Thursday, October 09, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 10: Grow Your Own

Gather 'round, my friends*, and I'll spin you a tale of euphoria, tragedy and unspeakable loss. A story that will inspire, titillate and horrify you. Yes, it is the story of my first garden.

Loyal readers (all two of you) may recall a small photospam from the days of yore that included proud pics of scraggly but recognizable vegetable plants. Damn right, I grew those suckers, but I'll begin at the beginning. Most of my personal epics like this begin with a related failure. In this case, it would be the garden bed in our side yard. It stands, clay soil and all, overrun with thistles and scilla - totally devoid of all useful or tasty plant life. My grand plans involved runner beans, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots - you name it. First, though, I needed to clear the bed of bulbs. Armed with a borrowed pitchfork, I tackled that shit Sunday after rainy Sunday through the winter. Then I gave up, mixed a bit of my burgeoning compost heap into the mix and called the whole thing off. The scilla bloomed and died, and the thistles took hold. The side yard mocks me daily.

All was not lost, though, thanks to my miserly ways (read: I'm a cheap bitch I am I am). Folks offered me starts, and I took them. Crookneck squash, tomatoes, broccoli and a very battered snap pea plant. By this time, it was late May - on the late side in a strange growing year - but I hardened them off and put 'em in the ground. The pea plant probably needed a little more TLC before getting a-planted; live and learn, I suppose. The broccoli has not exactly been all that hardy either, which surprises me. My dad grew the hell out of mad broccoli back home in Anchorage, so I figured climate was on my side in Stumptown. The Oregon climate, it turns out, is also quite hospitable to bugs that like to prey on nascent gardening endeavors. The broc survives to this day, but just barely.

But enough sorrow! My tomatoes went gonzo - I've been enjoying fresh 'maters for more than a month now. One plant well outgrew the stakes I used to prop it up - when it was but a wee sprout, I jerry-rigged it with BBQ tools and twine. The rains are here, so the fruit is definitely at an end, but there was nothing finer than parking my bike after work and snacking on a handful of earthy-smelling tomatoes before tackling the dishes from the night before.

I also managed to grow some squash. It was delicious, but a small yield. Something tells me I should have planted this much earlier, perhaps in fresher, more pliable soil. The sprawling, uncontrolled growth I've seen on some squash eluded me. The squash took up the majority of my garden trouble-shooting time. Once I finally resolved the slug issue, powdery mildew set in, and plagues my remaining squash plant yet no matter how much cajoling and home remediation I dole out.

Despite the emotional rollercoastery nature of my first vegetable garden, I'm addicted. Keeping the number of plants modest prevented the need to invest oodles of time, but still yielded a reasonable crop (I seriously had more cherry tomatoes than I could handle). Next year will bring salad greens, beans and more of the same, but with the wisdom that can only come from a very haphazard Round One.

Not sure what about the specific type of tomato, but these orange cherry tomatoes are most certainly the bomb:

*apologies to anyone else who saw or listened to McCain destroy this phrase. Honestly, fella. Give it a rest.

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