Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Harvest (Sort of)

Now that it's already November, it's a bit late to be posting pictures of the fruits of (mostly my husband's) labor. The garden has been dug up and tilled under, the stakes have been removed, and the hideously laughable temporary deer fence has been packed away. And I must say, I'm relieved.

A few random potatoes (which my
husband pronounced as "just okay,"
and the Zucchini that Ate Manhattan
The First Year of Being an Official Gardener was difficult, as it is for a lot of people. Some things, like that stinkin' frickin' frackin' blight, are largely beyond our control and plant more of a seed of despair than anything else. We planted wayyyyy too much zucchini, which proved hardy enough to survive Nuclear War and then some. And yet, we probably planted just as much squash - the stuff I did want lots of - and it barely produced half a dozen vegetables. Not sure what happened there.

Tomatoes were beautiful and round until around the middle of summer. I checked on them, they looked picture perfect although still hard and green, I trimmed some leaves to let more light in, and then went back down the hill to wait another week or so for them to do their business.

Meanwhile, I tended to our doomed pumpkin patch that was busy producing lots of leaves and few fruits. Not enough sun, we reasoned, but still it was fun to try. We got a whopping two pumpkins out of our efforts, that looked about the size of a grapefruit. I trimmed some leaves off of those, too, in the hopes that I could let some more light in and encourage something to happen.

As this was going on, the pumpkins were silently spreading the much-hated Powdery Mildew. Not enough sun, too much water - thanks to the kids liberally sprinkling them every hour on the hour whenever I wasn't looking. Poor things didn't stand a chance. Although really, my research on the nasty stuff yielded that it does happen to many plants in the curcubitaceae family, which include cucumbers, squashes, and melons. Every time we passed a pumpkin or squash patch in our travels, I always craned my neck to see: Did they have powdery mildew?

After I ripped out the offending plants (and unfortunately even some I didn't want to pull out, because I wasn't paying attention), I set off to see what was going on Up the Hill. As I got closer to our garden plot, I gasped at what my husband had warned me about: it looked like a flamethrower attack had been launched on our garden. The Dreaded Blight Fungus was among us!

You'll know it when your tomato plants have blight. It can affect other types of plants close by, and it's considered wise not to plant tomatoes and potatoes close to each other (we did). It first starts out like a discolored yellowish blossoming under the skin, and if you leave them sit too long, the fruit practically bursts forth at the seams with white powdery yuck. While some have suggested that you might be able to cut off the bad stuff and eat them (before they get white, at least) do not can with them, since it's considered a disease.

In our area, it was apparently a bad year for blight, as a nearby co-op farm had to destroy pretty much their entire crop. Pretty depressing. I have read that some people will go to great lengths to avoid it - and you can, to some extent. Trimming off the lowest level of leaves prevents contaminated soil from splashing up during rain storms, and watering from ground level can also help. Some people cover their plants and do a whole host of crazy things, and yet it can be spread through the air, neighboring plants and through contaminated garden tools. Given this, I don't think I'm going to be a Master Tomato Grower anytime soon.

And as if you didn't have enough to worry about, there's early blight and late blight. Both can decimate your prized patch faster than you can say ketchup.

And yet, come spring, we'll probably be hovering over the seed displays, planning on what to plant next year...