Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gardening Part 5: Mary, Mary, quite contrary, why doesn't my garden grow?

     What is so hard about lettuce and spinach? Everyone I talk to seems to be able to grow lettuce and spinach no problem. "I plant seeds in the fall and I have bunches ready to go right NOW!" "I plant on St. Patrick's Day, and I have bunches ready to go right NOW!" OK, fine, you can plant these seeds while it's still cool or gets below freezing at night. We did that. We actually got some seeds to pop up, both leaf lettuce varieties and our spinach. Little dime-sized lettuce leaves and 2" long spiky spinach leaves. We were excited, thinking we were masters of the universe of gardening. Then, there they sat. Not growing. Then, after a couple weeks of not budging in size, they started to slowly wilt. First, the lettuce went. It just wilted into lettuce-vapor, and went away. The spinach was almost worse, because you can still see it.

Sad, sad spinach
     What went wrong? We're still trying to figure that one out. Meanwhile, back at the snap peas and pole beans, the seedlings we so tenderly cared for in the house, gently planting after the freeze was gone and babied endlessly--well, probably 75% of them are gone. Maybe two cucumbers lived out of about a dozen. Even the zucchini, the stawart of the soil, the vegetable that everyone brings to the office because they are overloaded; even most of those seedlings failed. ???????
      The next step, then, was to basically buy starters for some vegetables, and just pop seeds into the garden beds, knowing we'll have a late harvest, for others. Doing both was like eating sand; it was exactly what we tried to avoid when we invested in starting from seed. We had no choice. I found some wonderful zucchini and yellow squash starters at a local nursery, and starter tomatoes (which we had always planned on doing) and cucumbers from our Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmer, Lorraine, who runs Moonrise Farm. We still had some cucumber seeds (along with pole beans and snap peas), and I went crazy, poking seeds wherever I could. I figured what the heck, with the mortality we've been experiencing, the more the better. So here's where we stand:

Pole beans and snap peas, some stragglers from our seedlings and those growing from seeds we planted:
Pole beans, both the leggy seeds that were
started indoors, and two from direct sowing, which look
alot better!
Snap peas, again, a few stragglers from our effort of starting seeds indoors, and from direct sowing into the garden bed:

 Cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash:

 Yellow summer squash from starters bought at a local nursery. They look great!

Cucumbers, from starters (on the left), and cukes, started from direct sowing, on the right.

And, one zucchini that made it through our seed-starting experiment. We didn't think it'd make it, so we stuck it in our tomato bed just for kicks, and it's a survivor.

      So, there you have a description of our more troublesome vegetables. There are a few bright spots, though. One is our short row of radishes, and our second planting of them (last weekend), starting to pop up. Radishes = easy. Then, our tomatoes seem to be plugging along; all have flowers, and three or four of them have little green balls of jucy goodness getting ready to be part of a BLT sandwich:
Radishes, from big to small

     We can't forget our flowers. We have perennials going (like the below photos of larkspur and some sort of Salvia species), they will likely peak at the end of this month, with others to follow. And, we also plant a fair share of annuals for color, including two whiskey barrels that flank our garage, and containers/pots everywhere, most on our back deck. Here are a few samples of all:

Annuals, bright spots on either side of our garage

Delphinium (Larkspur) just getting going;
Red-hot pokers int he background.

Some sort of Salvia that for some reason took over
one side of our pond. The color here is not what you
really see; they are a beautiful lavender/purple color
that carpets the ground.

Clematis vine; obviously we love purple!

     That's the status of our garden and yard. We are learning from our disappointments (spinach, lettuce especially), and think that part of the reason is that we simply had a late start to our garden this year due to it being our first year and things simply had to be built; a windy, windy spring that continues well into the summer (witness our horrible fire season this year), and in general, pretty cold temperatures.
     Speaking of fires, we are still dealing with the Wallow fire up here, with the Monument fire going strong outside of Sierra Vista, and the final days of the Horseshoe Two fire getting contained in the incredible Chiricahua mountains. The Wallow is now over 500,000 acres (it is staggering); the Horseshoe Two is over 200,000 acres, and the Monument reached the 20,000-acre mark today. I had an opportunity to get into part of the burned area this past week, visiting Alpine and Nutrioso. It is a mix of bad and uncanny good luck. One thing that is apparent, however, is that our thinning treatments have worked immensely around the communities that we treated, virtually saving all from no doubt an even greater loss of homes. Forest restoration is a complex issue, and I am now even more impassioned to do something about it. I have a few photos, but they are technically through my employer, so I will not post them here, but if you have a chance, you can visit here to see an interview I did for our website, and here to find out a bit more about the fire's anticipated impacts to wildlife. And, if you have an interest, my husband ventured into the world of "social media" this past weekend and started a Facebook page for the Arizona Game & Fish Department's Pinetop office (search "Arizona Game and Fish Pinetop Region") or go here to get to it, and please, "like" it! It needs friends! The page offers up all regional wildlife information related to the Wallow fire as well as general information on what's happening in the region.

     My next blog entry may end up being a longer one devoted to the recovery effort following the Wallow fire. Depends on what I feel like writing about. Suffice it to say, dealing with this fire has consumed both Bruce's and my life for the past three weeks, which is one of the reasons I haven't had time to write a blog entry. Media interviews, helping with the recovery effort, assessing damages, outreach efforts, and even working with our Senator and Congressional representative staffers to help make the point that our forests are important, and they must be restored. We have a long way to go. It is an exhausting process, and coming home to a garden (even though it has its challenges), our flowers, and our dog, who loves us despite our brown thumbs, reminds us that it is good to have a home, and to chase life and hold on to it whenever you can.

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