Alien Volleyballs And Other Garden Lessons

Well, another gardening season has come and (almost) gone.  I’ve been gardening for decades, but every year I learn something new.  For example:

  • Never let Hubby start the tomato plants unsupervised.  Each spring we talk it over, decide which varieties we want to grow, and figure about twenty plants should do us. Then Hubby plants the seeds in their little cells (allowing a few extra in case of germination failure).  This year we had forty-three tomato plants, up from thirty-seven last year.  ’Nuff said.
  • Chickweed is a cover crop.  I’ve finally accepted that chickweed springs up to form an impenetrable carpet in the winter here no matter how I try to stop it.  So now I’m embracing it.  Chickweed conserves nitrogen and protects the soil structure, it’s cheery bright green all winter long, its fragile leaves and stems till easily into the soil in spring; and it’s even edible.  Win!
  • We rarely eat as many beets and carrots as I think we will.  If Hubby’s weak spot is tomato plants, mine is beets and carrots.  We still have carrots in the freezer and beets in jars from last year, and four long rows of each await me in the garden.  Anybody want twenty or thirty pounds of nice fresh beets and carrots?
  • Pumpkins have a twisted sense of humour.  Last year I planted four hills of pumpkin seeds and got four pumpkins.  This year I planted two hills and got thirty pumpkins.  WTF?!?
  • “Naturalizing” tulips don’t.  They’re gorgeous the first year, smaller the second year, and they vanish without a trace in year three.  But they’re so beautiful, I just keep planting them.  Some folks never learn.  (Other folks buy botanical tulips, which do naturalize. So I planted some of those, too.  You can’t keep a good addict down.)
  • Wet cabbage leaves are SLIPPERY.  One moment I was strolling over a layer of discarded cabbage leaves; next thing I knew I was on my knees in cold soggy mud, laughing like a lunatic.  Fortunately no cabbages were harmed; and I’ve never been particularly attached to my dignity anyway.
  • No amount of spring bulbs is “enough”.  I planted another couple of hundred crocuses, tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths this fall.  That makes over 2,000 bulbs we’ve planted on our property in the four years we’ve lived here.  (I need more bulbs…)
  • I have zero ability to manage outdoor projects.  They always take three times as long as I think they will, and something “more important” always comes up. This summer I completed projects I didn’t even intend to start; and didn’t finish projects I’d sworn were top priority.  But they all need to be done, so I’m hoping it’ll even out in the end.
  • Superschmelz kohlrabi is da bomb.  I love kohlrabi even though it looks like it was conceived by a green alien with an irresistible attraction to volleyballs.  This year I grew Superschmelz for the first time:
No, this isn’t Photoshopped – that kohlrabi really *is* almost as big as my head.

Any alien veggies in your garden?

Book 17 update: I’ve started plotting, woohoo! Stay tuned for regular progress reports starting in two weeks…

46 thoughts on “Alien Volleyballs And Other Garden Lessons

  1. Oh that we were closer, I’d take those beets and carrots off your hands. Your husband and I can partner up on those stupid tomatoes. This year I planted about 30 plants, they were coming along BEAUTIFULLY and the next thing you know they’re all dead, damped off. I’m pretty sure the garter snake I found slithering through them in my basement didn’t exactly help, but still…so of course I never say die, and tried again. Second time no snake but by the time they were big enough to plant it was such as late start that my first tomatoes weren’t ready until late August, so we barely enjoyed a crop. Next year I might forgo starting from seed and just buy the damn plants.

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    • Damping-off is SUCH a pain in the butt! We’ve found that the best solution is to rig up a fan to blow gently across the seedlings all day. It dries the surface of the soil a bit and prevents the fungal spores from settling; and it has the added bonus of strengthening the seedlings so they’re more resilient when they’re ready to go outside to be hardened off. Maybe you can try just one… more… time… (said every gardener, always). 😉

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  2. Also, are you okay there with regard to the rain? I’m seeing the news stories about flooding and mudslides and feeling horrible for everyone affected …

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    • Thank you so much for your concern! We’re lucky to live on a gravelly patch of high ground, so we’re fine — we didn’t even lose power. There was some flooding in a town about 20 minutes away from us, but nothing compared to what we’re seeing on the news. The west coast is completely cut off from the rest of Canada, and after seeing photos of the extensive road damage, I can’t imagine how long it will take to get even one highway reopened. I’m already seeing photos of grocery stores that are running out of produce because trucks can’t get through from the ports in Vancouver. It’s been a tough year for BC, and it doesn’t look as though it’s going to get better anytime soon.

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      • I’m glad you’re okay there. Tonight I see there are missing and deceased people from the mudslides. The climate – and thus the weather – truly is changing and whoever can’t see it is a fool.

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  3. I envy your garden, especially your beets! Strange that potatoes don’t grow for you. When I was growing up, we had wood stoves for heat, and therefore an ash pile “out back”. That’s also where my mother threw the vegetable peelings. There used to be potato plants growing out of the ash pile every year. Maybe your soil is too acidic (I think ash is alkaline, but don’t take my word for it).

    I love raw kohlrabi – yours is super-sized!

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    • Yes, I’ve been loving the crunchy raw kohlrabi, and I’m also making a small batch of ‘kohlrabi kraut’. I’ve never tried that before, so it’ll be interesting (if nothing else). It’s been fermenting for a couple of weeks now, so it’ll soon be time for a taste test.

      You may be right about the acidity — we put dolomitic lime on the garden each spring to bring up the pH, but maybe some wood ashes are just what the spuds want!

