Somewhere in the family is a green thumb. My mom’s dad had it for sure. He used to grow tomatoes and cucumbers in his backyard in Queens. He’d start them in milk containers and rig up a whole system to get the seeds going. We always had a garden in our suburban Jersey home too; cucumbers and tomatoes were also the staples, along with a bunch of herbs and some berries. The garden went through various stages of being managed and left wild but recently my dad has been reviving it as part of his possible new project The Garden Griller (more info to come… possibly).
In Jersey, we always bought seedlings or small plants, but somewhere along the way I became obsessed with the idea of starting plants from seed. I wanted to see the whole process and feel like I really took something from start to finish.
I didn’t realize it was so hard!! My respect for gardeners and farmers has grown tremendously over the past few years as I’ve stumbled my way through vegetable gardening in pots. I don’t know if the green thumb really made it to me genetically.
My junior summer of college I tried to find a farm to work on. I was fixated on the idea of pulling a freshly grown carrot from the dirt. I wanted to pluck sun-ripe tomatoes off the vine. I had a hard time finding a place that would take me with no experience, so I ended up on a very small farm that functioned more as a retreat center than a farm. I did get to pick some beans and cut off some garlic scapes, but overall, even though I had fun, I didn’t really get the farm experience I was hoping for.
My dream of pulling a newly minted carrot from the soil remained elusive. Growing vegetables always appealed to me more than growing flowers probably because I very much enjoy food. If you’ve never eaten a garden-fresh tomato you seriously don’t know what you’re missing. They sure make the ones in most supermarkets look like an embarrassment to tomatoes.
So something of this idea of growing things has been in my mind for a while now. For the last few years I’ve been trying, with very mild success, to grow some edible plants on my patio. Between pests eating away at my hard work and extremely hot, dry, summers, I haven’t come up with much. My greatest success last year was with beets, which grew unexpectedly beautifully. Tomatoes and lettuce (supposedly so easy to grow) have barely produced.
Each year I learned a little bit though- bigger pots, mulch to regulate soil temperature, natural insecticides, etc. But I have to say that at this moment I’m feeling very frustrated. My plants seem to be the natural equivalent of a Vegas all-you-can-eat buffet, minus the neon lights. I’ve been doing my best not to put chemicals on my plants because I intend to eat what grows, but all the natural and somewhat safe methods don’t seem to be cutting it. Recently my entire flat of marigolds (supposedly helpful for pest repelling) was chomped into oblivion! Unfortunately the plants that aren’t getting eaten don’t seem a whole lot better, even when they start out looking promising. I have to say the cucs look pretty well the worst.
Neem and pepper spray both have been less than useful over the last few years. This year I bought some Diatomaceous Earth which seems to be mainly useful at keeping bugs out of the house. I just started spraying with dish detergent and laying egg shells down yesterday in desperation. I’m praying that my tactical positioning of mint and garlic will help but so far the mint looks like it’s the next stop on the snack bar. Who are these angry insects? How do farmers do this every year?
I called this post Crazy Plant Lady because I feel like these plants are my babies. I want to see them grow and do well. I check on them constantly to see how if they’ve grown at all. Is there such thing as helicopter plant parenting? I keep going back to these pictures from Bob’s Burgers because 1) it’s an amazing show and 2) this episode is pretty much exactly me and every other crazy plant person. Meanwhile my other half just looks on perplexed as I dance around with the garden hose (at least I would if I had one).
I’m not sure if it’s the pots, the environment or just some skill I have for killing plants but I refuse to give up hope. Things started out nicely in my mini greenhouse but have been spotty from there out. Oddly enough the root veggies seem to be doing the best. My carrots are growing unmolested and the beets seem to be hanging in there too. My go-to guide book The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, assures me that just because there are some holes in the leaves doesn’t mean the plants won’t produce right. This was true for the beets last year, so let’s just hope everything else makes it.
I’m out of town for a week so I’ll have to let the plants do their thing and trust nature to work on it’s own. It certainly was doing that fine before I came along.