garden

Panic

“Hey,” came the insistent voice over the phone line.   “We’ve got bugs.”

Recognizing her voice and the panic within I replied, “What kind of bugs?” 

This is, after all, is my job.   Mandie has a problem in the garden, it’s my job to respond.   Remember:  Master is a term to which I want to become accustomed.   (Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?  Besides, no one else is calling me master.  Might as well be the master of the garden, right?)

“It’s a black bug with six white legs.”

“Number one, you’re too close to the thing.   Step away from the bug.”   I mean, really.   Who can see eight tiny legs well enough to know they’re white, if you’re not nose deep in the beast?   When I looked, they didn’t look that bad to me.

What is it?” she persisted.   “It’s destroying my conch peas.”  

“It’s a bug.   Doesn’t matter what kind.”   Logic; from one who doesn’t deal in species specific pest invasion.   “Use your insecticidal soap.”

She muttered intelligibly.

“You got the insecticidal soap I told you about, right?”

“Gary,” she turned from the mouthpiece.   “Did you buy the insecticidal soap?”

A blither of replies goes back and forth before it becomes apparent he did not.   “Okay,” she said back to me.   “We’ll get the soap.   But what do I do in the meantime?   The bugs are devouring my peas!”

“Use the soap,” I replied calmly.   “If the bugs persist, you may want to spray them again and then cover your peas with cheese cloth.   Do you know what that is?”

“Cheese cloth?   Sure.   I have some.”

“Okay, watch for bugs.   If it looks like you have a major infestation, spray again and cover your peas – over your trellis cage – with cheese cloth.”   Common screen material will do.   Anything with very small openings to prevent the bugs from flying through, yet still allowing sunlight to permeate.

Next crisis.   “And I wanted to mention, your tomatoes look weak.   Have you been fertilizing them?”

“Sure, but it’s the cold.”

“True, the cold will stress them.   Did you get the fish emulsion?”

A flurry of doubt flitted through her tone as she replied, “Yeah, we fertilized them.   You think they need more?”

“Yes.   And water.”   Now that our steady rain had ceased, I wanted to be sure she was doing the job.   “Have you been watering?”

“Oh, yes.   Gary’s been watering.”   She called out over her shoulder again, “Right, babe?   You’ve been watering the plants?”

Apparently playing with the boys in the background, all of them boisterous and romping about, he replied, “Watering?   Yes.   I watered the plants.”

“Deeply?” I interjected.   They’d rather be watered deeply every other day than a light splatter with the hose each and every day.

Mandie repeated my concern, to which Gary seemed hesitant.   Frustration welled.   “Babe, you have to water them deeply, every other day.” 

Boy, she sounded like an expert.   Atta girl!

“And we have ants,” she informed me.   “What do we do about the ants?”

Panic again.   “No problem.   Go to your local hardware and look for the garden safe ant killer.   It’s a white powder you sprinkle around the trouble spots.”

“Is that the diatomaceous earth?”

Kudos, again.   “Well, yes, that is a garden safe material, I don’t know if it’s the same material as I didn’t check the label ingredients.   I have used diatomaceous earth before, but I don’t think my results was that great.”

“Okay.”   Relieved, she sounded ready to tackle any obstacle coming her way.

Good, I thought privately.   Because there will be more to come.   But in the meantime, let’s celebrate our progress.   I mean, c’mon.  Look at these gorgeous potatoes! 

 

New Year’s Resolutions

This year I plan to be more productive.  This month I plan to lose the holiday weight gain.  This week I plan to relax.  (Why not, it’s freezing outside and most of the garden is dormant, anyway — read: dead — including the weeds, so there’s not much to do.)  Today I plan to write.

Wow.  I feel better already!  Talk about productive, I’ve set a plan, followed it for a full week now…why, I’ll have this resolution thing down pat in no time!  Yes si-ree-bob,  I’m on my way. 

 To where, you might ask?  Well, now, wait a minute.  Glancing about my office, I don’t see it.  “Wait–hold on,” I say, with a finger held high.  “I know it’s around here somewhere.”

Maybe the kitchen.  I do seem to spend a lot of time there.  Perhaps I left it with my “to do” pile on the counter by the sink.  I know, I know, my husband told me.  “Don’t put anything next to the sink you don’t want wet.”  Tell me later.  I’ve got a list of resolutions to find!

Ever stop and wonder why we put ourselves through it?  Why we bother conjuring up these grandiose ideas in the first place?  I think the answer is growth.  Much like our plants (we’re talking perennial in nature here, not those annual types where you have to yank them out by their roots after only one season – I mean, what kind of waste is that?  After all my hard work?  Those babies better stay in the ground, as long as possible!).

But I digress.  Back to the issue at hand, I believe we seek growth, just like our plants.  All the better, if our caretaker prunes us, feeds us, and generally tends to our well being. 

