Backyard gardening can be the most frustrating rewarding experience known to man.
There is just something mystical and fulfilling about having a summertime garden, even if your entire acreage is composed of a few well-placed terra cotta pots scattered around the patio and back porch. It recalls a simpler time when you ate fresh produce just picked and brought in from the fields. And although I don’t possess that ability to taste innate differences between most foods, I have convinced myself that I enjoy fresh vegetables more than store-bought.
I’m quite certain that in a blind taste test, I would guess the fresh prepared version about half the time, but just because the odds are in my favor. Still, I envy those who can take a spoon and dip it in the soup and immediately become aware if the mixture needs a little of this or that.
Nevertheless, I pursue my course and plant my small backyard garden every year. Some years I have a resounding success with something I have planted, such as two years ago when I planted cherry and grape tomato plants side by side, and harvested approximately one billion tiny tomatoes. My friends and family avoided me in late summer because they were also tired of the little demons, and were sure I was about to send a fresh batch home with them.
The problem is, I never know exactly what I did to produce such a windfall of tomatoes, so the likelihood of a repeat performance on subsequent years is low. I struggle with regular tomatoes, but manage to harvest a few before they are plundered by squirrels, rabbits, and whatever else crawls around my backyard in the dark of night.
But sometimes, even if the tomatoes manage to escape the tiny claws and sharp teeth of the furry invaders, they decide to apparently commit tomato-cide by simply rotting on the vine, I assume while overcome with grief or fear at watching their less fortunate brethren being eaten alive.
Last year, on a whim, I planted some okra in concrete blocks laying on their side, filling the holes with potting soil to a depth of some six inches. Imagine my surprise when the okra grew to about six feet, and continued to produce pods well into fall, balanced precariously in the holes in the blocks.
Even more amazing was the fact the stalks of the okra plants were completely void of any leaves, which apparently, deer dearly love to eat. Picture a six-foot tall leafless stalk, with two or three okra pods sticking out to the sides. By the way, people will start to decline okra after a while as well.
I am always looking for ways to increase the yield for my crops by consulting that all-knowing universal guide to everything, Facebook. I have found links to thousands of videos detailing ways to improve your output and thwart the efforts of predatory rodents in my fields. Well, my plot. Well, it’s actually more of a small space; not sure it is large enough to be called even a plot.
This year, following the sage advice of a certainly well-qualified farm professional who managed to find the time to post videos on Facebook, I treated my soil around my tomatoes and zucchini plants with Epsom salts. I think it was successful, because I now have in my small plot a jungle that would rival an Amazon rain forest, in which every inch of ground is covered, and is beginning to blot out the sun, while completely devouring my cherry tomato plant.
In a few weeks, I plan to grab a machete and possibly my electric pole saw, tie a rope around my waist for safety’s sake, and cut into the undergrowth to see if there are any tomatoes hiding within.
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At this point, I have harvested about two dozen grape tomatoes, four jalapeño peppers, two green bell peppers, one regular tomato and two zucchinis. I figure, not counting the grape tomatoes, I have about $7.43 in each item I have harvested. Hopefully the cost will drop slightly as the season goes forward.
But despite the cost, the frustration and the aggravation, there is something rewarding about growing your own food that makes it almost worthwhile.