Climate Crossroads Blog
Lazy Organic Gardener: Failures and Disappointments
Posted by: John Byrne Barry on August 5, 2009 at 6:26PM PST
It's August, and that means tomatoes. I've had a few bad tomato years, but they're the most reliable high-production-to-labor-cost vegetable there is. Except that it's a fruit, not a vegetable. Whatever.
Already I have a dozen or so stupice -- that's the variety above. I used to grow it a dozen or so years ago, back when Czechoslovakia was still a country. (That's where they're from.)
Which reminds of one of my favorite jokes. The Czech goes to his eye doctor, who asks him (or her), "Can you read the first line on the chart?"
"Read it? I know the guy."
I also picked and ate the other night the first of what will be hundreds of sungolds, an orange cherry tomato that is as sweet like a fruit and incredibly prolific, so much so that most years I've planted it, I haven't been able to harvest it all. (I planted two sungolds this year -- one upside down, and a third one has shown up as a volunteer in the barrel I planted a blueberry bush in.)
Tomatoes rarely disappoint. They are harbingers of good news. Easy bragging points.
But what's more fun than bragging is complaining. So a few words on the plants that did disappoint. Or seem like they will, given that the growing season is in the home stretch.
First, two seemingly thriving fruit trees didn't bear any fruit. A pluot and a plum. (A pluot, one of my favorite fruits to eat, is part apricot, part plum, and looks more like a plum than an apricot.)
Both trees about three or four years old. (I should know which it is, but I don't. I may have written it down. In fact, I'm sure I did. But that's only the first step. The tougher, second step is remembering where I wrote it down, and keeping it somewhere I'll be able to find it later. I still use paper for my garden maps, where I plot out what I've planted and where. But where are they now? I do keep a lot of my old papers -- drafts of my unpublished novels, to-do lists that are as telling as dear-diary-entries, grocery lists, you name it. But I can't type in a search term and track them down.
But I was talking about my promising young fruit trees. Last year, the first significant year of fruit production, I got maybe thirty pluots and almost as many plums. These trees were just getting started.
In the blocks near my house in Berkeley, I have to watch where I'm walking this time of year because of all the plum trees dropping their fruit on sidewalks. The plum is, I thought, a big producer, like the tomato. What happened?
I don't know. I pruned the trees severely, according to seemingly credible instructions, and they have long and strong branches. Maybe all their energy is going to getting bigger and they'll crank out the fruit next year. Maybe I pruned too far. Maybe I didn't fertilize enough, though I have read that you should err on the side of under-fertilizing rather than giving them too much and burning roots. (Of course, I haven't given them any except for the worm castings and composted horse manure, but there's definitely some nutrients there.)
It's possible the winter wasn't cold enough -- deciduous fruit trees need a certain amount of chilling to set fruit. Come to think of it, we had a pretty warm winter.
One friend suggested it has to do with pollination -- my real gardener neighbor Keenie has some fruit trees she hand-pollinates -- but no, there were no blossoms for the birds and bees to flock to.
Any ideas? Let me know in the comments area below.Other garden failures:
I planted a lot of beans that didn't germinate, though the scarlet runner beans seem to be thriving. You can see her how the bamboo-pole tee-pees has the scarlet runners climbing one of the poles. But the other set of poles is not getting any action. Maybe the birds ate the seeds.
I planted an avocado tree that hasn't died yet, but has been losing branches. I was warned that they are tough to get started, but I tried anyway. They seem to need more attention that this lazy gardener can muster.
I planted a strip of kale, chard, and bok choy, and they're growing, but not thriving. They're partly shaded, but they're still probably getting too much sun and heat. They're better as spring or fall plants. I also tried growing a broccoli plant that allegedly can become a perennial. But it bolted too soon. My yard is sheltered and gets a lot of southern sun, so the tomatoes and peppers and raspberries love that, but the cool season vegetables, not so much.
Here's one of the better-looking bok choys. Of the cool season greens, they fared best, but you can see this one is about to bolt.
My squashes are doing well -- and there's one squash I planted for the first time this year that's really quite tasty in addition to being easy to grow. I'll write about it once I track down what its name is. The peppers are coming along nicely, so once those tomatoes ripen, I can make buckets of salsa.
And here's my first eggplant of the season.
You can find all the Lazy Organic Gardener posts here.
• Food & Drink
• Home & Garden
• Curbing Carbon
• Current Events
• Green Cuisine
• Take Action
• Lazy Organic Gardener
• Green Livelihoods Center
• BP Oil Disaster
• Current Entries
• November 2010
• October 2010
• September 2010
• August 2010
• July 2010
• June 2010
• May 2010
• April 2010
• March 2010
• February 2010
• January 2010
• December 2009
• November 2009
• October 2009
• September 2009
• August 2009
• July 2009
• June 2009
• May 2009
• April 2009
• March 2009
• February 2009
• January 2009
• December 2008
• November 2008