September 14, 2013
While the Empire struggles,over Syria, to keep all its juggling pins in the air – thanks to that sly Russian fox, Mr. Putin, stuffing his foot in Secretary of State Kerry’s mouth – and the financial world memorializes the fifth anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ collapse and the subsequent global financial crisis that ensued (while kidding themselves that it can’t happen again), I will ignore both and talk some more about my gardens as I work to keep my own juggling pins in the air.
The pepper starts are up, now. The tomato, cabbage, green bean, melon and squash starts all have their second leaves. Since I’ll only have room for one or two of each plant, soon I’ll have to decide which transplants are slated for further growth and which will go into the bowl of kitchen scraps for the compost pile. That’s always a hard choice for me, like being asked to choose which child you love most. (And one reason I had so many extra tomato and pepper transplants last spring, I could start over three times after the infamous rabbit raids.) Yes, I know you’re supposed to pick the healthiest starts, but … come on … tell me the littlest ones aren’t just begging you for a chance to prove themselves.
Nevertheless, even though I’ll have more room to grow things downstairs than I’ve had upstairs here, I feel I must be ruthless in my choices this time. I’ve never tried to grow squash or melons inside and, having seen how two or three of those can take over an outside garden area, I’ll simply have to choose one of each and let the others go.
This will be my fifth attempt at an indoor garden – hopefully, the first successful one. You might think I’d be discouraged by now, but I’m not. I’m actually grateful that collapse is happening slowly enough to allow me to figure out what I’m doing wrong and learn something new from my mistakes without having to go hungry for it. But I did learn; each year the indoor plants survived a little longer before the indoor garden went belly up.
So, here – year by year – are a few things I learned and what I did about them.
Problem: Old houses have mice in the winter; they are smarter at avoiding traps than the humans who set the traps.
Solution: Keep trying, but watch your fingers.
Problem: The little peat pots that come 72 to a “greenhouse” are useless for growing transplants. The transplants don’t get big enough before the mice find them and eat them while avoiding your traps.
Solution: Keep trying new kinds of traps. Throw out the little peat pots and use cut-down, two-liter pop bottles filled with potting soil for your transplants next year.
Problem: Plants don’t grow well after transplanting from the soda bottles.
Solution: Quit trying to grow so many plants in one container because you couldn’t bear to throw out the weakest transplants.
Problem: Still have mice; the new traps are working only so-so, but at least they couldn’t get to the transplants.
Solution: Try those plug-in, electronic mouse and insect repellers that are on sale “three for the price of one”.
Problem: Plants grow to a good size and flower, but don’t produce.
Solution : Add grow lights next year.
Problem: One mouse, although the plug-ins seemed to drive it crazy.
Solution: Chased it downstairs; caught it as it was trying to squeeze under the door and evicted it. Adopted my son’s old cat after he moved in with his girlfriend and her two little dogs drove the cat to nervous fits.
Problem: No mice, but the cat likes to poop in the containers and dig the dirt from around the plant, trying to cover up her misdeeds.
Solution: Scold the cat firmly and then, put up barriers around the plants so she can’t see them, until she loses interest.
Problem: Didn’t even start the transplants until November. They grew well and produced flowers with the extra light from the grow lights, but hadn’t produced any fruit by the time the sun was too high to shine in through the south window and it was still too cool to move them outside.
Solution: Start them in late August next year. Learn how to pollinate plants by hand.
So, that’s what I’ve learned from my indoor gardens so far. I’ll put those things into practice, of course, but my main worry, now, is getting everything downstairs and set up in the new garden room without destroying any of the plants in the move. And while I certainly don’t mean to make light of lesson learning, (well, maybe just a little,) I do think now, while we have some time between catastrophes, is a good time to face our fear of those mistakes that inevitably rise up when we try new things; learn from our mistakes and accept that, no matter how many we conquer, new ones will crop up. Hopefully, practicing that, while we still have some breathing room will lessen the pressure we’re under when we don’t, any more.
In the meantime, I’m going to the farm store to buy some straw bales after I get the blog post up. My friend, Kathi, came over to visit last week and brought me a copy of Ruth Stout’s book, Gardening Without Work: for the Aging, the Busy and the Indolent. Since I’m sometimes all three and have been working toward such a method, anyway, I thought I’d give it a try – starting with eight inches of grass clippings and garden waste, leaves and straw for the winter. Thanks, Kathi.
And there’s the move downstairs toward the end of the month (which Kathi has also graciously offered to help with, along with my son any of his friends he can rope in).
Lots of pins to juggle between now and then and I’ll probably make a new batch of mistakes to learn from, but honestly, I’d rather be trying to juggle the pins I have, than those pins the Powers That Be are trying to keep in the air right now.