Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Death Day

Kate from Gardening Without Skills used to do a Garden Bloggers' Death Day post at the end of every month. I always loved that day. Not because of the death, and not even because it was funny in a very Monty Python way, but because it showed that even long time gardeners have failures. We often don't show those things on our blogs, but many new gardeners read blogs and end up thinking that gardening is so easy. That once you learn, everything lives.

Well I'm here to say that that just isn't true. Plants sometimes struggle. Sometimes they die. Sometimes the damn goundhog eats all your butternut squashes as mine did last year. Sometimes life just gets the better of you like one year in my garden I had no garden. This was four years ago. I had mono. My garden was just weeds and nothing was planted. Google was so kind that year. It took street view images which are still up. Five foot tall weeds can be seen behind my garden fence. Sometimes life happens and then life rubs it in your face. At least they have since changed the satellite image from that year. So gardening requires patience. It requires being able to accept defeat and try again. Never give up and never give in. That's what makes a gardener. So here are some photos to show you the non picture perfect parts of the garden.

I'll start with the non plant part of the tour. You see that empty spot where the trellis used to be? Well I thought the trellis just wasn't going to be strong enough to stand the winds we get here. And I just don't have the energy to deal with it right now. So no big trellis for the runner beans.

Of the plants let start with the seedlings. The above photo is a really bad photo of some basil that I put in the garden last weekend. I mistakenly took my basil out really early with some of the other plants to harden off weeks ago. Basil does better if not taken out until it warms up. When I noticed it, it was really sad. But I just left it there. It has grown slowly. But some is really struggling. I figured I'd just stick it in the garden. If it grows fine. If not I'll purchase some starts. I'll already have to buy starts from peppers as mine didn't germinate well at all.

Then there is the cumin. I haven't figured cumin out yet obviously. It too is a warm weather plant, but to get it to go to seed I need to start it early indoors. So I did. Then it started to bloom. Now it is in the garden to live or to die. Next year I'll start it later. This is my second year of trying it. Last time my seedlings all died once they got transplanted.

I planted some of my tomatoes last weekend. All of the Heinz plants seem to have sunburn. Or is it? The worse parts are in the vein area. Sunburn is usually the opposite since the deeper veins get some shade. Plus these plants have been out in full sunshine for over a week hardening off before planting. And it has been mostly cloudy since they were put out. So it is probably some disease. Last year my Heinz plants were really sickly. They put out a nice harvest on really small sickly plants. I hope they produce for me this year as I have eight of them out of 21 tomato plants so that is more than a third of my tomatoes.

The onions are doing just OK. I've put them on a weekly fish emulsion to try to perk them up. But some are just dying. I haven't a clue what is killing them.

This is half of my spinach bed under the row cover. Notice the bare spots. Well if you could see a bit closer you would see the poor dead plants that have withered away. When they had about two true leaves they just keeled over and died. Damping off death. RIP. The other half didn't have as much of an issue with it. I've never had such a bad damping off problem outside before.

And last but not least are the dang birds. Every year I lose some seedlings to the birds building their nests. Usually they go for the ferny foliage, but this year they went for the zinnias and left the cosmos. They lopped the top off of three plants. And one just totally disappeared without a trace. Not even a stem stub left. This one they couldn't actually get off so it is left dangling. I had one replacement zinnia. The other three will just leave holes in my bed - the bed right at the end of the rock wall garden for everyone to see.

I would still say my garden is doing pretty well this year. Amazing that I can say that when I do have so many issues. But to be a gardener is to be an optimist. Every time you put a tiny little seed into the ground, you believe it will sprout and grow. Or why would you do it? I am hoping that those tomatoes grow well and the basil survives. Maybe they will.


  1. Love this post Daphne! Too often we only like to show our shining successes and not the dirty truths of gardening. Thanks for sharing your gardening troubles.

  2. There is a lot of things not doing well in our garden too. Transplanting can be tricky sometime you hope it will survive when unexpectedly the next day the sun is shining so brightly that the newly transplanted seedlings just wilted or died.Hope all the your plants will make a good recovery.

  3. Oh Daphne we have all been there. This year I had a heater failin April and lost almost all my seedling that I had been growing under lights. Some since October. It was 24 in the greenhouse. Not much stands up to that. WE just pull ourselves up by our boot straps and start over. Now all of my seedling are small and will really have to work hard to produce this year. Worst part is I try to sell a little to support my addiction to starting seed and I am not sure if that is even going to be possible this year.

