of metal hangers and clear plastic bags (like the ones from the cleaners) work just as well and cost $0. Not as pretty as a purchase cloche... I know...

    Tomatoes and peppers should survive, they'll just produce later. Bummer... but they'll produce. Some years it works well to put them out early, and some years it doesn't.

    Me, on the other hand, I waited too late this year to transplant many of my tomatoes (ran out of time) and they had the time to really get pot bound and unhappy. But they'll survive. See, I knew I was making a mistake... I still did it. Maybe you'll learn, maybe you won't...

  3. Okay my dears, I have to say that I'm SO proud of you both! Those are some impressive beds you've established. And my friend Di, you've been out to their place, has a cloche and each year buys a roll of heavy clear plastic to put over hoops so a whole raised bed is under plastic. She has good luck with this. I grow tomatoes, with nearly no luck at all, in large pots on the deck. So this year, instead, I bought three topsy turvey planters and they're hanging from the deck eaves. I think these suckers might be just the thing for out here. I figured the reflected heat off the siding would help. So far they're looking.....odd....but good. And I think that's why your neighbors had better luck...they've planted next to a foundation right? looks like their plants are in a toasty location. Tomatoes like it hot. I'll send you a pic of my oddball planters....or are you on facebook? Love and miss you!

  4. What has been happening in your garden since this post?

  5. I'll be back. Tomorrow! Lots of photos and news to share.

    Like. . . you wouldn't believe our tomatoes!! Yippee!


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