Triumph and defeat in the garden

I’ve never had much luck with starting seeds indoors. Every year I look at the cost of a packet of seeds in comparison to started plants at the nursery and decide to try again. And every year I think that in future I should save the money and frustration and just plan to buy the started plants at the nursery in future.

That whole damping off thing is a killer. Of plants, of gardening enthusiasm, of all my vague dreams of harvesting my own seeds in the fall to start the following spring.

This year was going to be different. This year I started with heirloom varieties, partially because of that vague dream of saving my own seeds, and partially just because I like the stories behind them. It’s like planting a little piece of agricultural history as you read that the corn you are planting was the first yellow corn found acceptable for human consumption.

This year I planted them with much more soil and did away with the flimsy plastic greenhouse cover in favor of monitoring the moisture daily with my finger.

This year I had nowhere to go during those most critical days of a newly sprouted seedling. In years past, it was often a weekend away that resulted in too much or too little moisture for wee little sprouts who barely poked their heads out of the soil before returning to it.

This year my seedlings grew. Thrived, even.

If it weren’t for Abby, the herbicidal cat, and Pepper, the pepper killer, I’d likely have had more tomatoes and peppers than I knew what to do with. As it was, I had seven tomato plants and twelve pepper plants sitting in their containers. Outgrowing their containers. Begging me to move them to the garden.

My husband and I sat down with some old fencing we found in the barn and made cages for the tomatoes. I wanted them to get just a little bigger, just a little more resistant to goose nibbles and rabbit munches. I wanted them to live.

I found a strange pleasure in buying tomatoes and peppers at the store. Every time I looked over the pinkish tomatoes, not quite finished with their ripening after being picked green in California or Chile or somewhere else warmer than Nebraska, I thought of vine ripened sweetness from my own garden. Every time I winced at the price of green peppers and thought of breaking down and buying them frozen, I thought of fresh abundance in my harvest basket.

Then planting day came.

Then a storm came.

I carefully plucked the tomato leaves out of the muck and propped them against the bottom wire of their cage so they could dry out. The peppers seemed to savor the rain. I thought all was well.

Then a real storm came.

A storm with wind that shook the house. A storm that forced rain under a section of the roof which proceeded to pour down the bathroom wall and into the basement. A storm with hail. Quarter sized hail that flattened the corn, drove the tomatoes back into the muck and broke the spirit of the pepper plants that seemed so joyful the day before. By afternoon, it was clear the tomatoes and peppers were dead. The corn I’m still not sure about, but it persists in looking healthy, even if it is growing at a 45 degree angle.

Today, I took no pleasure in buying two tomatoes and a green pepper.

Buying started plants was like an admission of defeat.

Who knew a simple vegetable garden could be such an emotional roller coaster?

0 comments
  1. Teresa Smith

    I am right with ya , sistuh!! I still have plants on my mud porch waiting to go outside. I even have a few “spare” tomato seedlings. Just in case, you know.

    I have learned that where we are, nothing will live that grows above 2 feet tall. Our winds are devastating over here. So even my cucumbers are going to crawl instead of climb. They may not be as pretty and a few may get nibbled but they will have a better chance against the grasshoppers than they would against the brutal wind.

    Just remember it is all an experiment!! Learn from your failures.

    by the way my tomato seedlings are from heirloom seeds I harvested from fruit I grew last year. We shall see if they are truly “heirloom” and bear fruit this year. They are looking a little different from the “parent” plant.

    Blessings in Messiah,
    Teresa/Navah
    .-= Teresa Smith´s last blog ..A word about Idols =-.

  2. Renae

    Oh, no! I’ve never had much luck growing plants from seeds either. We had a few things growing on our unfinished window sill, and they kept getting knocked over. Three basil plants survived, but I don’t think they are going to recover being moved to the garden. I should’ve left them on the window sill. 😛

    Hope you can get your bathroom dried out.
    .-= Renae´s last blog ..Becoming Available =-.

  3. T F Stern

    Sounds like you need a few minutes with Harvey, “Poor dear, poor dear” while he pats the top of your hand. You’re having a rough go of gardening.

    Our seedling tomato plants got washed away in a similar storm, every one of them just gone. We bought “replacements” at the local farmers market and they’ve done okay, not great, but okay. I think our summer heat will make them useless fairly soon. The green beans did okay; again, not great. We got several dinners out of them; but they are about cooked and dried up.

    Our cucumber plants are marginal, only a few cucumbers; but the kittens have been playing pretty rough in their jungle and have knocked several cucumbers off the vine.

    It’s not defeat unless you give up entirely. Keep smiling.
    .-= T F Stern´s last blog ..No Budget This Year =-.

    1. Dana

      My corn righted itself. It is all growing up again after only a day, so I shall be as resilient as that, I think. 🙂

      And my strawberries. Wow! Last time we ordered strawberries through the mail, only half sprouted and it took some time. These guys showed new growth a day after planting and seem to get greener with every rain.

      I shall rejoice in the berries. They’re perennial and a much more significant monetary investment. We’ll see just how good they’re doing next year when we get to harvest our first fruits.

      But, well, I said all that in my entry. 🙂
      .-= Dana´s last blog ..Triumph and defeat in the garden =-.

  4. Louisa

    Oh my…..I feel for you and I feel for every plant….I can’t kill even one of the gazillion broccolis my mum started for me….I was just sitting here gasping at the carnage in your garden….you have some DARN BIG HAILSTONES….the biggest we get are pea sized…..
    Now if only I could send you some of the frozen tomatoes (I was sick of canning!) I still trying to finish from last year before my greenhouse starts to fruit again……..you may not buy a tomoto again after harvesting your own….
    .-= Louisa´s last blog ..Saving our bacon….. =-.

  5. Linda

    Oh, Dana, I feel your pain!! This year we gave up starting our own too!!! My hubby is a pretty new gardener and he wanted to do it like a pro from the beginning, but has learned that it’s a little bit harder than he thought it would be. And even when you DO get it all right….well…it’s never REALLY in our control, is it?
    .-= Linda´s last blog ..Photo Hunter: Six =-.

  6. Life On The Planet

    We have a lovely from seed garden. I’m not bragging. I was long ago banished from my DH’s garden. Apparently I kill plants, so he and the boys tend it.

    The womenfolk are in charge of lounging in adirondacks and saying, “Boy y’all look hot out in the sun!”

    Sometimes we drink tea. 🙂
    .-= Life On The Planet´s last blog ..Dog Tired =-.

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