Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Still Drying Out

April 24, 2008 - We’re continuing the drying out process after our epic rainfall. I really did expect to see a lot of failing plants today, thinking that the amount of water in the soil would have to have more effect but was pleasantly surprised. I think that the raised beds are really fantastic at this point. We’ll see how I feel about them in the blistering heat of the summer when I have to water more.

I’m still looking for rain barrels to fit to my gutter system but am not really having any luck finding even food grade barrels to modify myself here locally. I really do hate to pay 3 times as much in price and then double the price again in shipping for rain barrels. It is quite disappointing and if anyone knows where to find some local to Norfolk, please do let me know!

That Stevia plant that was wilting yesterday is definitely on the way out. Utterly and completely wilted and limp. The center stalk is still firm; it is just all the leaves. I couldn’t bring myself to chop it down but I’m definitely going to do something today so I can at least salvage the leaves for drying. Again, no pests or evidence of disease at all in any of the plants and no wilting on any of the other plants so I’m really convinced it is part of that mysterious wilt that so many others have noted in Stevia.

If anyone has any experience with this and insight into the reasons, I’d be thrilled to know it. Since I had replanted them just a few days before that, I’m wondering if there was some damage that simply took a bit of time to become noticeable. Perhaps they have especially sensitive vascular systems or sensitive roots?

On a side note, I didn’t really have any idea as to how large I could expect Stevia to get in my area, but I read a post recently where a guy said his got to about 4.5 feet tall and very wide. I find that amazing. Since I planted them in extra wide window boxes, thinking they would get about as large as many of my other herbs, I’m thinking they’ll be replanted again!

One of my two tarragon plants has a bit of yellow at the base that is worrying also. Not sure what that is about so I’ll just keep a watch on it since it may simply be related to the rain.

The Brandywine has perked back up just fine so that is a huge relief. Of all the plants I’m looking forward to eating the babies of, that is at the top of my list. There is simply nothing at all like the perfect texture and rich taste of a well grown and fresh Brandywine tomato. A couple of weeks ago I paid $4 for one of them in Florida because I just couldn’t wait any longer.

Okay, I need to stop daydreaming about the Brandywines because I’m in real danger of actually beginning to drool.

I have another bit of confusion here. Early peas were noted in my gardening books as one of the easiest of the veggies to grow first being very forgiving and tolerating the up and down weather of spring. Those same gardening books emphasized that one should plant only what one will eat.

Not being a huge fan of peas that have been cooked, I rarely serve them and once when I did, poor Vanna was reduced to tears at the thought of having to eat the two bites required to get up from the table. Definitely traumatic and I’ve never served them since. Given this history, I had my doubts as to whether or not this is a crop I could really use. But then again, the only time I really loved them, they had been fresh picked from my Great Grandmother’s garden. We were shelling them and she just popped one in her mouth so, of course, I copied her and it was a unique but delicious experience. I’m really not sure why more people don’t eat them like that but perhaps those were a cultivar that was especially amenable to raw eating and others aren’t.

On the flip side of that is the sure and certain knowledge that as a novice gardener, I would probably need at least a few crops that would yield to offset the inevitable disappointments and failures I would be bound to face to keep my motivation up.

So I planted peas. I only planted 16 plants of it which is 2 blocks in the SFG regime. One set on March 15th and another on April 2nd to stagger the harvests as recommended. Of the second group, 2 of the seeds were dug up by birds but other than that, they are going like gangbusters. My confusion arises from their little climber strands. Everything says to point the little climbers toward the support provided and they’ll go up.

Hmm…not so much. What about the fact that they have multiple little climber strands on each plant? I can’t very well hang 24 lines for 8 plants because they each have 3 little climber parts, can I? I’ve got a support there but they are sort of gripping all over each other and overlapping on their way up. Will that hurt the plant? Is that the normal course of events? Do you clip the others off so that there is only one vine per plant like we do for tomato suckers being trained up? I’m totally confused and I spend my time out there untangling the poor little babes and getting them back on the support so I really do need to find an answer soon.

As a plus, I did notice that my devious plan to get the kids to try more vegetables may be taking root, so to speak. By letting the girls plant the seeds and monitor the progress of them, (though I do all the actual work of weeding!) they do seem much more invested in them. They planted carrots, parsnips, early peas and beets by seed first and those are the ones that are going like gangbusters right now. I’m really hoping that they’ll be willing to eat them and enjoy them when they see what comes out of the ground. Personally, I love a beet…yummy!

Even better than a cute picture of my dogs is a cute picture of my niece! Here is Vanna, digging ancient cans and bottles out of the ground before the invasive Phragmites Australis reed makes that impossible for the summer. Most were probably deposited during Hurricane Isabel and buried.

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