Sunday, August 21, 2011

the cabbage worms of mordor

I killed a cactus once.  OK, twice.  I've killed two cactuses.  Yet despite the odds, my very first garden is still alive and well.  I harvested another round of herbs today and even planted a few new additions in anticipation of the upcoming fall.  It hasn't been entirely easy keeping everything alive.  Some were not as lucky as others (RIP cilantro and dill) but in retrospect, they did not die in vain.  I'm piecing together the lessons to be garnered from this year's garden:

Plants are not all created equal.  They have personalities, diverse as an after school special.  Some want as much sun as possible while others freak out in the heat.  Some need very specific containers, some will thrive in anything filled with dirt and will reach their creepy little arms out in an attempt to hostilely take over the other plants (I'm looking at you, mint).  For a successful garden, you have to cater to their quirks.  I've learned to recognize the signs of stress and make the necessary accommodations. 

Plants have unexpected needs.  I started out the summer thinking that they just want sun and water.  Then I read the container garden bible, which subtly suggested that it was a miracle that any of my plants were still alive.  I invested in a few organic and incredibly smelly fertilizers - namely blood meal and fish emulsion - and witnessed a boom in production.  I also learned how to give plant haircuts.  Now I'm a pro at pruning and pinching and shaping.    

I'm not the only one who wants to eat my plants.  Other than one cute slug that I removed from my lettuce in June, I've been lucky in the pest department.  Until last week, when I added cauliflower to collection.  Over the past week, something has been steadily eating the leaves and hiding from my attempts to find it.  Today, I examined every single leaf until I found a gross little caterpillar munching away.  I didn't have the heart to kill it so instead I scooped it up and chucked it into the woods behind my house.  I figure 20 feet to a one-inch insect is somewhere on par with Frodo's journey in length.  Sure, it's possible the little asshole could cross Middle Earth again just to chew on my crops, but I think it's unlikely.  Before I dropped the interloper off, I made it clear that Sauron will not be so merciful the next time around.   

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