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29 May 2010 @ 05:17 pm
Fear of a Green (Snarling) Planet  
I can't grow things. This is one of the basic facts of my life. If someone gives me a living plant, my only goal is to find someone else to give it to before my black thumb miasma begins to affect it and it loses its will to live. (Sometimes you can see our gift plants actively wilting the second they realize who their new owner is.) Our sole houseplant is one my mother gave to us when we bought our first house. It is an extremely accommodating plant, because it does not need much water, light, soil, or attention, and can survive for months apparently off of air alone. (We haven't been able to test it in vacuum, but I am pretty sure it would do fine without the air, too.) If I knew what it was, I would buy more, but I don't, so I just try to remember to water it every few weeks or so.

But last year, our neighbor across the street from our old house was offering small tomato plants for fifty cents each, and for some reason I bought some. I put them in containers we had left from previous growing experiments (the herb garden that the dog ate when she was puppy, the strawberry plants that never took), and watered them regularly, and after some time, we got tomatoes. Not a lot, but they were extremely tasty. The earthling loved them.

Then, in the middle of the summer, we moved. Our tomato plants did not survive.

In our new house, we don't have a gardening neighbor, but we do have an empty place where the pond used to be. (The previous owners had a fishpond. We have a toddler. One of our first moves was to remove the fishpond before the earthling fell into it.) We also have a sort of raised bed and a bunch of pots that used to have flowers before the old owners left them unattended for two months, meaning that we had to remove a lot of flower carcasses when we moved in.

So this year, I have planted many things, largely in a spirit of experimentation, and because the earthling likes buying seed kits. Our success has been - well. The raised bed now contains zucchini and tomatoes, and two things are obvious about it:
  1. I didn't space the plants right.

  2. I missed the notation on the zucchini label that said "evil, carnivorous, mutant variety, bred by mad scientists to meet your world domination needs."
The raised bed is a solid mass of greenery. Most of the individual zucchini leaves are large enough that we could sew outfits for the earthling out of them, if they weren't covered in prickles. I swear the zucchini plants move; I see them shifting out of the corner of my eye, and each day they have visibly grown. One of them appears to be trying to launch itself out of the bed entirely. The tomato plants are now pressed against the wall and growing for their lives; they are acting like vines and growing up the wall of our house, and they have grown with such vigor they've actually uprooted the trellises they were supposed to use as supports. (The trellises are just kind of floating on a sea of green, now. I would pull them out, but I think the tomato plants would fight me for them. And they'd win.) The bed, what I can see of it by cautiously poking the zucchini and tomato leaves aside, is entirely free of weeds. The zucchini plants are probably eating them.

We have given up all hope of getting actual produce from this bed (there are zucchini and small green tomatoes in there, but I have no idea how I could pick them once ripe without risk to my limbs), and are providing the plants with all the water and food they want solely because we're afraid that if we don't we'll wake up one morning to find they've broken in through the windows and taken over the living room. We also try to keep the earthling away, because I am pretty sure I've seen green tendrils reach out for him when he walks by.

Elsewhere, we have green beans, which would definitely take the Most Terrifying Vegetable award if the zucchini-tomato mass hadn't redefined our concept of fear of green matter. Even the seeds were scary - giant and bulbous - and when they sprouted, they visibly distorted their peat pots. We had to transplant them within the week, with no hardening, because they were trying to climb up the blinds, and now they defy all attempts to train them to climb up their trellis; they're basically a giant bush of bean plants. The flowers are very pretty, though, and they haven't actually tried to eat anyone, so they are definitely taking second in the scary garden sweepstakes.

Third place is held by the pumpkin plant, which seems to double in size every two days or so and at this rate will be taking over most of the U.S. by the end of the summer. I realize that this sounds like a major threat, but don't worry; there's only about twenty feet between the pumpkin plant and the zucchini-tomato mass, so before it takes over, it's going to get eaten by the mutants. Again, I am not expecting actual pumpkins to come out of this. It seems to be wholly invested in producing leaves rather than fruits.

