Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gardening in hi-res

Most of my gardening pictures are uploaded to Facebook. Unfortunately, Facebook is more about tagging friends and less about image quality, so I always feel disappointed because many of the rewards of gardening can be found closer to the microscopic level. Take sunflowers for example. They tower like giants but running along the stems or the veins of the giant leaves can be found tiny ants, metallic yellow and green flies, and other insects. The leaves themselves form intricate polygons that resemble those formed by frozen permafrost in the arctic. How can you tag that? Or even explain it in fewer than 400 characters or whatever it is that Facebook allows.... And why exactly does Facebook want us to be so succinct? Sure it is not to improve our semantics and critical thinking.

Not that gardening is measured only by the millimeter. Each day I have been watching the peas grow taller, the cucumber family (Bushy Cucumbers, Charentais and Zucchinis) spread across the mulched bed. In a couple of weeks the brown bed will be covered by a thick, prickly green canopy of leaves. The Zukes look to be putting on quite a show. This is the first time I have grown this heirloom variety and it has 8 inch flowers and 14 inch leaves (above) that scream look at me, look at me, look at me now! [It's fun to have fun but you have to know how]. Zucchini don't strike me as very subtle... you pick them when they are small and if you wait a couple of days too long, you end up with something you'd rather play cricket with than eat. But small is good, and I am really looking forward to frying these in chick pea batter with ranch dressing or something equally decadent. Much better than fries, any day of the week.

Both my Blue Capucijner peas and my Blue Lake beans should be towering high right now, but the woodchuck has had other plans. He sneaks under the fence and pulls them down from the trellis, wantonly stripping the vines of all their shoot and leaves. After a week of shock, they are starting to rebound but it will set me back three weeks and make the peas for Josie's birthday a meager harvest.

But they are blue (or purple)! Perhaps it does not take so many when you are purple. It will be interesting to see. If they are any good at all, I am saving the seeds for these. I love the idea of being able to find the peas immediately... no searching through a tangled mess of green.

Tomatoes are best known for the flavor and not their appearance, of course. The measure of any gardener is usually not how large, but how early you have them. All across the internet we see the virtues of cold frames, or walls of water, or greenhouses, or stone walls facing south proclaimed to bring forth the sacred fruit while the ordinary languish in the cold damp May nights in the 40s. I admire the innovation inspired by the tomato. No other vegetable has inspired so many to think outside the box, or return again to the soil after failure. When cabbage worms ate my broccoli, "no matter" I thought. I can buy that at the farmers market. But not the tomato! When the tobacco hornworm caterpillar came I promised my children great rewards for each one they found. I planted marigolds to repel them, dahlias to trick the moths into laying their eggs in the wrong location. Mulched to reduce risk of blight. So here they are, my Stupice, in high resolution!

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