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  4. I applaud your tenacity for gardening even with all of the “interesting results”. I grew up in a family as committed to it as your are with somewhat similar results. Your post took me back in time!! Thanks for sharing!

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    • You’re right about the ‘interesting results’! That’s one thing about gardening: If variety is the spice of life, gardening is definitely ‘spicy’. It’s never the same from year to year, and there’s always some surprise!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. If potatoes won’t grow in your garden you should grow them in a tub with compost rich soil. You can even stack old tyres and use them to grow the spuds. If wireworm is a problem stack the tub on geo cloth.

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    • That sounds like a great solution! It might be a bit tricky to scale it up to produce a year’s worth of potatoes; but hey, that’s what creative minds are for, right? In the meantime we could give it a try on a small scale and see how it works. Thanks! 🙂

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  6. Tomatoes? Tanya usually plants about 150 to 200 as the sometimes get a virus and don’t produce well. this year they did. We gave away at least a third, have 50 litres of juice and frozen tomatoes all for cooking.
    Potatoes we buy 200 kg in the fall as they do not grow in our garden soil. Beets, carrots and corn fill one of our freezers. We grow butternut squash instead of pumpkins and had three garden wheelbarrows full. They keep pretty well and Tanya gives them away and has been making something out of them every day.
    Tanya digs up all her spring bulbs over summer and replants them in the fall. No idea why. Summer bulbs are dug up and over wintered inside then planted in the spring. Again, I don’t know why.

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    • Uh-oh. You realize you’ve just enabled Hubby to plant as many tomato plants as his heart desires, right? I hope you’re prepared to come over here and help process them all. 😉

      Interesting that potatoes don’t like your soil, either. I wonder what it is that they’re missing? Our plants leap out of the soil in the spring, look sturdy and healthy, flower and start potatoes… and then by mid-July the plants start to go dormant and die back for no apparent reason. It’s not blight, because they don’t go black or squishy; it’s just as though they’ve suddenly decided it’s September and they’re ending their natural lifecycle. Very annoying, because we also can’t buy decent potatoes here on the Island. I guess I’ll just have to make a trip to Manitoba each fall and bring back 200 kg of potatoes. 😉

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      • Our garden soil is heavy black clay. Down closer to the river is more silty loam and spuds do well in our neighbours gardens there.
        200 tomato plants will keep your cheeks rosy, for sure. Why potatoes don’t do well but that kohlrabi did is a puzzle.

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  7. I have been told that Chickweed is edible. Who knew!

    The squirrels dig up my bulbs so I am limited to daffodils—they’re poisonous.

    And WTF did you feed that kohlrabi?

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    • Right?!? It was right beside all the veggies that were growing normally, so I have to assume that this is “normal” for Superschmelz.

      The squirrels dug up all my crocuses and ate them this spring, too; so this fall I planted crocus bulbs with wire mesh above. We’ll see if that deters the little shits. 😉

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  8. We never did much in the way of canning, so the three or four tomato plants I’d get at the nursery every year were always plenty. If I were canning, I’d probably add a few Roma tomato plants to the mix. I used to grow heirlooms–I miss doing that. With the mildew and pest problems here, I gave up the garden and planted sod. And unfortunately, we can’t eat the sod.

    What used to get us was the cucumbers–I’m no fan, so only my better half at them. Thing is, I only wanted one vine, and they only came in a pack of four from the nursery. We gave away a lot! I do miss the peppers, broccoli, cauliflour and cabbage. And the various types of lettuce I grew were always a treat. I’m hoping that when we relocate, I can have better luck with growing.

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    • I’d be sad indeed if I lived in a place where I couldn’t grow veggies. Our big disappointment has been potatoes — we love them and we eat a LOT of them, but they don’t grow well here at all. Plus there are wireworms, which do a lot of damage. We keep trying new strategies each year, hoping we’ll find the magic formula.

      Our cucumbers were ridiculously productive again this year, too. Once again, we kept several households fully supplied throughout the summer. But I’d rather have too many than too few! 🙂

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  9. We failed in our first year veggie garden here in Reno. Still trying to figure out the weather patterns. That and nearly 40 days over 100 degrees this summer fried anything we put in the ground. Some people have green houses, next year I’m building a “cold house” for the veggies …

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    • It’s a kohlrabi, and it looks even weirder when it’s growing. It has a big woody root, and the stem just above the ground swells into to a sphere ranging from tennis ball to softball size (usually). These Superschmelz seem to be aiming for volleyball size! Each of the ridges you see in the photo is actually the base of a leaf stalk (which I removed before taking the picture), so the whole plant is about 18″ tall. You trim off the outer green rind, and inside is crisp, juicy white flesh with a texture like a cross between apples and potatoes. It tastes very similar to cauliflower, only crisper and juicier. It’s also a lot easier to grow than cauliflower. I love to eat it raw, but you can also cook it and use it the same as you would cooked cauliflower. YUM!

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  10. Oh I hear you. Particularly on the spring bulbs. The catalogues which appear in our mail boxes (real and virtual) are now referred to as garden porn. And we succumb. Separately AND together.
    Now that we can (with due caution and masks) go to nurseries again (YAY) I am itching to get vegetable seedlings. And hope for a bumper crop. Home grown tomatoes in particular put the store bought ones in some serious shade.

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    • I agree! I’m so spoiled by our garden tomatoes that I never buy tomatoes in the store at all. I’d rather do without tomatoes until next season than eat those sad plastic replicas.

      The bulb catalogues are done for the year, but the veggie and summer flower hortiporn catalogues will soon be pouring into our mailbox. I hope my bank account can take the strain!

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