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Growing your own food sure is a lot of work

By Al Cooke
Posted Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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Pittsboro, NC - The problem with vegetable gardens is they have no respect for my schedules. Just about the time I’m ready for some beaching relaxation, my tomatoes overpowered their supports and dove to the ground. Within a day, the tomato hornworms made it almost impossible to find any tomato leaves among the weeds. When I got back from vacation it was even harder to find anything! And the peas which had been forming pods were now drying on the vine.

We’ve finally found the remains of the tomato plants. I’m not sure we missed a lot. The high temperatures have prevented many plants from setting fruit. And when fruit was set, the temperature has often been too hot for the plant to form red pigment. Many gardeners have found that by the time they realized the fruits were ripe (yellow-green ripe) they were too ripe!

When we excavated our tomatoes from the weeds we did get enough fruits for our sandwiches at lunch. And there were several green tomatoes coming along. So we have cleaned them out, layered some of the stems to get more rooting. Still need to throw them a taste of fertilizer – just enough to get them going again. There’s still two months growing time before frost. Plenty of time to pick more tomatoes.

And with that in mind, we’ve also planted greens. At the garden center, looking at the collard plants in what I thought was an incognito disguise, I was asked if it’s time to plant this broccoli and stuff. I pointed out that it may take 70-80 days to make a broccoli head and we may have frost in 60-70 days. The guy asking questions didn’t buy any plants. But he did say he really likes Brussels sprouts. I forgot to mention that it takes more like 90-100 days to mature Brussels sprouts. I hope he doesn’t wait too long.

So we’ve got the collards in the ground along with turnips and mustard. Unlike a lot of folks, we planted the greens in rows rather than a salad patch. I’ve noticed in recent years a number of folks having a fungal spot on their turnips. I’m thinking they may just be too dense when the seeds are broadcast in a patch. We’re going with rows to improve air circulation and lower humidity down among the leaves. It’s a personal call, and we’ll have to wait to see what we get.

While we were cleaning up the weeds, I had ample opportunity to notice some of the reasons that was a good activity – cutworms, stink bugs, soldier beetles. All of them were enjoying the shade and protection of waist high crabgrass. But today, they must be feeling rather exposed and perhaps running for a better hiding place. I’m hoping that far fewer of them spend the winter there to cause me more problems next year.

All this growing your own food sure is a lot of work. But we’ve eaten well, put a few things by for winter, and had the opportunity to share with the local food pantries.

 
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