Friday, November 25, 2011

The Harvest

My Grandmother could grow anything.  Green thumb?  More like her whole hand was green!  She tended a massive garden, canned and froze their food from it and had exceptional luck with houseplants, too.  How it got there is lost to history, but one spring a banana tree appeared in her living room.  Gran was especially fond of that particular plant and it clearly returned the feeling because it grew so high that eventually the leaves touched the ceiling.  Even then it didn't stop.  Grandpa built a two-story greenhouse onto the front of their house, they moved the tree in there and it just kept on growing, growing and growing. 

I mention this for two reasons:  First, it's fun to remember things about my childhood and my grandparents.  Second, it proves that genetically, I should be endowed with at least a smidgen of gardening ability.  Should be. 

Friday evening Mary Ann brought down a handful of delicious cherry tomatoes and said, "It's the last of the harvest."  Last of the harvest?  You're kidding me, right?  My neighbor had a harvest! 

Last winter, I made Jerry rig me up grow lights because I was determined to grow everything from seed.  Much to my surprise, seeds actually germinated and I planted them in tiny pots and loved them, just like my Grandma used to do. 

After everything but the coleus died, I bought and planted fourteen tomato plants, four green peppers and so much basil that, by rights, I ought to be able to make pesto for our entire county about now.  I even brought three mint plants back from Ohio.  Mint, as you may know, is considered invasive and professional gardeners suggest that you plant it in a pot to contain it.  I did not do that because I was hoping it would spread across the hillside and I would have unlimited mint to cook with.  Well, one plant is still living - barely - and one cup of mint tea would decimate it.  I have never seen such tiny leaves on a grown-up mint plant before.

We do live in the woods and we do have the red clay soil that is so distinctive in the south.  To figure out the sunniest spots, I took golf balls and set them in the sun in the morning.  Every hour I looked out and if a golf ball was in the shade, I picked it up.  At the end of the day, there were only a few golf balls left, but I figured that these were the places with the sunniest places to plant.  That is how I chose our planting sites. 

To counteract the clay soil, when we planted (and by "we" I mean "Jerry") we added a mixture of topsoil, vermiculite and sphagnum moss.  We watered with miracle grow, too.  Throughout the brutal heat of summer, we watered faithfully.  We even hired a neighbor kid to water whenever we went out of town for the weekend.

And now it's fall, harvest time.  So far our loving efforts have yielded:  zero green peppers, one early tomato (from a blossom that was on the plant when we bought it) and  a week's worth of really good caprese salads, featuring tomatoes we bought and basil from our yard. 

Two of the basil plants actually grew!  Herb lore says that herbs prefer crummy soil so it's poetic that the ones that did well here were the ones I put in a container of potting soil.  The others look like dwarfs they are so small.  The bottom leaves have turned yellow and the top leaves are holey.

Things are looking up though.  About the time that it started to frost, one of the tomato plants decided to bear fruit, which I immediately picked.  We have nine small green tomatoes in our kitchen. 

So maybe our "harvest" this year will be in the form of fried green tomatoes.  If you want to be cruel, you could calculate the cost of the plants, the soil amendments, the teenager's watering fees, the time and the effort invested in that side-dish of (organic) fried green tomatoes.  You would tell me that next year I ought to save that money and buy the tomatoes at the farmer's market down the street.

I can't do that though. That Grandma gardening gene will tell me that next year will be different.  Or maybe it's not the gardening gene talking at all.  I inherited a pretty strong optimistic streak, too.


1 comment:

A Wandering Soul said...

In a upscale gardening magazine, I read about a master gardener who has designed and planted many gardens, and a direct quote from them was that they still kill things after all these years, but that gardening was just one experiment after another. That gave me hope and never makes me feel too bad about the everything that I kill.