Monday, June 4, 2012

Reality Check: My Garden

I remember the day I started volunteering at the local arboretum, and the volunteer coordinator had recently been featured in Phoenix Home and Garden with her extensive and beautiful plant collection. I was in awe of her, and asked if she gave tours of her gardens. She laughed and said no, she never had a moment to prune or weed, her property was an absolute disaster, and she would be utterly ashamed if anyone ever saw it. I was delighted! A popular, respected plant expert had a garden exactly like mine!

My garden has its good days and bad days, its high points and low points. I usually photograph all the pretty flowers and the shiny leaves and the rare weed-free areas, but today I thought I would offer you a dose of reality.
I have weeds, insects, bird and mammal pests, heat, sun, wind, drought, and dust. Right now, bugs are eating everything, including the herbs, which surprises me. I thought that strong-smelling plants were less likely to get chewed, but the mint and the sage have lots of holes.

The grape-leaf skeletonizers are doing that thing that they do so well.

And we’ve always got grass, growing everywhere we don’t want it. 
This is English Thyme, although it’s hard to see due to the grass that’s trying to take over.

The tomato that mysteriously appeared in November just kept going. It grew past the supports and pushed as far as it could against the shade cloth, so it’s now growing back downwards.
 To get an idea of the size, the cement wall behind the plants is almost 6 feet tall.

It is sunburned and missing half its leaves, but still producing fruit by the dozen.

This squash tried too hard, too early.
It is an heirloom Hubbard from seeds that The Piemaker’s mom saved. The plant is accustomed to the nutrient-rich soil and cool night air of California’s wine country, and in our early desert spring the vines started shooting up out of this pot, growing several inches a day. As soon as the 100-degree days started, it curled up in utter shock, and has not been able to recover. It just hangs there, half dead.

The rest of the squash plants are experiencing an extreme gender imbalance. I have seen nothing but male flowers on 22 of the 23 plants for two months now. It is getting very tiresome.
male, male, male
male, male, male. What are you going to do with all that pollen, guys?

This one plant finally had some female flowers and is getting some pretty little fruit.
Golden Scallopini Squash

The finches keep nesting in our roof. Every year we clear the space out and put up wire to keep them out. Every year they somehow pry open the wire and build a nest again. What a mess.
Can you see the hungry little yellow mouth up there?

Then there's this type of pest. 
Awww. Look who has a dirty mouth (and possibly a guilty conscience?). Her brother ran away from the camera because he stole a tomato and he didn’t want to have his picture taken with the evidence.
So that's a quick view into the reality of my vegetable garden. Don't even get me started on the front yard. I prefer to just avert my eyes when I have to go out there.

What's happening in the nooks and crannies of your gardens?



  1. What a great picture of your little doggie! How cute and yes, very guilty! They are just like little kids. I can always tell when our dog has been up to something. As for the garden, good luck. I haven't planted as much as I wanted to this year as last year the deer and bunnies has a feast. I have read to put out everthing from moth balls to cayenne pepper to human hair. Maybe this year I just won't have such extensive flower beds! Have a wonderful day!

  2. Lovely to see your garden in all its "other"glory!!
    Whilst yours is being shriveled by the rays of the Sun,a rare phenomenon over here,my garden is being equally shriveled by blasts of cold winds and battered by torrential rain.Being a typical wet bank holiday week end here my briefly upright plants are lying almost horizontal now...but the water butt is now filled again.
    Biggest pest in the garden at the moment is Lily Beetle busily munching their way through all my lilies...I notice they don't get washed away by the rain.
    Can't believe you have tomato's already!

  3. Wind, wind and more cold wind.
    Yet more rain has brought out mildew on the hardy geranium in my north facing flower bed.
    Tomato plants still on my kitchen window sill!

  4. The yard and gardens have been the source of my greatest guilt since deciding to stay at home a year and a half ago; no more excuse for their neglect! I've been doing a lot of work out there in recent days, so it's all starting to shape up. Slow but sure!

  5. Once again, we see the beauty of imperfection. Thanks for keeping it real, as always! (And your canine "pest" is adorable beyond belief. I would let him get away with murder!)