25 June 2010

it's a jungle out there

i never realized that gardening involved so much cutting up of old t-shirts. i feel like that is all i have been doing for days now. my tomato-super-structure, crafted from bamboo, twine and various other pieces of junk i scrounged up from the yard, has turned out to be inadequate for this tomato jungle. when i first planted those frail little seedlings, nurtured under the grow lamp in the basement, the structure seemed like overkill. now, dwarfed by the towering green vines, laden with blossoms and green tomatoes, it seems i grossly underestimated.

i learned, through research for my gardening internship, that there are two types of tomato plants, requiring two different staking methods. the determinates do best in cages, the indeterminates need some sort of trellising, and also require some extensive pruning. sadly, i did a piss-poor job of labeling my plants, so i don't know which is which, and in any case, they all get the same sort of trellis/staking method, cuz that's what i had on hand. however, i have been attempting to prune. i have not done a ruthless, dramatic pruning of anything, but i have done some, especially the nipping of the little suckers (that's what they're called--seriously! it's a technical term) between branches. but it is clearly not enough.

i am forever tying up the branches, so they don't snap off from the weight of all those yummy tomatoes, but i have quickly run out of things to tie them to, and i have cut up all the old t-shirts i can find. pantyhose are what everyone recommends, but i don't have any of those (big surprise, there), and t-shirts are almost as soft, and nearly as stretchy. but, the cutting into strips of old t-shirts is time consuming.

this may look like a lot of strips of cloth, but i seriously burn through a pile like that in about 2 minutes. at this point, i think it's safe to say i have given up. i'm just gonna have to let nature take it's course. if a branch is unsupported, and breaks off, so be it.

i have also picked off four GIANT tomato worms, which are as interesting to look at as they are destructive of tomato plants. as a child i had one as a pet. his name was tommy. i took three of the ones i found to show to the kids in the banneker youth garden club, and they went nuts over them. i could have spent the entire lesson on that. they were completely captivated.

in other garden pest news, i made the mistake of looking up squash diseases online. whew! there are an astonishing array of things that can go wrong when one attempts to raise cucurbits of any sort. bacteria, fungi, downy mildew, vine borer, various beetles--the list goes on and on. when i went out to inspect my plants, armed with all that new information, i identified at least four different diseases/pests attacking my little pumpkin patch at the base of the three sisters garden.

a bit overwhelming, to say the least. it is amazing to me that any organic gardener ever manages to harvest a single pumpkin. i scraped off some obvious squash bug eggs, killed a few beetles, tore out an entire plant, which i had determined was diseased, and sprayed the rest with a diluted mixture of miracle II soap. that last bit was basically out of desperation. i have no idea if that will do any good whatsoever, but i knew it wouldn't hurt. i'll keep you posted.

my biggest fear with the pumpkin is that it will never set fruit. i have tons of blossoms, but no fruit. i have never successfully grown anything in this family, so i have serious doubts. however, the cucumber plants do look lovely, and i saw one little baby cuke hanging on the vine yesterday, so, there is hope.


Actchy said...

Um. I can send you approx. 300 t-shirts belonging to my husband for use as tomato plant trestle ties.

Or maybe the scraps would disintegrate once the t-shirt loses its structural integrity? I wonder.

E... said...

I just drafted a post titled EXACTLY this. My tiny little garden is all overgrown, and I don't have the heart to get in there and cut it back. I've been using the kids' craft yarn as my tie-up material of choice.

Anonymous said...

Your garden is looking wonderful! I cracked up at your keeping a tomato horn worm as a pet...we usually squish the ones we find (very gross indeed) because not all of our chickens like them.

Yeah, squash diseases are awful! We've had mixed luck with them. This year, dh discovered that putting D.E. near the base will dry out the plants...unfortunately, we were in Vancouver and may have discovered this too late. He'll have to replant some.