...if you have a backyard and a kitchen, this blog might be for you!

a chronicle of tips and recipes on everything from gardening to canning and baking your produce, even if you're planted in suburbia...in fact, especially if you are planted in suburbia.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Balancing Act--Fighting Your Garden's Demons

Every season has its unique challenges, and "things" can go awry for even the most experienced gardeners. This year is no exception for me. Here are a few of my challenges during the height of this year's yield.

The lovely little flower you see above is a nasturtium. Every year, these dainty flowers have offered a biting addition to salads through their leaves, and an edible decoration for other dishes through their flowers. But more importantly, they serve as a preoccupation for aphids in the garden. This year, however, has been so hot and humid that nasturtiums have not fared so well, and I certainly see the signs of their absence in the aphids "second choice" for feeding!

Nevertheless, during this past week, a short break in the heat prompted this one little nasturtium plant to revive, making its presence known tucked between marigolds and lemon balm. What a sweet encouragement: that even in a year of tough conditions, it nevertheless makes an attempt to survive! Even if it isn't doing its more practical work of seducing aphids, I can appreciate its more subtle gift of simply trying to live and be lovely. Even if it can only afford to offer one blossom!

What other garden demon do I fight this year, besides the unusually hot weather? Mostly this one hides, so it is hard to capture his image. I caught him only once with the camera, but I've seen the evidence of him even on my back stoop where I tried to grow lettuce in better shade from the scorching sun. But instead of my enjoying that lettuce in a refreshing summer salad, he feasted on it--demolishing my hopes all in one night's work! While my fence keeps larger critters away from the garden, this little chipmunk runs the rails, making a mockery of that fence and exercises free reign within its borders. He's cute, but I can't allow him to steal my fall crop of lettuce and spinach. I could set a trap, but hate to do that. I'll try a circle of mothballs around the tender greens I'm planting now, the ones I really want him to ignore. The wafting fragrance of my garden may take a turn for the worse, but even one chipmunk's life is worth something!

Besides seasonal weather and wild beasties, the soil itself is proving to be troublesome. Tomatoes are not looking as pretty as earlier and are sometimes falling off the vine a bit too soon. Again, weather is a partially a culprit, as cracking is often a result of the soil getting overly dry between waterings. It may also be due to the fact that as I've pruned away the "leaf spot" troubled leaves, I've left too much of the fruit exposed to direct sunlight.

I'm starting my intervention by taking my eggshells and crushing them to powder in the cuisinart before turning them into the soil. Some authorities say it is too late for such a soil amendment to "uptake" into the plant where I need it to work, but I'll also make a run to the garden supply store and dedicate myself to a little side-dressing and mulch around them--something I should have thought to do sooner as I realized the heat might deplete moisture in the soil.

I'll add here a couple of websites for on-going tomato care:


In the meantime, I'll sit here on the back stoop and admire my cherry tomato plant, growing heartily in its planter. Sometimes, potted veggies have their advantages!

Gardening mid-summer is always a balancing act--and a great life lesson. As the struggle evolves through the height of the productive times, key intervention involves identifying the source of the trouble--whether it be external conditions, unwanted consumers of the plant's goods, or even the soil itself. Once identified, an appropriate course of action must be implemented. Finally, acceptance of the results (be what they may) and hope for the next season keep gardening a lifestyle rather than a short-lived venture into a potential hobby. Today my sign off wish is this: productive gardening to you!


  1. I have been so busy this summer that I haven't taken care of my gardens at all. I have asked my friend to bring her goats over for a buffet! I think I will enjoy your gardens instead. BTW-My tomatoes are doing the same thing. Very sad. Cindy

  2. Goats. Now taht made me chuckle! Sorry to hear you're seeing cracking tomatoes, too.

  3. Deb, I love how you talk about... and care for... your garden as if it were your family... your little children... your cabbage patch kids... lol.

    Your love affair with the garden is both maternal.... and romantic. So sorry your tomatoes are struggling, as are ours.

    I was thinking fondly of our visit the other day... your work was just beautiful. I can't wait to post photos... as soon as I can get my phone to communicate again with my comupter!