Sunday, June 7, 2009

who'da thunk?


Last year we decided to plant a garden. But since we rent a small house inside city limits, and we have dogs-- boy dogs-- we came to the conclusion that we should try our hand at container gardening. Which would keep our veggies high enough to escape being claimed as dogs' personal territory, and ought to keep the landlord relatively happy that we didn't dig up the backyard.

We managed to acquire a big blue, plastic barrel by way of a friendly neighborhood delivery driver who apparently knew someone who had a surplus of big blue plastic barrels. We then cut the barrel in half and proceeded to clean it thoroughly. Then we filled it with rocks and dirt and pepper plants and then decided we should have put our barrel garden in a slightly different arrangement in our back yard.

Our back yard gets very little sun. In every other respect, I consider this fabulous. For one thing, it gets hots in the summer time. Hotter than I think is actually fit for human habitation. Nearly full coverage of our house by trees means cooler temps in our backyard-- all the better for lounging about with a cold beverage sporting a tiny umbrella, and possibly a twist of lemon, since we also have a lemon tree. Shade also helps keep the electric bill a tad bit lower throughout the hot summer months, seeing as how our house was built in 1950 and I think we have the original air conditioning unit still.

However, full shade is not what the little tags that come with vegetable seedlings recommend. So we opted to place our garden behind the garage, in the only place that gets sun throughout the day.

Once we had our garden in place, we discovered that while peppers and tomatoes may prefer "full sun," they may not actually like 110 degree afternoons with the sun reflecting off of the back of the garage. However, plastic barrel halves filled with rocks and dirt are not easily moved, so a clever mister system was devised and we did, indeed, end up reaping the unspeakable rewards of being able to walk out the back door each day to choose peppers from our own garden for dinner.

We eat a lot of peppers. Bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, whatever peppers are handy. The tomato, however...*sigh.*

Well, first of all, I like me a weird vegetable. And we don't really like tomatoes much. They're fine for salsas and sauces, but both us eye them suspiciously as a vegetable on their own-- possibly because they are actually fruits, but then again, so are the peppers. In fact, it turns out that a lot of vegetables are actually fruits. But for reasons I'm still not sure of, we had to grow a tomato, so I picked a green one.

Yes. A tomato plant that produced green tomatoes. They would never turn red. or orange. or yellow. Just green. And the BF's concerns proved correct when, indeed, I could never quite determine if they were ripe or not.

Not to mention my apprehension about touching the dang plant at all! After growing up with summer vegetable gardens and watching my grandmother hunt for tomato worms each day I am utterly convinced that you cannot grow a tomato plant without also growing tomato worms. I suspect the caterpillar eggs may actually exist inside the tomato seeds! (All the more reason to approach the fruit with suspicion.) And sure enough, considering we only had one plant and live within city limits (really! Where was the next closest tomato plant? The store where we bought ours?!) over the course of last summer we managed to find and kill over 50 tomato worms!

Have you ever seen a tomato worm? Go ahead, click on the link, I'll wait. (hum hum hum) See why I don't want to touch the plant? The notion that I might inadvertently come in actual physical contact with one of those creatures makes me break out in a cold sweat! I'd have to cut off my arm if I touched one of those things! I'm utterly convinced that these things are the work of the devil.

I also discovered that tomato worms are born with those horns. Seriously, the smallest one we found was no more than 5 millimeters long and it still had a horn! That is just WRONG!

So this year, we opted for Roma tomatoes. And a whole lot more peppers! And zucchini. Essentially, we opted for more garden altogether.

So earlier this afternoon I was enjoying the breeze and the uncommonly cool weather, sitting in my garden, admiring all the little plants that are busy blooming and making peppers. Even if my pots aren't as aesthetically pleasing as I'd prefer. When it occurred to me that I am growing several plants.

Actual plants. The kind that grow. And are alive.

I'm growing plants! Growing, not killing!

I am so proud of myself!

Next year I am not growing tomatoes though. I don't care what Guy Clark says, it's just not worth it.

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