Sunday, November 11, 2012

In The Garden

Dill flower

That we've been sweating through a drought here in Texas is common knowledge to anyone around these parts. I am so thankful for modern times and it's comforts such as water hoses, sprinklers, and ever flowing clean water. Without such conveniences there would be no May flowers, tomatoes, peppers, melons, cukes, beans, and the like.

So thanks to easy irrigation, I bring you our April garden update. Yes, I know this is primarily a book blog, but I love gardening as well. Truthfully, I am not the master gardener. That's my dad. Before we moved in with my parents, I did all the gardening. And the plants did well enough. But my dad? Plants don't just do well under his care. They bend to his will.

Check this out.

Just two tomato plants. And yes that is the street in the background. We have a producing vegetable garden in the front yard. We are those neighbors. Problem is, our pollinators have yet to show up. We've had a honey bee or two, and a sparse wasp population and hardly a single butterfly. Despite the bee balm,



and yarrow.

I've taken to hand pollinating the flowers with a small paint brush, trying to encourage a little love among the blossoms, with a handful of fruit to show for my labors.

We have twenty-seven tomato plants with eleven different varieties. So far, the Brandywine has been the most sluggish producer, with only two fruits between the two plants. That's an improvement over last year. We tried four Brandywines. Not even one set fruit.

Isn't this lovely? That's a single droplet of water cupped by a sugar snap pea leaf that caught my eye one morning after watering. Due to a late and hard (for our area) freeze, we lost all our winter peas and had to replant in February. So we're just now getting the first of the harvest, here in late April. A few more weeks and it'll be too late for the poor guys. Within a few days, I'll be planting cow peas beside our winter pea plants.

We also have some late cabbage and broccoli. The broccoli is so close to bolting, so we've been eating immature heads. Gotta say, the flavor is interesting, sort of garlicky. Tastes nice raw with tuna, capers, and lemon.

Our cukes and squash are coming along nicely.

I tell you what, the squash sauteed with onion and oregano and sweet cream butter over cornbread and topped with a fried egg is our new favorite breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.

Of the fruit, the strawberries have been most disappointing. Maybe the plants that survive will surprise us next year, but whatever dies, dies. We're not replacing them. The blueberry plants, although small seem to be doing well, with the exception of one. It's dying for lack of something. Not sure what. Next year I hope to buy about five more blueberry bushes.

And the blackberry vines have all but taken over the south side of our yard. Let's just say Blue Bell Vanilla Bean will be a staple come July when the cobblers are hot and bubbly.

The watermelons, cantaloupes, and green beans are having a hard time getting started on account of those squirrely varmints that keep digging up our seed.

They have no interest in the okra seeds or seedlings, but the morning after we plant beans and melons, dig holes are all that remain. We've replanted so many times I've lost count. This seems to be working though. My dad planted, then spread wire mesh over the beds. We've finally got seedlings.

To put all of this into perspective, I'll leave you with a few wide shots of the beds.

See that point of red? That's a strawberry. The only strawberry plants that are thriving are leftovers from last year, now growing under a wild tangle of blackberry bramble with thorns as long as my pinkie nail.

This is our main backyard bed, the one not overrun with blackberries.

Here's our front yard bed. In this bed, we have two mandarin trees. Want to hear something funny? Last year, I planted this bed full of mammoth sunflowers, zinnias, bee balm, and cosmos. The mandarins we're all but hidden. This year, my dad said he didn't want to plant anything that would overwhelm the mandarins. Guess who planted the bed this year? Yeppers. My dad. Bet you can't pick out what's mandarin and what's . . . well, everything else he planted.

And guess what, folks? As I type these final words, raindrops are spattering the windows. Not much, but who knows? Maybe we'll have an April shower after all.

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