Wild Ain’t Always Pretty

As an organic gardener, I employ the art of crop rotation in my garden. Basically, after harvesting a bed of glorious bounty, I till the soil and follow the crop with something that is amenable to improving the soil, or at least not depleting it any more than it already has been. For example, after harvesting my corn, I follow with beans in my simple easy-to-follow rotation mantra beans-leaves-roots-and-fruits. (Makes for an easy singalong with kids.) Beans-leaves-roots and fruits! Beans-leaves-roots and fruits!

You get the picture. However, sometimes during my rotation process after my husband mows down my garden with his handy dandy tractor attachment and I amend the soil with my lovely compost, I find some leftovers. Hangers-on. Hold-outs. Call them what you will, but my peanut row–the one that followed my corn–is inundated with clumps of corn and squash.

While they do make decidedly nice companions, this scene ain’t pretty. Definitely not pretty. Now mind you, I prefer productive over pretty, but I’m not sensing these corn are going to be very productive. Too much, too close. Ordinarily I’d pull the unwanted plants from my bed, but this time, I’ve decided to watch and wait, and see what happens. Never know–maybe I’ll get some squash out of the deal! (You probably can’t see them, but there’s squash and that row, too.)

And yes, those are weeds you see all around. But I’ve been out of town for a bit over the last two weeks and weeds are an unwanted consequence. I find it much easier to convince my son to water my plants while I’m gone than to weed them. **sigh** It ain’t pretty, but so long as I can reap the bounty of some fabulous peanuts this summer, it will all be worth it. I’ll keep you posted!

These Dollars I DON’T Need

These are dollar weeds. Also known as hydrocotyle, or pennywort, they’re an incessant nuisance. They grow ferociously in moist, well-watered areas. Like my garden.

dollars everywhere

Basically, they’re lily-pad like leaves attached to vines that grow deep in the soil sprouting leaves every six inches. I spray them with garden safe weed-killer but it only succeeds in killing off the leaves I hit. The vines beneath the surface simply detour, or sprout new leaves. The only way to rid your garden of them is to pull them. UGH. No fun.

tractoring dollar

Or call tractor-man. He’s always helpful when it comes to churning up roots and dirt. More

Hair and Bumps?

This can’t be good.  I understand nature isn’t always pretty, the dark side always lurking just out of sight, hidden from the light of day…  But really.  This is too much.  Hair and bumps on my carrots?  Dare I say, warts?

It’s what they look like.  At least that was my first impression when my son hauled the harvest in.  They were a huge mess of warts and hair and reminded me of some gnarly old man in a horror movie (or book!).  It was not what I had in mind when preparing our salads for dinner.  I was envisioning gorgeous fat smooth orange beauties.  Sure, a little hair never hurt.  Can always strip it clean from the length of them (ouch).  But these fellas?

No siree bob was I touching them!  ICK.  And scrutinizing them further, wondered if a brave attempt would even be worth the trouble.  Once the bumps and hair were skinned from them, there would hardly be anything left to speak of.  Nah.  These are compost food.  The pile out back has been hunkering for a little beta carotene and here’s its chance to swallow them whole. And make fresh dirt.  Mother Nature is a beautiful creature, isn’t she? 

For those of you wondering what on earth happened to these golden babies, it’s probably due to a couple of things.  Water for one.  I’ve been having the hardest time with my sprinklers this season and more bound and determined than ever to install that soaker hose system I’ve been thinking about.  You see, if you water too much, your carrots can crack and split.  if you water too little, they can develop small feeder roots that shoot from the main root in search of water.  Helpful little buggers, aren’t they?  Bumps are probably hair that actually had a chance to grow a bit. 🙂

Too much fertilizer can cause the same hairy problem and I have a hunch that this may be part of our problem as well.  I say “our” because speaking of helpful, my kids tend to water and feed without restraint.  They don’t understand there’s a happy medium to be found.  They hear fertilize and they fertilize.  Vacation didn’t help, either.  We may have left our bounty in the soil longer than necessary.

Huh.  It’s a process.  Or learning curve–something which I tend to slide down the front side of more often than I care to admit!  So here we sit with no gorgeous carrots for my salad.  And it’s dinner time. *sigh*

Solutions for Compost Problems

Ashley is fast becoming a backyard gardener-extraordinnaire.  Not only is she gardening, but she’s composting, too.  Just look at this fancy compost bin!

Nice, isn’t it?  It’s fabulous.  However, composting 101 requires more than mere kitchen scraps.  Remember your ratio: 30:1 — Carbon:Nitrogen — Browns:Greens 

Your “browns” are things like dead leaves, hay, pine needles, wood shavings, etc.  Your “greens” are things like food leftovers, grass clippings, freshly discarded plants, etc. 

Translated, this means you must include more than leftovers in your pile.  Now I do “fudge” this number somewhat as composting is not an exact science at my house, but if you simply place your food items in the bin and leave it be, you can expect a host of flies to invade your bin (those light specks in the photo), much like they do your outside garbage.  Very bad.  Stinky.  Not a likely scenario for long-term composting behavior.

Now for the good news!  Ashley has placed her bin outside beneath the oak trees which gives her an unlimited supply of dead leaves (browns!).  All she has to do is to instruct her boys to cover each kitchen deposit with a few hand-fulls of leaves.  Voila!  Problem solved!

Perfect.  Speaking of problems solved, Julie is finding all sorts of ways to be creative and recycle, thus eliminating the need for things like disposing of unused toys.  Rather than carting this old baby pool to the garbage dump, she plans to turn it into a herb garden!  Clever, isn’t she?

Then, her husband surprised her with an unexpected contribution!  What a nice guy. (I’m sure it had nothing to do with any guilt over watching his wife rake and dig, till and toil all by herself.)  It was simply a gesture from the center of his heart. 

“What’s that?  Ego, you say?  Not wanting to be outdone by Ashley’s husband?” 

Oh, c’mon.  You’re being too cynical.  I mean, he bought her dirt, too!  I love husbands.  They’re simply indispensable.

And they will receive their just reward.  Why, look at all these potato plants bursting forth in Ashley’s garden! 

They’ll certainly make for some delicious potato salad, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, potato au gratin… 

Yum.  Not only helpful, husbands are smart, too!