Friday, June 27, 2008

The Seeders of Lebanon

I am now four months into my planting season (how would I know in February that I was planting two months too early?? We had warmer temps back then than we do now!), and it has become obvious that my attempts to plant from seed have been, well -- a debacle. I think it was an tremendous amusement for the local birds, who have rubbed salt in my wounds by planting sunflower seeds that are doing better than anything I put in the ground. Anyway, this past weekend, I finally caved in and bought “cheaters”: three really fat and happy tomatoes, a 2-ft. pepper, an eggplant with 5-inch leaves, and a couple of struggling basil (apparently, it‘s a bad year everywhere for basil). I know it’s probably heartless to stick that 3-foot tomato next to the 4-inch jobbie that’s still struggling to get launched after our Ultimate Rollercoaster of Weather this spring. Likely create a huge inferiority complex -- do tomatoes get Short Guy Synrome? I’ll watch for attempts to jab me in the eye while I’m eating.The eggplant seedlings never made it out of the greenhouse/shed, so they won’t notice the Green Hulk who’s moved in.

What I want to know is how do these other gardeners - from Lebanon, the next town over - manage to get their plants so fat and happy? Some were commercial plants, and I guess those are treated like Olympic team members: all the food they can eat, the perfect conditions for working up big muscular physiques, and no extraneous duties. Oh, and probably steroids. But some were from the farmer’s market, where supposedly some of my townmen were supplementing their more exotic plant business (conducted nocturnally, on less populated streets) with some prosaic herbs (a way to justify the lights setup to the IRS, I suppose…or not. I hardly dare ask, because I am afraid to find out that an entire room of their house is given over to halogen lighting and hourly feedings…) As a typical suburban gardener, I used to follow the Memorial Day orgy of four-foot plant sales and instant vegetable gardens. But coming to my new place, I had dreams of becoming “more real” - actually being able to plant from seed and save seed for the next year. (At this point, the only way I’ll be able to save seed is to dig it back up and put it back in the envelope.) Not to mention, learn to identify the plant from the weed at seedling stage… I have figured out that if fifteen million of them come up, it’s a weed. A Storm Trooper Invasion of Weeds, to be exact. And all those bits of good advice about how to hoe up the weed seedlings so they don’t get a headstart on your plants -- do you know how many times I’ve replanted the damn radishes?? Granted, my non-standard (read: weird) layout means I can’t just roll a mini-tiller down my ruler-straight rows. I did attempt to follow the advice about mulching to save watering (although when you’re getting six inches of rain per week, it’s not that big a deal). Now I find the neighbor cats really like straw for kittylitter! I thought it would be too scratchy… live and learn…

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