"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Monday, August 9, 2010

We Are All Going to Starve to Death (Hypothetically)

Once again, my garden is a dismal failure.

I don't know why I keep trying, really I don't. I had a short run of good years back in the mid-nineties, and ever since each year has been worse than the last. I had high hopes when I moved up here - all the space one could want! Unlimited supplies of homegrown animal poop for compost! All day sun!

I didn't know about compacted soil, tons of buried trash, ninety-nine kinds of really bad weeds, or the incredible persistence and amazing vertical abilities of goats. Every year, I have put increasing amounts of work into the garden for decreasing returns. However, hope springs eternal in the human breast, especially in the spring, and this year the early sunshine inspired me to new heights of optimism ( see The Tippler's Garden, What Lies Beneath....., Garden Update, March 11/2010).

Well, spring is a long gone memory, and late summer dog-days are here. My garden has failed again, in new and inexplicable ways. I am posting some pictures in case of any of you GOOD gardeners (Not you, Idiot -Bonjour? I'll bloody give you Bonjour!) might have a clue as to what is going wrong.

I am the only person I know who manages to harvest one tenth the number of potatoes they planted in the first place. I killed all the potatoes I planted in the ground, because I hilled them too high and smothered them to death. These are the ones I planted in the bathtub. The plants looked good and healthy until a couple of weeks ago when they suddenly began to shrivel without ever having flowered. I figured I'd better dig them up, and this is what I got. The biggest one is about the size of my five year old's fist.

These look like nice, healthy scarlet runner beans, right? The vines are about twelve feet long and covered with flowers. And the flowers are covered with bees. The beans, however, look like this:
I don't know what could be causing this. I'd say it was lack of pollinators but I have two bloody beehives not ten yards away. Somebody told me it might be too much nitrogen, and if that's not nonsense it might make sense because the beans are planted in almost pure compost.

My cucumber vines. I planted six seeds, and grew four healthy looking vines, which, however, simply stopped growing at about two feet in length. They flowered like mad - are still flowering like mad - but have set only - get ready - two cucumbers. Between four vines. And one of them is a gherkin. Now the vines are beginning to wither.

Same exact problem with my winter squash. It seems like no pollination, right? But I see bees everywhere. What's the deal? Are they retarded bees? Do they simply prefer the clover and the thistles to my nice squash and bean blossoms?

What the heck are we going to eat come the Zombipocalypse? Blackberries?

Oh yes, there's always zucchini. Nothing can daunt the zucchini.

And mint. That's about it.


Garden Lily said...

Hmmm, gardens can be unpredictable... Your beans are quite a bit ahead of mine, which don't even have flowers yet. The cucumbers may prefer the cooler soil for their roots (i.e. down in the ground) rather than in a container. The goats, well, I don't know what to say, but at least you get a good supply of milk and cheese from them. :-)

Olive said...

I'm with Garden Lily..maybe the roots got too hot in the containers including the spuds in the bath tub. Did you by any chance water them mid-day when the plants had wilted with the sun beating down on them ? I found that the best time to water anything in containers is early morning before the sun has warmed the earth, and if you forget, wait until early evening, no matter how droopy the plants appear, otherwise you will "cook" the roots. With the cucumbers, when they are about 2 ft long, pinch out the leader forcing the plant to make side shoots, then you should get more fruit. but you probably already know this Aimee? Better luck next time.

AnyEdge said...

You may be forced to de-free range your goats a bit. No goat yet has learned to reach a garden 30' away whilst tethered with a stout 20' chain.

They are, after all, just domesticated antelope. Of course they bound.

~Tonia said...

I always water late evening or early morning. I have basically thrown goat bedding on the ground where I wanted to plant and piled it all winter. Planted everything and added more goat bedding. They went nuts I cant even get to half of it.. But for the most part I ignore it.. I dont weed just mow as close as possible. It helps with bugs abd holding water in.
I would say with the Cukes its being in the container. I have never had them do well in a container for the simple fact they dry out to fast..
My goats dont get into the stuff either.. Of course they are behind 3 strands of electric and 4 strands of barbed wire together.
Sometimes I think we try to hard and its like mothering your kids to death!Lol... I dont know really that is just a thought..

polly's path said...

I am new to gardening myself, and have had mixed results for the last 2-3 years. Last year I don't know what i did to my cukes, but they produced like crazy all summer long. i couldn't pick them fast enough. This year-the opposite.
I have had trouble with pollinating this year. My potyatoes did really well, mainly because I think I watered them well(at night) and hilled them just enough. Tomatoes did fantastic in the beginning of summer, now the plants are huge, huge, very healthy, but not a flower in sight.
Squash did well, eggplants-I have never had that many, to the point where I don't know what the heck to do with them. My butternut squash did really well(location and watering), my beans did well, but my first crop of corn..well, it wasn't pretty. The second crop of corn we harvested last week and it looked great, which makes me think the temperatures had something to do with it.
I too have fertilized like crazy with homegrown goat poo.
Go figure.
My FIL swears by lime. His answer to every gardening problem is "add lime" to the soil.
Maybe I will next year.

Penelope said...

My guess is that it's mostly a combination of your hard as rock soil and not watering enough (or watering midday) being in containers does mean watering all the time because things dry out fast, I killed everything in my greenhouse this year that way. It only takes one day of being bone dry to kill the plant, or render it near useless. How much did you tell your house sitter to water while you were in Mexico?

Allison said...

This year I managed to kill off all my zuchinni and yellow summer squash? Don't know why. Last year was overwhelmed with squash, go figure?

Everything else seemed to be ok. I did hear that too much nitrogen can cause plants to grow great but not produce much, beans, peppers, etc. Maybe it is the goat poo.

I never could grow anything in a container except tomatoes and a few herbs.. and forget about anything inside the house.. I am death to all houseplants : )

Anonymous said...

Why, oh why do you not return my calls? I've tried and I've tried--day and night--to reach you! I'm worried and I'm ready to call YOUR MOM!!! xocharlotte

P.S. I do love your blog--you are such a great writer!

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Urban Dirt Girl said...

I'm sorry you are having a hard time this year. I too have several fabulous failures going on. My potatoes did great but my tomatoes are looking pitiful and my onions are ungrateful little buggers.....they are fairie sized. Maybe too much kindness....but I hope you get some expert advice!

Anonymous said...

If it is any consolation, I practically cry when I look at my garden this year (just a little south of you). The slugs have had a heyday with everything and even ate our onions. The tomatoes and potatoes are all dying of blight. The blueberries are now existent and the apples and Asian Pears are pitiful (as are the plums and we never even saw a cherry). The corn, beans, squash and cauliflower look good but no product yet and summer is coming to a close quickly this year. It felt like fall this morning. Our pea production was pathetic too. All that work for almost nothing! I guess it's cheap exercise.