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AIMLESSLY NAVIGATING: Trial and death — painting on my green thumb

There's nothing I look forward to more than a ripe cucumber right off the vine, a sweet pepper or plump tomato plucked straight from its plant or an endless supply of a variety of herbs to throw into new recipes throughout the summer growing season.

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There’s nothing I look forward to more than a ripe cucumber right off the vine, a sweet pepper or plump tomato plucked straight from its plant or an endless supply of a variety of herbs to throw into new recipes throughout the summer growing season.

I’m hopeful to achieve that reality again this year, but it is proving to challenge my patience thus far.

A few weeks ago, I talked my boyfriend into planting a relatively conservative vegetable garden in his backyard. When he bought his house he adopted a couple raised planter boxes, but we didn’t figure it would be sufficient for the extent of the varieties we desired.

We threw in a couple rows of red onion bulbs. I’m pleased to report those are looking fantastic - but frustrated that seems to be the extent of the healthiest-looking plants.

For more space and without ripping up a grassy section, we cleaned out a landscaped section conveniently bordered with railroad ties. He ripped up the landscaping tarp that held in a few weak-looking shrubs. A few drops of Tordon (a herbicide meant to kill the plant’s root system) and we were good to go. At the time, Tordon seemed like a score, until wilty young tomatoes revealed otherwise. As we watched what began as their slow decay, I was convinced I’d caused them to get blight (we’ve since mulched with grass clippings free of fertilizer.) from one careless watering events that splashed dirt on its leaves. Turns out, it was far worse.

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I admit, it took us probably a little longer than it should have to determine the tomato’s detriment, but once we figured it out, bad news turned into even worse news.

Apparently, Tordon is a “nasty, nasty chemical” that not only kills a plant’s root system, but remains in the soil system for years, according to our experienced farming fathers we neglected to consult prior to the senseless execution of not one, but four tomatoes.

It didn’t take long for the chemical to kill what was planted directly in the hole vacated by the shrub, but tragically, I’m afraid the toxic residue spread throughout the soil system to neighboring plants. We have cilantro that didn’t get much chance at life, and a garden salsa pepper currently struggling to survive.

Not all the plants seem to be doomed, though. We have one tomato that is growing at a nice rate after fertilizing with Epsom salt diluted in water. Our cucumbers - which were planted just outside the railroad tie bed poised to grow up a trellis - revealed their first flowers this week.

There’s a few peppers and other tomatoes that look hopeful, although their growth seems to be stunted.

This year’s garden succeeds a beautiful garden I raised at my place in Nebraska last summer. I enjoyed the herbs and cucumbers, but had to abandon large, green tomatoes that hadn’t ripened in time before my relocation to Worthington.

Someone told us jokingly that we have to talk to our plants. I’m nearing the point of desperation, that I just might try it.

Stay tuned - I hope to detail our first-time experience canning salsa and spaghetti sauce with our crop, if we ever get that chance. I might throw in a few recipes, too.

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What’s your pro gardening tip? Email me or tweet at me: @alyssasobotka

Epsom Salt Fertilizer One Gallon water

One Tablespoon Epsom salt

Apply the room temperature mixture conservatively to tomatoes periodically, depending on plant size. There’s inconsistent material that supports different periods of fertilizing frequency, but naturally, a larger tomato can handle the fertilizer more frequently than a smaller, younger tomato. I’ve seen material that supports fertilizing anywhere from once-monthly to once-weekly.

I prefer to save gallon milk jugs to mix.

Related Topics: GARDENING
Opinion by Alyssa Sobotka
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