I tell you what: gardening is a whole lot easier in Harvest Moon videogames.

Anyway. We have some other things growing - herbs and so on. We've actually managed to get some strawberries from our strawberry plants, such that the earthling, if you say, "Do you want a strawberry?" will run to the back door with his mouth open, and every day he goes hopefully to the strawberry bed and signs, "Please, more, please, more, food to eat?" But mostly we are going to count ourselves well off if we all live through this gardening experiment.

And I keep searching for gardening communities on LJ and DW, but when I find them, they're all full of posts about fully utilizing your zone 3 gardening space, or permaculture, or forcing, which sounds bad but apparently is okay if you do it to plants. There are never any desperate posts that say, "Oh god the plants - the plants - they're COMING FOR ME. What do I do? Would a baseball bat work? I don't have a flamethrower!" Everyone else seems to be sedately growing food and flowers, instead of cowering before a mutant green strike force.

But I figure I can't be alone in this. Someone else out there has to be experimenting with gardening and mostly failing, right? Right? So, a poll. (Southern hemisphere types, I realize that this is out of synch for you. Do your best.)

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
But what if I'm a mermaid?: Blackadder II - Nursiedeepbluemermaid on May 30th, 2010 12:40 am (UTC)
I come from a family of obsessive gardeners, but I myself managed to kill a cactus once (actually, two: one fell to its death from a second-storey window, the other dried out and died). So I stay well clear of my parents' garden, for the good of all concerned!

I just wanted to give you kudos for using Neil's immortal line from The Young Ones: "We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, we eat the seed". I love that show so much...
bluevsgreybluevsgrey on May 30th, 2010 12:43 am (UTC)
I haven't attempted to grow anything to eat but my boyfriend got an aloe plant earlier this month then promptly went out of town and I totally forgot about it until earlier this week where I sat it outside to get some sun. Since it rained I didn't water it and I am very proud to report it isn't dead yet(mostly of it's own accord)! I expect it might last to August, but if it is still alive in September I will be shocked.
Sally M: oh noessallymn on May 30th, 2010 01:09 am (UTC)
I have managed to accidentally ivy, genraniums and and aloe vera, which I was confidently told my The Horticulturally Experienced is impossible in all three cases without using a flamethrower...

The only things I am able to grow are pelargoniums and sourgrass. Both of which are actually quite pretty, but the former is scarely useful and the latter... gets laughed at :(
Pouncer: Pink berriesthepouncer on May 30th, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
You could check out this Wired article and learn how to make even more green things grow?
the pirate queen of norwayashkitty on May 30th, 2010 01:42 am (UTC)
Oh, zucchini are terrifying! They go EVERYWHERE!
like using semaphore at the drive thruprettyshiny on May 30th, 2010 01:52 am (UTC)

I was telling my better half about your garden horrors, and it turns out he knows a lot about veggie gardens (learn something new every day). He says:

1. You planted the pumpkin and zucchini early, so they're going to grow like crazy until their usual fruiting season (?), usually in the fall. He's not sure if trying to trim it before they actually bear fruit will have a hydra effect or not, though.

2. Tomatoes grow best when you keep the plant trimmed short. Of course, in this case, they're fighting the zucchini for light so... who knows?

3. Stop letting the earthling trade cows for magic beans. It never goes the same as in the stories.
Minim Calibreminim_calibre on May 30th, 2010 01:58 am (UTC)
>I missed the notation on the zucchini label that said "evil, carnivorous, mutant variety, bred by mad scientists to meet your world domination needs."

Yeah, there's really not a variety that's not like that. Even my supposedly tame "bush" variety that I grow here turns into a monster at some point. Par for the course with the things.
Andrasteandrastewhite on May 30th, 2010 02:10 am (UTC)
In my experience, all zucchini are like that. My father always plants them far apart in different garden beds so they cannot gang up on him.