  4. Every year we have a new set of problems to put up with. This was my year for sickly tomato seedlings, although they seem to be doing fine now. I have never seen so many leaf miner eggs on the spinach as there are this year. Thankfully the main crop is under cover, but I'm about to rip out all the rest. I have yellow jackets in my garden shed. Sometimes they use my head as a landing strip.

  5. Well done! I too have far more failures than successes it seems. As long as I get enough, then no biggie. But when I lose everything, then it sucks. My brother planted 20 tomatoes and none survived so he had to buy. I worked my butt off to get viable starts and I'm still hopeful 6 will turn around. There's more. I may do a post or 8 on this... hehe. Thanks!

  6. I've been reading your blog for a bit and never posted before, but I thought I'd chime in finally and say hello. We are in Newton, so not too far away. Loved this post!

  7. Definitely there... a lot. but this is only my third garden, and I know there will be many more failures to come! Thanks for the post, even the "I'm not alone..." feeling is encouraging! :)

  8. You win some. you lose some! It's all part of the game. :)

  9. I am sorry for your loss....
    But, I am consoled to know that I am not alone in dealing with my gardening deaths. It always reminds me that i am not "in charge." I do the best I can and if some succeed, I rejoice and if some do not...I consider it an experiment and maybe it will work out better next time.

  10. Great post! I've killed more plants over the years than I can count. Some plants I swore I would never grow again, like gardenias and fuchsias which are both spider mite magnets.

    And I'm so with you on the birds. I don't trust them here for a minute! Everything is fair game for them, it seems.

  11. Awesome post, thanks Daphne! I'm learning to appreciate whatever my little garden produces. I had great expectations for this spring...but reality has set in. Love your last paragraph...I will determine to be an optimist.

  12. Vanessa, I laughed at the phrase "dirty truths of gardening" all I could think of was not being able to get the dirt from underneath my fingernails.

    Diana, I hope they all survive too. I'll be planting more out today hopefully. I probably should have done it yesterday as the next too days are supposed to be warm and sunny.

    wilderness, losing most of your seedlings would be so sad. But yes we sigh (or cry as the case may be) and move on. We have to.

    Granny, I still haven't found leaf miner eggs on my exposed spinach. I'm just so shocked. It ought to start bolting anyday now, but the weather has been so cool and nice for it, it may never bolt. OK spinach bolts on day length too so I know it will bolt. You need to get those yellow jackets removed. I love my wasps and bees, but yellow jackets are dangerous ones.

    Sinfonian, I plant so many different things that I never lose everything. Everything of one plant sometimes, but not the whole garden. Well tomatoes are an exception. I need to have some tomatoes to make sauce for the year. Thank goodness the nurseries are there to fill in when I need them to.

    Marlene, hi you are not far away at all.

    Megan, no you are not alone. Sadly Mother Nature always wants her share.

  13. Katrina, sometimes it really feels like a poker game too. You gamble on things. And skill and knowledge helps, but bad luck can always take you down.

    Patricia, My "experiment" that I just can't let go are my onions. I can grow other alliums just fine but every year my onions don't bulb up wall. I'm thinking of giving up and going to sets. But I so want to grow them from seed.

    villager, I've done that swearing thing and then gone back and grown it successfully. Spinach was like that for me.

    Melissa, sometimes it is hard when you lose a lot. I think it is easier for me to lose things this year that I have such a big garden. There is always bounty elsewhere. In my last garden losing over half a 4x8 bed of spinach would be really heartbreaking. Now I'll just freeze more chard over the summer and give less to my townhouse mates. Maybe it should be my townhouse mates crying over lost spinach.

  14. You have a point Daphne. Sometimes it worth showing the more "realistic" side of gardening so people know how difficult it can be. Sorry to hear about your issues. I've been spared for the most part so far but the year is still young.

  15. Well this is timely. I have just had to completely cull all my tomato seedlings which I have never had to do. It was painful. Some mystery disease I couldn't identify. Don't want to put it in the ground though. Thankfully there are local growers who suppy seedlings so I won't be without and it gives me the opportunity to run an experiment that I have been meaning to try.

    About your tomato, that looks like frost/cold damage.

    Oh and the fun word verification for you today: enders.

  16. Wait, I take it back, just reviewing some pictures of my tomato devestation and though they do look a lot like the frost damaged plants I've seen in the market, they don't look like my frost damaged plant. Wonder what it is? Tomatoes can be annoying delicate at times.