Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Another Jungle

Every year my vegetable garden turns into a jungle.  Despite careful planning to maximize the small space and yet keep things neat, things always go wild.  I know it is my fault.  I cannot bring myself to pull all those self-seeded sunflower, dill, cilantro and borage plants.  That certainly adds to the issue.  The other problem is that I plant very closely.  As I said, the space is small and I want to get as much food out of it as I can.  But as a result, I now have to climb into the back of the tomato row on my hands and knees.

And then every year there is one huge sunflower that dominates the garden, like a sentinel.  I should dress it like a scarecrow the way it looms over the rest of the plants.  Someday, I swear that I will have a nice neat garden with wide rows that I can amble down with a basket on my hip. So here is the garden today.  Do you think there is any hope for me?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A wish for berries

One thing I do not grow is fruit, simply for a lack of space.  I feel confined by our corner village lot.  Apparently almost an acre is not enough room for me, especially when a rather large house consumes most of that acre.  I think I'd like 3 acres.  

On one acre I would have 4 vegetable garden beds each about 20x30 feet in size.  This would give me enough room to rotate the crops from year to year to reduce disease and pest problems.

A second acre would be dedicated to fruit crops.  I would have several apple trees, a large stand of raspberries bushes, a big strawberry patch, a few rows of grape vines and, if the soil is acidic enough, quite a few blueberry bushes.

Then, that third acre...  Well, here is my thought.  I'd like to do a u-pick flower farm.  I'd have rows and rows of cutting flowers, such as gladiolas, dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, lavender, etc. that people could come in and cut their own bouquets to take home.

So, that is my ultimate dream and someday it will come true.  If I had all that fruit I could make more pies like that one up there. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ode to bugs

I am learning.  It may take me a little longer than some people to figure things out, but I think I'm a pretty smart cookie and I usually get there eventually.  

I used to hate aphids.  They are so gross looking, right?  And I used to battle them.  I'd spray them with hard bursts of water to get them off the affected plants and I'd try insecticidal soap.  None of it was very effective.  And once, as I hang my head in shame, I specifically remember spraying some lupines with Seven.  Then one day, I just gave up.  "Screw it, let the aphids have everything!" I said to myself. 

 This year I have a patch of yarrow that planted itself in the corner of the yard next to the neighbors fence.  I noticed it was completely infested with aphids, but I didn't care.  Then I noticed some lady beetles on it and thought they'd never eat all those aphids.  Then later I saw that there were a whole lot of lady beetle larvae climbing all over the patch and I started to pay close attention.  On looking today, there is not a single aphid on that yarrow to be found.  And when I say it was infested with them, I mean every stem was covered with them from top to bottom.  I've never seen anything like it.

So there is the moral of that story: Leave the bad bugs alone and the good ones will come.

More about bugs: It looks like we are back in the caterpillar raising business.  I did this last year; brought in butterfly eggs and cats and raised them into butterflies and then released them.  I wasn't going to do it this year.  It's a lot of work and someone has to be around all the time to keep them fed and to release them when they emerge from their cocoons.  We did have a few Black Swallowtail cats on the dill in the garden, but every single one has been eaten by an industrious bird.  So, I caved and we've now started collecting the Monarch cats.  They are fun to watch.  The kids love it.  And it feels good to be saving a few beautiful lives.