First you must appreciate that I am not really good at gardening. It is something I am learning to like – in small quantities. I mean, I like the look of gardens but I am not fond of the work. Certainly I am not good at the constant, expected maintenance required for a truly beautiful garden. I generally find myself interested in the garden for a day or two in the spring. Otherwise, I want to look at not weed the plots.
At one time I would purchase annual flowers from the local store, faithfully plant them in the ground and watch as they died over the course of the summer. This death was partly due to the fact they were annuals and destined only to live for one short growing season and partly because I am not good at caring for plants. I really have a Darwinian approach – once placed in the ground the plant will either live or die as it sees fit.
My focus now is vegetables. After all what good is a pretty plot if you cannot eat it? I enjoy mixed success with the species I plant. Cherry tomatoes tend to do very well. Last year I had a crop of tasty peas, but I was unable to replicate that success. Instead, this year I am happily harvesting beans. While I am stubbornly attempting to grow corn, I have yet to actually harvest any cobs from the plants.
One of the most fascinating members of my garden is the pumpkin. I am constantly astounded at how large and sprawling the plants become. I have tried starting them as seeds indoors and sowing them directly into the ground. This year, two of my three plants appeared to sprout from a section of soil where I know I didn’t plant any seeds. They are also the healthiest of my three plants and the snaking stalks have stretched some fifteen feet across the lawn. Because the plants have such massive leaves, the pumpkins send out tendrils to help anchor the plant. This has the added bonus of helping it climb over any obstacle that might otherwise hem in its growth.
One of my pumpkins is trying to gown into the small raspberry patch. In my effort to separate the two species and mow the scraggly grass beneath the pumpkin I made a new discover. Pumpkin plants send out additional roots from their stems as they grow. Now doubt these secondary root clusters help to further anchor the plant, thus provide support for the large dinner-plate sized leaves, as well as absorb additional nutrients and water from the ground. I had previously thought they had only the one set of roots at the base of the long stems.
This discovery was almost as remarkable as learning that pumpkins have both male and female flowers. Only female flowers can potentially develop into the actual orange pumpkins (a fruit for those who didn’t know). My plants are always full of male flowers, but very few females. I have seen a couple on my larger plants, so fingers crossed I will get some carving pumpkins by Halloween this year.
While my garden is not the type to garner admiration from others, I continue to find it a remarkable space. Plants are crazy in their variable designs and watching them grow, almost visibly before my eyes, is truly a wonder.