Unfortunately in my case, I am my caretaker, so the occasional lapse can be expected, although lists do help in this regard.  If only I could reliably find the thing, I’d be in business.  Big business!  As it stands, I struggle.  Every year, there seems to be something else I need to improve.  And I thought I was making so much progress

But maybe that’s the point.  Progress.  Growth.  Steadily moving ourselves forward, upward, in an effort to reach our greatest heights.  It may be our habits we want to change, or perhaps our outlook, but whatever the goal, it seems to me a clipping back of the dead weight (too much pumpkin pie, in my case) will allow for new growth; the beauty for which we strive, blooming to life from the inside out.  

We nurture our blossoms until they’re fresh and full (Blossoms, not bottoms.  Am I harping?  Go ahead, add it to the list.).  I mean, if we don’t, isn’t it we who suffer?  We who lose the beautiful palette of color in our lives, or the decadent fragrance which escalates our senses, carrying away our imagination on the wings of a glorious spring breeze?

Sort of like an old hedge, left to her own device.  Over time, dead spots can form, growth can be stunted.  In some cases, if the hedge plants herself in the right spot, she can grow wild, maybe even full, but not all growth is healthy.  Without proper attention, it can become host to disease—disease which could have been prevented with a spritz of attention, or cured with an ounce of diligence.

A rose will never reach her full potential without a yearly pruning.  And how about Grand Oaks?  Without proper thinning, they can become over-stressed, thereby susceptible to stormy weather.  Even our vegetables.  Without proper clipping, their production can be greatly diminished, thereby reducing the harvest.

It makes sense we women need the same.  So this year, I say:  embrace the change.  Make those resolutions, write them down (on a list, you know exactly where to find) and follow through to the best of your ability. 

No one’s perfect.  That’s what makes us special; human.  We all have the ability to grow, a challenge that incites action, stirs our very heart and soul, and leads us to a future of abundance and prosperity.

Let’s do it!  And welcome in the New Year and a new dawn. 

(But don’t dilly-dally.  After you’ve rested, pack your bag – we’re going gardening!)

BTW:  I found my list.  It was under my Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, right next to the notes for my next novel.  Like I said, this is going to be a productive year!

What’s your garden personality?

If you have two minutes, click on the link below and take this fun quiz to discover YOUR garden personality.   Share it with your friends!  (Feel free to disregard last question about beating score)

  
 
 

 

 

Summer’s finally winding down…

Call me crazy, but at least, I think so.  In Florida, one never knows.  Each morning is truly a new dawn and the season, well, it’s rather indiscriminate around here.  One day, you wake up to fog and rain—and cold–fifty degrees, max.  But next thing you know, it’s eighty and sunny.  Your head spins around and you find yourself wondering, where did this come from

It’s a gift.  Me, I’m good with eternal summer.  As much as I like cooler weather and the knock of fall foliage, I’d take heat over cold any day of the week.  It’s like this, when it’s too hot outside, I’m uncomfortable, sure, and I complain… 

But when it’s too cold outdoors, YOU CAN DIE!  I’m not kidding you – it starts with your ears, seeps down to your toes, next thing you know, you’re at an icy standstill and couldn’t walk to the next clearance sale sign if you had to!  “Yes, dear, I admit it.  It’s too cold for breathing out here let alone shopping!”   

We recently returned from a trip to New York City and let me tell you, it’s not pretty.  Sure, the town, the sights…the tree – they’re spectacular!  But the cold?  Brrrrr…..hand me the remote, is all I can say. 

But I digress.  Back in sunny Florida, summer crops are FINALLY winding down, sweet potatoes our latest victim.  But a fun thrashing, if I do say so myself.  Picked the kids up from school the other day with a garden agenda in mind and lo and behold, I have two extras on board!  Neighbor children left to simmer on the playground for a while after school whereby my daughter pleads, “Please. Can’t they come over to play?”

 Play?  My mind raced through the possibilities and with a gleam in my eye I replied, “Sure, sweet potato—I mean, sweetheart.”  My smile broadened.  “Of course they can come over to play.” 

Yes!” she exclaimed, and thrilled beyond imagination, dashed off to the playground to tell the others.  As I watched her run–and pray she didn’t fall victim to a face plant—my smile turned devious. 

I am wicked.  I’ll admit it, straight up.  But sweet potatoes need to be harvested, their vines composted, the fruits hauled up the hill to the house and I know of no better worker bee than a child.  Their energy is boundless!  And their enthusiasm…well, we’ve all read Tom Sawyer, haven’t we? 

Chuckling to myself on the drive home, I turned up the Christmas music and rejoiced right along with them–what fun it will be!—then casually mentioned the sweet potatoes. 

My daughter groaned, but the industrious lad sitting to my right perked up.  “Sweet potatoes?”  He glanced at me with the astute curiosity of a third grader.  “What sweet potatoes?”

Generously, I shared with him how I intended to swim for sweet potatoes that afternoon, and if anyone cared to join me, I’d bee happy to have them.  I smiled all sugar and pie.  No, not swim in the pool.  The dirt, dear boy.  Glorious dirt. 

