The Disheveled Gardener: Act Two

There’s something about waking up to a frost-killed begonia that makes me feel terribly sad. Even though I knew the cold was coming and was willing to sacrifice said begonia to Jack Frost, I still was sad and surprised to see the level of forlornness evidenced in that withered plant.

My poor, pathetic, frost-bitten begonia.

I covered my tomatoes and my two pretty marigolds, took in my geraniums – even the scraggly two-year old ones – but I chose to leave the begonias and pansies alone. The pansies are still beautiful and unmolested. The begonias are mush.
My pathetic, leggy geraniums. They were still blooming so I saved their lives.

And so begins autumn in Minnesota.

I like autumn. I like that it’s not so bloomin’ hot outside. I like hearing and seeing the combines at work, leaving the fields surrounding my house stubbly, as if their razors were set on “five o’clock shadow” as opposed to “smooth and kissable”. Yes, this is how I think about fields. I am not a farmer, nor a farmer’s wife, nor even the daughter of a farmer.

Possibly somewhere back in Scotland my ancestors farmed…but I can’t even guarantee that.

The aftermath.

Perhaps that is why my thumbs are a rather pale shade of green. I can grow nice cherry tomatoes, for example, but any big tomatoes I plant – every year, without fail – rot on the vine before they’re ripe and dash my hopes of lining my larder with gleaming jars of canned goodness. I keep trying, though. I’m an optimist.
Why, oh why, do my tomatoes do this?

I’m afraid that the sad truth is that, when it comes to gardening, I’m pathetic. I planted some parsley this year, and thyme, too. They both look lovely, even after the frost. But I never used them. Not once. Okay, maybe once. But my point is, I forgot about them. I watered them. But I never cooked with them. What kind of a gardener forgets to use her garden?

A disheveled gardener, that’s who.

My lovely – and unused – parsley.

But, disheveled or not, I enjoy my attempts at gardening. Just don’t come to my house expecting to chow down on a plethora of my own home-grown veggies.

That’s what the Farmer’s Market is for.

My one success!

4 Responses

  1. Allison K

    Your tomato problem is called “blossom end rot”, caused by poor calcium. Throughout winter months I save my eggshells and coffee grounds and, in spring when planting tomato seedlings, I mix a shovelful of eggshells and coffee (and well-aged manure or MiracleGro) in a ~2-ft circle. Remove lower leaves from your seedling, and plant on its side (so seedling is bowed into a sort-of “L”-shape)–this will give you better/stronger roots. I have consistently good luck with Early Girl variety tomatoes (fruit is very consistent & plentiful, 3-4 oz “racquetball-size”) and Romas also usually do OK. Some of the heirloom varieties like Celebrity and Super Fantastic can have significant problems with deep cracks developing near their stems if it is a dry year. Above all, water consistently!! Tomatoes don’t like “yo-yo watering”—once their roots are developed (I’d say once they start to blossom), be sure they’re getting 1″ of water a week (and not all at once!). If it is crazy-hot like this past July, they need almost double that–I was watering my tomatoes (and the rest of my garden) at least every other day. I went a bit nuts this summer and had a dozen tomato plants (usually have just 8-9), and have canned 24 pints of tomatoes, 15 pints of soup and given away probably 50 pounds of fresh tomatoes to family and neighbors. (BTW, I’m not “that gardener” who has the perfect garden–mine is full of weeds and I don’t always water as frequently as I should because my outside faucet is horrible! Oh,and this was the first year of my current garden–I’m a renter, and my landlord allowed me to till up pretty much my entire back yard to create a 600 sq ft garden!) So if I can do it, so can you! Good luck.

    1. OH, thank you! I wondered if that was the problem. I did give it bone meal when I planted them, but perhaps not enough? I don’t know! I used to be better about egg shells and composting than I am now. I think I need to return to being good about it. I’d never heard that about planting it on its side – interesting! I do water every-other day – in the evenings, usually – I don’t know if mornings are better? Maybe that doesn’t matter. That’s awesome that you got so many tomatoes so you could harvest and can that much! I canned tomatoes once and really enjoyed the process…though it was hot and sticky! No…in case you’re wondering…they were not my tomatoes, someone gave them to me! Thanks so much for your advice, I really appreciate it!

  2. I believe the dry rot is caused by inconsistent watering. I’ve had problems with that off and on too and I plant only 2-3 tomatoes in pots. For the first time this year squirrels nibbled on my tomatoes. I was so mad. The tomatoes were perhaps within days of being fully ripened. If they would have eaten the entire fruit…, but, no, take a few bites out of this one and that one.

    That is a very poetic way you have of viewing the harvested fields. Now I’ll never think of a corn field in quite the same way again.

    1. I should maybe water every day…next year! I had woodchucks eat my green pumpkins the one year that I planted pumpkins, so I can imagine now you feel! The fields always make me poetic…whether the poetry is good or bad, I cannot say!

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