July 2, 2013

How Does My Garden Grow?

Each morning before breakfast I take a tour of the vegetable garden: I check on the progress of plants, look out for insect damage, feast my eyes on the coming food crops. There's an old proverb, which I haven't been able to source, that "the best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow"; if we are in our gardens, watching out for them, all will go better. I found a wonderful page of garden related quotes, which you can read here. Some of the quotes:
God made rainy days so gardeners could get housework done. Anonymous 
When one of my plants dies, I die a little inside, too. Linda Solegato 
I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green. Nathaniel Hawthorn. 
That quote from Hawthorne gets close to how I feel about my vegetable garden; to me the growth of little seeds into bearing plants is still a miracle. And I also feel as Linda Solegato does, which is why gardening can sometimes feel so tragic.

On Sunday we had a recently rare morning of sun, so I took my camera along with me on my tour. Some of the potato plants are blooming, a sign that the tubers will begin forming.

The peas are doing well and don't seem to have minded the wet weather. Pods are forming and peas enlarging within them.

The pole beans are not as happy, though they are climbing their poles. They much prefer dry weather. I am a great fan of the pole bean Northeaster, a flat bean that is very tender and delicious and freezes well.

How I coddle and love my tomato plants! What is better in summer than a home grown tomato, eaten warm in the garden, juice dripping? And what is more like a storing up of treasure than jars of home canned tomatoes in the cellar, of containers of sauce in the freezer? And it's all so uncertain because tomatoes are susceptible to disease which can destroy the plants. The wet weather has had me very worried about them, but so far the plants look fine.

Other warm weather crops needing extra care in this cold climate are eggplants and peppers, and melons. I grow them all under row covers, on black plastic which warms the soil. When I walk the garden, I peek under the covers to check the these plants; here the eggplant has begun to form a flower, which will become a fruit. The poor eggplants, which really love heat, have a lot of yellowed leaves; I'm hoping they all recover. 

The cold weather of early June left other plants, like corn, shivering in the ground; they were saying "are you kidding me! I'm not going to grow in this cold." Since the weather has warmed, the plants have begun to put on some normal growth; maybe not "knee high by the 4th of July" but not too far off (I'm short so that's not so tall in my garden.)

Squashes and melons, which were also very unhappy with the cold, have begun to flower. This is a pumpkin flower, but a male flower; the female flowers, from which the fruits grow, have not yet begun to open.

I also notice things that aren't going so well, like seedlings that disappear, eaten by some insect I can't see. There are other mysteries like why is that brussels sprouts plant, the one on the left, not growing? Out of six plants, one was killed by a cut worm even though it was protected, and one is a dwarf. Oh, my aching heart!

There is obvious insect damage, like the myriad small holes made by flea beetles. They kill plants when they're small and sometimes I forget to cover them with a row cover, which is good protection. Since my garden is organic, a physical barrier is the best option.

I think all vegetable plants are beautiful, but I also have some purely decorative plants in the garden: each year I have sunflowers, cosmos, lavatera, and the profusely self seeding poppies, which add brilliant color in early summer. I love flowers, but I love my vegetables even more; they feed both my soul and my body.


  1. Your first picture goes beautifully with the first quote. I have always liked that quote. Your veggie garden looks huge. How wonderful. Makes me hungry just looking at it. I too enjoy going out and watching the garden grow.

    1. It's a great quote, isn't it, Lisa? My garden is about 50 x 60 feet; it doesn't sound so large, but it fits a lot.

  2. I discovered this post through Heather King's Shirt of Flame blog where she shared a link to this blog. What a lovely garden! And how much more lovely to know you enjoy it each morning with a stroll about it! This is simply delightful! Thank you for sharing your livelihood through pictures and story!

    1. I'm so glad you stopped by, Alicia, and enjoyed the garden.

  3. Thank you for sharing so many reflective and informatives details.

    1. I'm pleased you enjoyed it, Julie, and humbled that you think it informative.