Postcards From the Playgarden
I try to think of organic gardening as playing and exploring, instead of some epic struggle of woman against pests, fungus, animals, and weather, knowing there is an abundance of information out there that will take me at least the next 25 years to encounter and absorb. This way is the essence of unschooling, and it works beautifully. (Nobody ever said grownups can’t unschool!)
Here are postcards of our little green spot, our very, very small backyard farm. It’s a playgarden. (Technically, that means I’m not supposed to cry when the green bean plants get a nasty rash of leaf rust and the potato leaves are consumed by beetles… It’s all part of the learning!)
So small! So hopeful, little pepper!
Then they grow a little and need help standing up. I never think they’ll get too much bigger. I have a poor memory, it seems.
And this is now our tomato jungle as it continues its attempt to take over the world. I can barely find the tomatoes in there! Some of the plants are now sprawled across the ground, having busted out of their teepees, and are pretending to be squash. Early Girl Squash and Beefsteak Squash. Speaking of squash…
Meet my nemesis: the Squash Vine Borer. Some were squished and some adopted by my kids to live in their bug terrariums, likely a long slow starvation. Squashing them under my shoe is possibly kinder, but I so hate to kill things—and killing things in front of my kids is just… just… not easy.
This is the Squash Vine Borer’s specialty: sucking the life out of squash plants. This used to be a thriving pumpkin vine. Now I spend quality time with a butter knife searching the hollow stems for frass (like I got nothing better to do), cutting open the vine and extracting these guys.
That little larva up there no longer lives in this gorgeous pumpkin patch… and I really, really hope it survives (the plants I mean). We lost most of our zucchini plants last year, before I knew about digging the larvae out. Heartbreaking. Zucchini, I love you. Thankfully, from a community garden we’ve been part of this year, we have a few log-like zucchini on our counter which I am enjoying immensely. I hear you should pick them small, but I’ve never noticed a difference in their taste. Plus, then you get more zucchini…
Now for some Good Things:
First ever backyard harvest of new potatoes, and a daily pickin’ of tomatoes.
“For you Mama.”
My favorite flower.
See the fuzzy pods? So awesome. Our wildflower patch is a gift to the bugs and butterflies and birds that help the rest of our garden grow so magically.
Coreopsis? Maybe? I love these, whatever they are.
Yellow flowers! This is what spinach does when you plant the seeds, watch Invisabugs devour the vulnerable, tiny baby spinaches as soon as they grow leaves, then you give up and vow to never (yet again, never) try to grow greens in this infested bughole. You turn your back on this sorry patch and rarely even consent to water it because you’re so frustrated. And now spinach flowers! Utterly amazing.
Lambs quarters is an edible wild plant (what? weed?), and this one’s decided to pretend it is a tree. My kids put their toys in it to play, and it’s taller than my six-year-old. I love that it grows without help, even out of an anthill-covered crack in our patio. This is its absolutely gorgeous stem all stripey greens and purplefied. I want a dress like that.
Last year I had to pull all my chard plants (sob sob sob) because of spots of some mold from my soil making them not safe to eat (though I had been eating them for a while and I’m still alive…). Just today I discovered two perfectly lovely renegade chards (shh, don’t tell the fungus!) growing in our wild strawberry patch!!! I love plants. And then I eat them.