(Oh, and if you do find a way to get an arm in there: pick them while they're small! Smaller zucchini - say four or five inches at most - are tastier.)
Melody Jacobssimplysly on May 30th, 2010 02:29 am (UTC)
We're a bit north of you (in Oregon), so it's slightly different. Zucchini (and squash of all kinds, really) like to grow nice big leaves. They then use said leaves to hide any and all produce. AND it has tiny thorns, which you might want to watch out for with the Earthling. They aren't too bad, but they are slightly annoying for an adult, so I don't know how a toddler would react to them. They and the pumpkins will get (likely HUGE) flowers later on in the season, with the pumpkins more towards the latter part of summer. If it's earlier, keep an eye on them so that you don't get huge pumpkins as well.

When it comes time to get the zucchini, I can't see a reason why you can't trim it way back. If it's already growing most of what it will, then it doesn't need quite so much foliage. Especially if you just remove a leaf or two right about where the zucchini is.

Yes, tomatoes love to climb. In our garden we always put them in tomato cages when they're small, so they have something to climb on, instead of just leaning over when it gets too heavy, dropping all those lovely tomatoes in the dirt to rot. They also tend to like a lot of water. As someone above here said, they produce best when they're small, because after awhile they get the idea that they've grown all they can so hey! time to make seeds!

The good news is that most of that mess should die out in the winter (at least it does here), and the vines are generally "soft" and easily compostable for NEXT years garden.
bleedtobluebleedtoblue on May 30th, 2010 04:08 am (UTC)
."I missed the notation on the zucchini label that said "evil, carnivorous, mutant variety, bred by mad scientists to meet your world domination needs."

That is the very definition of zucchini.

I have a green thumb, but it's selective. I will have beautiful, lush tomato plants with three tomatoes. Clematis is a delicate vine, yet mine grows like kudzu (or zucchini) and smothers the other plants. It crawls across my deck heading for the back door. Last week I noticed it's offspring are coming up in the neighbor's flowerbeds...
sheldrakesheldrake on May 30th, 2010 09:47 am (UTC)
I hear you about the zucchini. Not that I'm at that stage yet, because I live in the UK, and all the plants are currently too depressed to start trying to take over the world. But I have grown too many. I know this. I probably only needed one. I have... more than one. I was excited, I haven't done this before. I got carried away!

I expect to be running for my life in about a month.
Elizabethsoapdemon on May 30th, 2010 12:01 pm (UTC)
I am having similar issues with my marjoram, sage, and tomatoes right now. The only advice I can give you is DO NOT cut the plants back! That is exactly what they are expecting, and will only renew their malicious vigor.
(no subject) - amnisias on May 30th, 2010 12:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
penknife: space chickenpenknife on May 30th, 2010 12:18 pm (UTC)
Understand that if you don't pick the zucchini while they are small and edible, they will grow to roughly the size of baseball bats. Very very quickly.

*is sad that this year she has no mutant zucchini*

Denise Raymond: Cranks buttonrattlecatcher on May 30th, 2010 03:36 pm (UTC)
So you're no longer in the plant killing club?
But you were the treasurer!

My mom was told, when we moved to the Southwest, that zucchini did well there. So she planted four.

When the trauma comes back, as it sometimes does, I buy some sort of plant and just watch it die. It's my superpower and I'll use it the way I want.
ashpam261 on May 30th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)
Plant That Never Dies
If you're looking for a good hearty plant for the garden for looks, a bleeding heart bush is pretty tough. We planted it a long time ago, did nothing special to it.. And it's thriving some how.. More so than the lawn. Just an idea for something easy that doesn't have a taste for tiny earthlings.
jrprongs: non-conformist veggiesjrprongs on June 3rd, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
If you want a plant that literally can't be killed, try an Eternity Plant. Instead of dying when it doesn't get water, it just dries up. Water it again and it comes right back.

As for tales from the Mutant Garden Files, my parents have a large garden where, last year, they planted several tomato plants in a raised bed. They then worried that the tomatoes would eat the dog, as they continued to overgrow the trellises and vie for space. The squash kept pulling down the corn and the pumpkins decided they'd had enough of our shenanigans and headed off into the piny woods via the fence. When I came home to visit, they warned me not to stand still in the garden for fear of being overtaken by the fearless green leader.