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Moms Talk: How Does Your Garden Grow?

A busy summer and some unusual weather has made our growing season a near-total bust.

Maybe we have to rephrase that: How does your garden grow not grow?

Last year at about this time, I was gathering vegetables from the garden to make my famous (and, if I dare say it, utterly delicious) ratatouille. I was about ready to pull up my zucchini and yellow squash plants because I was so sick of eating them, and my husband was busy pickling peppers.

This year? Well, at least I had some strawberries.

With two kids to care for, wild weather swinging from tornado to heat wave to monsoon, and a personal mission to ensure that every bit of quality daylight was spent at the park or the pool, our three-plot garden became a casualty of our busy lifestyle.

Early Strawbs
We did have some small victories. Our dedicated strawberry plot saw lots of fruit early in the season, enough for me to make and freeze a few pints of strawberry-rhubarb jam. And the herbs I seeded and set out on the deck to sprout did exactly that and likely would have fared extremely well if I had actually remembered to transplant them into pots as I had intended.

But then suddenly it was mid-July. We realized only one tiny trellis of peas ever managed to produce even a few measly pods. My herbs were still sitting right in their seeding tray where they had been for well over a month.

And our main garden? We couldn't even see the plants anymore, it was so overgrown with weeds.

Mom-sized Weeds
It finally occurred to me one morning, after everyone else had left the house, that I should at least see if there was anything I could salvage for the season. I rooted out weeds as tall as me in our main garden, finding underneath them a withered patch of lettuce, two living but small pepper plants, a zucchini plant that looked as if it had been chewed by squirrels, and one lone blossom on the yellow squash.

Our side plot fared slightly better, thanks mostly to plant cages and the unmistakable tenacity of tomatoes. After clearing the weeds and doing some small pruning, the plants looked pale but hearty, and a clear space near them became the new bed for basil seedlings I finally managed to get in the ground.

Tiny Bounty
That was a few weeks ago. Since then, one pepper plant has produced small flowers, but nothing else. The other has been unchanged since the moment I found it under the weeds. The squash and zucchini continue to grow vine, but not a single vegetable has started to grow.  Of our two tomatoes plants, our heirloom has one small green tomato growing. Our grape tomato plant has 20 to 30 small tiny green fruit, but none that appear to be turning red at all.

As for our two eggplants, exactly one small purple eggplant hangs from a branch, although the flowers are plentiful.

For the amount of effort we put into it, we really deserve no better.  We know there is only so much we can blame on the weather, since others, like the Fridley Farmer, have ripe tomatoes and plenty of other crops to show for their hard work and dedication to their garden plots.

I guess you really do reap what you sow.

Meanwhile, we can only hope that the produce from our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm continues to be abundant, and maybe I'll still get my ratatouille made yet. Here's my recipe:

Ratatoullie
Combine approximately 8 cups worth of tomatoes (if you don't have a large quantity of home grown tomatoes, canned will do), fresh chopped garlic to taste, two small onions chopped, salt, pepper, and a handful of fresh tarragon in a dutch oven or large soup pot.  Allow to simmer for two hours. 

Add two large zucchini and two large yellow squash, chopped into 1-inch cubes, and allow to simmer until vegetables are very soft. 

Add one cubed large eggplant 20 minutes before serving (note: do not simmer your eggplant more than 20 minutes or it will begin to get bitter). 

Serve with provolone cheese melted on top and/or Italian sausage.

Stephanie Churchill Ling August 10, 2011 at 04:56 PM
I usually grow 15+ tomato plants and then can nearly all the proceeds. This year I have about 12-15 plants. Though they are bursting with bounty, I have picked 1... yes... ONE tomato. I am used to having pint after pint of home canned tomatoes stored away for winter use. Sadly, that will not be the case this year. I just came back inside from checking, and I have ZERO zucchini to pick. My green beans never came up, my peas were about as successful as this article stated. One very surprising benefit, I was actually able to pick some peppers this year. I never have luck with those! Weird. :)
Robin Marty August 10, 2011 at 08:25 PM
that almost makes me feel better. at this point, I'm thinking that as long as the one eggplant makes it, I'm calling it success...
Stephanie Churchill Ling August 10, 2011 at 08:28 PM
At least we're all "in this together", huh? :)

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