Not pictured: 3 figs, 2 microscopic strawberries.
What went wrong? It might be easier to answer “what went right?”, which was approximately nothing.
Planting season snuck up on us through a busy spring. I wanted to try a “three sisters” planting this year in one of our beds, which is a traditional First Nations agricultural technique of planting corn, beans, and squash in the same bed. The corn supports the beans, and the squash leaves shade both of their roots. But you have to plant the corn, wait for it to germinate, wait another week, then plant the beans, wait for them to germinate, wait another week… the long and short of it is that I started too late to get everything in and growing at its optimal time. The corn took off pretty well, but I hadn’t planted it deep enough so many of the stalks fell over from big winds, and the rest were pulled down by squirrels and raccoons who wanted to eat the unripe ears. The beans climbed the corn well, flowered well, but didn’t develop beyond that. And the squash? Well, let’s just say I have a nice packet of pumpkin seeds ready for next year.
As for the green tomatoes, these came from a volunteer plant that managed to establish itself in one of our basement window wells. I give it full marks for persistence, especially since it was on the north side of the house. When I pulled it out yesterday, the vine was almost seven feet long from furthest tip to root! But all the energy it put toward growth meant there was very little left for fruiting, and this handful of unripe tomatoes was all I could find. I’ll probably do them up as a quick pickle and eat them later this week.
Besides my admitted incompetence, we had weather challenges. This summer was particularly dry and hot, enough to scorch and kill my potted blueberry bush… not that it mattered much in that case, as Tertia helpfully pulled off all the developing berries before a single one could ripen. We also had animal challenges: the aforementioned squirrels and raccoons stripped nearly all of the developing figs off the tree. I counted around two dozen figlets at the beginning of the summer. At this point three have ripened, there are five more that might make it if the fall is warm enough, and the rest have simply disappeared. But the factor that probably made the biggest difference was simply that we were busy, way busier than last year. The summer rushed by — the kids went to day camp, we had two weeks of daily swimming lessons, we took two road trips — and the garden simply wasn’t a priority. If I had thought about it more, watered more often, gotten around to the compost I meant to add… well, who knows. But I didn’t.
The one bright spot, however, has been our marvelous fig tree:
Last summer I gave the fig a hard prune, taking it down to one main stem from three and trimming the new trunk down to about a foot high. I know that figs are hardy and typically respond very well to heavy pruning, but I still felt considerable trepidation about the whole matter! After that I wrapped it in cloth, surrounded it with an open-top cardboard box that I filled with dry oak leaves, put a bucket over the whole thing to protect it from precipitation, and waited the many long weeks until it was consistently warm enough to unwrap it and see if it had survived overwintering. To my delight, it did indeed survive — and while it took what felt like an awfully long time to wake up and start putting out new growth, it came back with a bang. Once it goes dormant again in a month or two, I’ll give it another good lop and chop, so that we can start shaping it into a good form.
Onward and upward, right? I learned some lessons this year (like: yes, you do actually have to consistently water stuff) but I’m already looking forward to next season. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make the world’s smallest batch of pickled tomatoes.