“Sure,” he replied eagerly.  “I’ll try.”

Well that was the end of that.  Upon arrival home, the four barreled down to the garden intent on discovering the joy of harvesting sweet potatoes.  Never mind it’s not their favorite food.  No, no.  That would be missing the point.  These kids were after the fun factor and I am all about fun!

And by God, we didn’t disappoint.  Actually, they were so enthralled with the entire process, posing for pictures, hollering after who had unearthed the largest potato, near knee deep in a soft pile of dirt, we had to send off to the house for more baskets! 

More baskets!  More baskets!  My glee was contagious.

Until my daughter decided she’d had enough.  It was time for her and her friend to return to her bedroom and commence dancing.  Or jazzing, tumbling, whatever the heck you call leaping hands to floor, kicking your feet high in the air, over and behind your head, hopefully landing them against a wall, or to the floor again, this time with your belly inverted. 

But she was gravely disappointed by her friend’s unabashed exuberance for sweet potato digging.  She found the largest one so far.  “Can I take it home?”

“You bet.  Take a couple and I’ll show you how to make slips for growing your own.”

“When I get home,” the other insisted matter-of-fact, “I’m going to tell my mom, I want to start a garden.”

My daughter frowned and my heart went out to the poor girl.  This garden business was old hat to her, but to her friend, it was heaven.  Why, she may as well have told my daughter she was taking her dolls and going home, for the resultant disappointment was the same. 

With a small smile, I prodded, “Isn’t it enough she’s at your house, having fun?”

“No,” came the sullen reply.  “It’s not.”

I sighed.  Lessons.  They come in all forms and when you least expect them, forget about least wanting them, but there it was.  “Look on the bright side, honey.”  I put an arm around her slender shoulders and said, “We’re about finished here, and then you two can go on up to the house and play until her mom gets here.”

She brightened.  “C’mon,” she urged her friend, encouraging vigorously with her arms.  “Hurry up.  Let’s go!”  Moments later, the two took off running, only to halt midway up the hill.  “Mom!” she shrieked.

I looked up to see my girlfriend strolling down to the garden.  Time’s up, I mused, disappointed for the girls, but much to my satisfaction, they sprinted toward the house for a quick grab at play time.

“Your tomatoes are gorgeous!”

I basked in the admiration of my good friend.  “Thank you,” I replied, hiding none of my pride.

“They’re wonderful.”

“You really think so?” I asked, and immediately began to fuss with leaves and stems.  “They’re a little droopy, over here, and this one needs a stake.  This fella, he needs more twine.”

She smiled.  “No, I don’t think so at all.  I think they’re beautiful.  And look at all your onions!”  She walked up a few rows.  “Are these the garlic?”

I beamed, delighted she remembered.  “Why, yes they are,” I replied, then joined her to give the grand tour.

 

Footprints in the garden

ft prints in garden

I have a visitor.  I’m not sure exactly what KIND of visitor, but whatever it is has very large paws and no respect for my tidy rows whatsoever.  It literally trampled across my vegetables!  I discovered the prints this morning as I made my usual jaunt to check on the garden.  Now I’ve had the inevitable creature visitation to my compost pile, but I didn’t know large animals with paws were interested in fresh vegetables, as say, Mr. Rabbit might prefer.   On second thought, maybe he was after Mr. Rabbit.  Does this mean I may have more than one nightly visitor?  

Either way, NONE of them are welcome.   Now comes the question:  How do I get rid of them?   Okay, perhaps “get rid” of them is the wrong terminology.   What I really want to do is dissuade them from visiting this particular section of the landscape.  I don’t think any of my sprays will work.  The label on my garlic spray bottle clearly states the odor will evaporate relatively quickly.   I’m no trapper, so rigging a nifty “gotcha!” contraption won’t work.   A full fledged fence is too costly.  

Hmmm…  This is a problem.  Maybe a chicken wire type fence can be propped up around the perimeter of my garden.  Sort of a “nothing to see over here” kind of warning.  It wouldn’t have to be sturdy, since I don’t think whoever it is wants my vegetables that bad.  I think my garden is more a nuisance to them, actually.  As they’re running through the night, it’s a “hey, what the heck is all this?” type of cry as they return to their den after an evening of hunting.  “So, sorry.  Let me apologize for planting my goodies smack square in the middle of your flight path!” 

Anyhow, it’s a challenge for the field gardener, such as I am.  A few acres is a beautiful thing until you incorporate that wonderful selling feature called “green space” into the equation.  It looks nice and adds a rural feel to the place, but it also attracts wildlife.  Mine tends to be more swamp than forest, so I can count on alligators and snakes to be in the near vicinity at all times, but coyotes and foxes?   Bears are doubtful, though anything’s possible, I guess.   But “what” it is really doesn’t matter.   It’s interfering with my gardening and must be stopped!