A Word on Gardening

As I was grating a zucchini this afternoon while making zucchini squares, I realized that I discovered a couple of things since I started gardening a couple of years ago. Things I probably would not have known if I continued to buy produce in the store.

Did you know that zucchinis are covered with tiny little hairs all over? And that the plant rather be producing flowers and thorny leaves instead of fruit? That you need to beg it to produce a fruit and then, when it finally appears, you have to wait for several weeks for it to grow to a kitchen worthy size? Well, let me rephrase that: Social Media worthy size. Who wants to post a tiny zucchini? And don't forget that you need huge choppers and thick gloves just to get deep enough into the plant to cut down your priced possession. Zucchini plant scratches itch.

Did you know that cucumbers come with tiny prickles? All over? Including the plant? And that you need to prune it back once in a while so it will also remember to produce something other than vines and flowers. Once you get a cucumber, the plant immediately decides that it's done looking pretty and starts drying up, making your garden look ugly.

That strawberries are the hardiest plants out there and have only one thing on their mind? It is to go forth and multiply. Five years ago I bought 4 little plants, I now have a patch covering over 40 square feet! I eat (and yes, it's all me because no one likes strawberries but me in this house) about 4 lbs worth, the rest gets stolen by birds and rabbits. Strawberries are heaven for mosquitoes by the way, they love to nest under the leaves, it's cool and dark there. For every berry I pick I average 5 bites. Those little Off! repellent fans? I wear 3: one on the front of my shirt, one on my waist and one on the back. If I ever get tired of gardening I'll just let the strawberries loose and by fall the entire garden space will be covered.

No matter how well your fences are and how high they are, along will come a deer one night, reach over the fence and eat everything, including watermelons you've been babying, within reach. The next morning you're left heart broken and puzzled as to who might have gotten in, until you see that for some reason everything above 3 feet have been eaten, not below. And then you look at your apple tree...

I have an apple tree. It is my pride, it is my joy, it is my fault I didn't chicken wire the tree. It is a young tree, only about 5 years old. Macintosh. Last year we worked on staying upright, it was leaning dangerously to the left because of the winds. There were flowers but no fruit. I will puzzled. With all the bees around, one would think it'll produce something. This year I decided to take matters into my own hands and (after spending evening wrapping each branch with old shirts to protect from frost because it bloomed too early thanks to this crazy weather) I armed myself with an old paint brush and fertilized the blooms by hand. Every. Single. One. I got one apple.

Last July, the storm that ripped the siding off my house also ripped the apple off the branch. I brought it home and cried over my kitchen sink. I didn't cry over the siding, I cried over an apple. It was small, bright green, with a little black spot on the side. Danny wondered where the worm was because there was a spot on the apple. It wasn't ready to be eaten yet, but we cut it anyway looking for a worm. Nothing. Had it survived the storm, it would've been a beautiful and delicious fruit. I mourned the loss of the apple for a week. And then the deer came back.

The deer ate the tops off all my tomato plants. And, all the new branches on the apple tree. Let me put it this way, there is a wanted poster out on the deer now and if one day I am posting venison recipes and you know that I am one happy gardener at that moment.

Speaking of tomatoes... Did you know that the plant itself is poisonous except for the fruit? Not to the deer apparently! Two years ago, one cold and frosty morning I ran out to the garden in panic that the frost was here and that I need to get them all off otherwise they'll be lost. They were still green, I planted late and I didn't find out about Miracle Gro tomato miracle until several months into the gardening season that year. Every windowsill in our house was covered with green tomatoes, slowly ripening. Well, this is where I learned to let go. Now, if I don't get them all I let them drop. This season I have not bought a single tomato plant and yet my garden is so think with plants that I need a machete to get through. And it's three different varieties as well. They already dropping now, sometimes the chipmunks will eat them (hey, it'll be seeds in fertilizer!). I still have a window sill full of them, slowly ripening. But I'm already looking forward next year to see how many, and where, tomato plants would I get from all the dropped fruit. And I bet I'll get a miracle pumpkin again as well. Maybe it'll be the white kind next year!