Monday, September 24, 2012

The Power of Perseverance, The Beauty of Hope

This was a really difficult summer. It was very hot, with many days over 100 degrees, and very dry, with few rain showers from April to August. To add to the misery of drought, we had a succession of pests that ravaged our garden - grasshoppers, blister beetles, tomato horn worms, hungry deer who finally braved coming into the yard and jumping over the garden fence.

All that seems to have come to an end in August. The temperatures cooled significantly, and hurricane Isaac gave us about two inches of nice, slow, soaking rain. There have also been some other rainy days since then.

Although it was a hard garden year, we did have a few decent crops early on (sweet corn and tomatoes), thanks to my husband's extravagant watering (before the ban on outdoor water use). By the time the purple hull peas would have been producing a crop, the grasshoppers were eating the pea pods as fast as the plants could produce them, and we could no longer water the garden. We gave up on the peas, as well as the young sweet potato slips I had been nurturing along with the water left over from canning tomatoes, the okra we planted one day when the sky teased us with what looked like rain clouds, and the collard greens with their bare stems and sad-looking leaves. We didn't plow them under; we just ignored them.

That was the right thing to do! Because with the return of the rain, all of those plants have put on new growth.

By picking the few peas that were ready, shelling them and keeping them in the refrigerator until there were enough for a meal, we got to have fresh southern peas for supper one night, along with a mighty tasty batch of sauteed collard greens. The sweet potatoes are beginning to cover the ground, just as sweet potatoes should. There's bound to be something under the plants. And the okra is finally knee-high and has a few blooms. Maybe we'll get enough to fry some one evening -- even if everyone gets only a mouthful.

I'm truly grateful for every small thing we get from this second-chance garden, and it serves as a very clear lesson in the value of hanging in there.

I was so inspired by these sturdy plants that I decided to put out a few cool-weather crops. So I've planted broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and lettuce. I also planted a few green peas along the one fence panel we left in the garden to support the cucumber (which died pretty quickly). The peas came up well, and they are about 8-10 inches tall now.

Will they have time to produce any peas before the frost comes? I don't know. But just the sight of those fresh, tender green plants fills me with hope (especially the little cabbages, for some reason - I don't particularly like cabbage, but these are really kind of cute). What I've learned from the collard greens and the okra is, don't give up. All these crops are supposed to be able to stand some cool weather and even some frost. So maybe I will have a nice bowl full of green peas to put on the table at Thanksgiving!


Mary Obrink Schaffer said...

Lovely bit of writing. The glory of a garden is in the creation as much as in the produce. While you are still in this frame of mind, you may want to think about "grey water." The water from your washing machine (if you treat stains and use a minimal amount of detergent), your kitchen sink, and even your shower (although plumbing may make this impossible) are all good to use on the garden. Running the cold-going-to-hot water into a plastic jug gives me a gallon of cool water--plenty for watering my patio plants.

Ephemera said...

We pretty much gave up on our garden too, but the other day when Rick mowed, he came in and said there was fresh, tender okra on the plants again. That sure was a nice surprise for supper. Oh, the power of water!

Mary, I've thought about a gray water system too, and even did some research into organic detergents that are safe to use. Not sure what would be best though. Do you have a recommendation? We're getting ready to re-do our kitchen/bathroom plumbing, so it would be a great time to put in the drain pipes for that.