Thursday, July 30, 2009


It's two o'clock in the morning and I can't sleep. So I might as well use this time to 'fess up.

My garden is an abject failure. Despite a good start, my plants are now dying left and right and I don’t know why. Of the ones still living, many have lost most of their leaves – eaten away by an unknown agent. I would suspect grasshoppers, but I haven’t seen any. The weather has been unusually mild for July -- highs in the upper 80's and an occasional rainstorm, so that's not the problem. I’m not getting any lessons learned because I really don’t understand what is going on.

Here are the sad stats:
Arkanasas Traveller tomato – turned brown and crispy almost overnight.
Ancho pepper – turned wilty overnight. Water failed to revive.
Eggplants and potatoes – leaves eaten to the nubby nubs.
Cucumbers and crookneck squash – vines shriveled away almost overnight.
Zucchini – squash get half grown and then turn to mush. I’ve started picking them at half grown stage just so I have something!
Amaranth – stalks broken by first good rainstorm. Some seed heads still retrievable.
Remaining peppers, tomatoes, and watermelon – failure to thrive. Spindly, weak, with little fruit happening. The one exception is the jalapeƱo plant which, while small, is producing quite a few peppers.

Thankfully, not everything is a disaster. I expect to have a good potato harvest despite the missing leaves. My herbs are, for the most part, doing quite well. The okra is producing reliably, especially those from the seeds my cousin sent. The Swiss chard is still producing, which is more than I expected. And the peanuts are amazing -- they're growing and spreading like crazy. The plants in window boxes are doing well, too – the French sorrel looks like it needs to go in the ground and so does the lemon verbena.

So, okay, I need to start playing detective and try to figure out what went wrong. Some of the plants, like the tomatoes, may have been getting too much sun and/or not enough nutrients(despite watering the straw bales with compost tea). Some, like the squash, may have been getting too much water -- unless an autopsy reveals squash borer damage. The missing leaves are obviously insect or bird damage. And I’m also wondering about all those bags of top soil and composted cow manure I bought at Walmart -- did they have herbicides or other undesirable residues?

When I think of how much I spent on soil amendments and organic fertilizers and seeds and plants and water, and how small the return, it's depressing. I really need to do some controlled experiments – growing identical plants in different soils and conditions. I’ve ordered a bunch of seeds for a fall and winter garden, so I’ll have a chance to do just that. After I pull myself out of the doldrums.

I'm just glad we don't have to rely on the garden for our food or we would have starved to death by now. Bummer!

1 comment:

risa said...

In the east it was the worst garden year in over 50 years. It's a heartache-y thing to be doing sometimes, so you have to live for those other times.