City Girl Gone Gardening: Misery Loves Company

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By Jackie Hollenkamp Bentley

For weeks now, I’ve been watching plants in my raised beds die a slow, painful death.

Finally, this happened…

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and this…

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I looked on the internets for possible explanations for this ugliness, knowing full well the Biblical Rains this summer are to blame. My mom said she’s hearing from a lot of people that this has been one bad summer for gardens thanks to the deluges.

What I found was that it could be what’s called blight, or fungus, bugs, drowning (you think?), any number of things.

Armed with these photos on my phone, I visited one of my go-to nurseries, Gagel’s Farm. I wanted to know, first, what killed these plants, and second, can I replant this late in the season, and third, that I’m not alone.

They came through for me once again.

“Oh, you got hit with a little bit of everything, didn’t you?” said Lindsey Gagel in a most sympathetic tone. I was grateful.

I then showed her my tomato plants, which have produced an “okay” amount of maters, but I was hoping for more to make more sauces (See CGGG: Pride and Reality).

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She went on to show me their roadside food stands where they typically sell copious amounts of tomato varieties.  There were only a few maters available. Roughly 90 percent of their customers are having a horrible year.

“So can I replant at least the cucumbers?”

“Many of them are replanting right now,” she said. But she added that I shouldn’t replant in the same dirt.

Hope is alive.

I was able to harvest enough cukes to make a nice batch of Kosher dill pickles weeks ago, but I would like to have the same amount in bread and butter pickles. That wasn’t going to happen if I couldn’t replant.

Unfortunately, Gagels’ were out of cucumber plants and seeds.

“Never Give Up! Never Surrender!” kept going through my mind as I left Gagels (bonus points for the person who can tell me where that quote originated).

I hit several stores (one of them, admittedly was a big blue box chain) and no cucumber plants to be found. Aforementioned blue store even returned all their seeds. I wanted to scream “WHY DID YOU DO THAT WHEN THERE’S PLENTY OF TIME TO REPLANT!?”   

But I didn’t. I bit my tongue because they’re the ones losing money.

I never did find plants or seeds, I’m still on the hunt, but I do realize time is running out and if I don’t find them locally, I guess it’s back to the internets for an expedited order from a seed company.

Meanwhile, I did find solace in one of my gardens. Ironically, my “poor potatoes” didn’t look so poor after all.

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Well, okay, the overgrowth doesn’t look too hot, but it was nothing a weed eater couldn’t hack, literally. I had off-handedly mentioned to my mom that the “tops” of the potato plants have died and disappeared and was going to get the potatoes in a few weeks.

“Oh you have to get them now, or they’ll rot in the ground!”

Oh.

The next day, I threw on my knee-high work boots, a long-sleeve shirt, hat and bug spray (mosquitos really love me) and whacked away the weeds. After a little bit of digging, I was rewarded with this site:

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And, you know I squealed like I always do when greeted with a “fruit” of my labors.

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About one hour and a gallon of sweat later, I gathered all this.

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After a rough beginning in the early spring, I didn’t know if I would get a single tuber. Now, I have enough for roughly four or five meals. To me, that’s a successful haul.

My mom’s comment when she saw what I picked kinda sums up the whole potato experience this year:

“Well, I’ll be dog-on.”

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