Garden Disasters — or — Earning Your Stripes

Sure, everything looks great in the beginning. . .

I have lots of gardening stratagems and a freight of old and new superstitions that seem to bubble up during the winter months when I least expect them, only to glom onto my outdoor plans like ceremonial entreaties to the sleeping garden gods. I have a favorite shovel and sun hat, and a lucky spring trowel, too. I also like to plant even numbered tomato plants – two by two, like my own botanical ark.

I like to explore new growing techniques — or very old ones.  I maintain a garden journal, making blocky, dirt smudged notes that are hard if not impossible to decipher later (is that a 2 or a 7?). I also plot big gardening weekends the way I imagine defensive sports coordinators formulate their tactics, with astute observations (if I say so myself), stark but useful diagrams and cunning.

In the end, though, it’s all puny compared to the vagaries of nature. Whether it’s baking heat, unrelenting downpours (the problem du jour is over a month of almost constant rain), pest invasions or diseases that seem to spring up overnight, there are always new and unexpected challenges when you’re a gardener.

No matter what or how carefully I plan, the reality of each summer season is a stunning surprise.  The good or bad of it is important, well, because I love garden fresh tomatoes and ground cherry jam and baby okra — and losing those plants sucks. The part that always gets me, thankfully before I throw up my hands up in disgust,  is how beautifully the garden as a whole adapts.

Sure, my tomatoes are slowly succumbing to blight (a total tragedy as I planted 12 varieties and really wanted to see them thrive),  but the peppermint is waist high and about as happy as I’ve ever seen it.  There’s catnip everywhere, and the lemon balm is ambling across the driveway, traveling sunward at a truly impressive rate. The lavender is suffering, as are the roses, but there’s a bumper crop of cucumbers coming along and the passionflower is a tropical wilderness taking over the deck. It isn’t the garden I’d planned, but it’s deeply verdant in a way I’ve never seen, may never see again and could never have expected.  I’ll take what I can get. The plusses are worth mentioning, even — and maybe especially — amidst the disappointments. There are plenty of weeds, but they come up easily.

This has put me in mind of predictable garden problems. (Most beetles varieties are under control so far, but the mosquitoes are fierce and terrible.) I’ve listed some past posts below that may help with garden challenges you might be facing this weekend and beyond. Here’s to fighting the good fight.

Beating the Heat in the Garden

Zucchini Problems – Beating the Bugs

What You Need to Know About Getting Rid of Japanese Beetles

How to Keep Herbs from Bolting

Battling Earwigs

Marigold Bug Spray


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