Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Eating Out Nocturnal Soil Emissions

I love to garden at night. I know it’s an odd habit. But in my own bass akwards way, I’m staying up until when the old farmer would get up to do his work and passing out when he’d be coming in for that first cup of coffee from the Mrs.. The benefit being, that the plants get their water when it’s coolest so they’ve got their best shot at holding the water. With temps over 100 degrees, my poor garden has a hard time staying alive in their containers, much less putting out fruit. Except for the okra of course, they’ve thrown out some giant umbrella leaves and are just starting to hit their stride on pod production now that we’re back down to the 90’s.

And now that we’re out of the scorching range and back into a less stressful heat index, I’m hoping that my dormant Cherokee purple will grace us with more than the 2 fruit it has kicked down and the San Marzanos will make more than the 5 small ‘maters that have gotten to grace a couple salads. But should they fail I also have some Brandywines and a few Black Krim seedlings that I hope to grow out and get a late harvest from before we hit fog season.

And oh my poor peppers. Before I got my marigolds sprouted, there was a brief hornworm invasion. I had anticipated my tomatoes getting hit, but I never thought the nasty green snot rockets would go after my poor habanero and Peter Pepper plants! Those bastards work fast too! The plants hadn’t been left alone for more than 12 hours and I go out to see a green stick with some small leaves at the bottom sticking out of my habanero’s planter. And the hornworm didn’t even have the common courtesy to be of a large size! Maybe a quarter inch thick and two inches long. Hardly impressive considering the amount of foliage he’d taken of my plant.

So at this point I’m Nanook of the North sitting at a seal hole with his spear poised to strike. Except that my seal hole is my wee cluster of pepper plants in the back yard and my spear is a stinky hippy-sandal. I think word eventually got around, or the magic of marigolds finally kicked in, because I only found 3 more over as many days. I hit the two injured plants with some weekly fish emulsion feeds to boost the nitrogen in the soil and hopefully help them regain their lost leavery. And hosanna, it pays to listen to the brilliant hydroponic guy yammer on about horticulture. It took a couple days, but then wee buds started to appear up and down the gnawed stalks and tiny leaves started to push out to get their solar arrays back online. There’s still hope that I’ll have a home grown habanero before Halloween.

The Peter Peppers have survived the heat, but were dropping blossoms within a day or so of forming them. But the recent temperature drop has one of them currently holding 6 pods and still kicking out blossoms. So here’s hoping the mid 90’s will coax the remaining three into a more fertile state of being and I can get my hands on some more of these delightfully spicy wang shaped firecrackers. The first one was so good, I made sure to save and dry the seeds from it and I’ve currently got 10 of them brewing in some warm soil and praying for germination. My ultimate goal being to make sure that all of my gardening friends have some hilariously hard to explain fun in their backyard too.

The herbs have hung in strong in the heat. The only casualty was our dill tree, which succumbed to an infestation of wee white pimply bugs. So into the trash they went before they could spread their garden herpes to more precious plants. The thyme has stood up well to judicious snipping for meals. I wouldn’t call it flourishing, but it’s tasty. The chive forest is hanging tough, basil is a little pekid, but with judicious blossom smashing, it’s still kicking out some decent leaves. The oregano plants are seeming quite happy and have been throwing out blossoms. I should probably check and see if they will bolt to seed or if they survive their reproductive efforts. And the sage is still quite small, but I crowded the hell out of it. The leaves are quite pungent for their size though and worked nice with some pork chops the other night.

Ahh, night gardening. Stumbling in the dark in the ghetto with a headlamp on. Dragging jugs of rendered fish poop and blooming solutions. Trying to repot seedlings “quietly”. That adds an interesting wrinkle to your gardening routine. Trying to sneak around your own backyard like a low rent ninja, magically moving plants from small pots to big pots before the sun breaks the horizon. But hey, it’s cooler, more serene and nicely solitudeinous. Sometimes the neighborhood toad will even stop by for a visit. Too bad he’s not one of them lickin’ toads. Now THAT would have me gardening like clockwork every night!