Nogglestead Proves There’s Always Something Worse In Nature

The bane of gardening at Nogglestead in years past has been Bermuda grass.

Image from Wikipedia / Bidgee

It grows by seed and by runners that can go under decorative bricks and through weedblock and, by the time you see it emerge, your bed is crisscrossed with the runners, and you pretty much have to turn the soil all over and dig it all out.

My beautiful wife has taken over the back flower bed and has diligently worked to keep the weeds out even though the Bermuda grass is happy to run completely under our deck, emerging from time to time up through the boards of the deck, on its way to her flower bed.

But this year we have discovered another foe: Dodder.

Image from Wikipedia / Tortel

This little vine is a vampire plant.

It cannot produce chlorophyll on its own, so it’s wrapping itself around the petunias and sucking their chlorophyll. The petunias don’t actually become dodder, but the little fangs it puts into the petunias can grow into whole new plants if you tear it off the flowers. To handle an infestation, you’re supposed to pull it all up and prune below the place where the chlorophyll-suckers are, but with flowers, that means pulling the whole plant.

Geez, I’m almost afraid of what we will discover next, and I lose sleep thinking that these things will develop a taste for human flesh (after all, I couldn’t finish The Ruins, not because it shared that conceit, though, but because the book sucked).

And flamethrowers are out of stock on Amazon.

Also, I hate Pearl Jam, but I cannot help singing a variant of this:

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The Zerg Peaches of Nogglestead

As some of you might now, one of the reasons we moved to Nogglestead was because I wanted a big garden and an orchard. After all, at our house in Old Trees, we had a couple upstart fruit trees, raspberry bushes, and an awesome garden. Imagine what I could do with more land!

Well, we had a good first year, but the next couple of years were pretty dry and other things took precedence in other years so that our garden and our fruit trees never really produced. But this year, we’ve put in effort as a family and we’re having some luck with it.

But now that we’ve got produce, we’re learning what in nature will eat it.

Like Japanese beetles.

Our orchard has been slow to take off. We lost a year to deer destroying the first trees, and then a couple drought years and a late freeze kept us from fruit. But this year, the peach trees in the front had a bunch of peaches. And now they have additional bunches of bugs. So I guess next year we’ll spray insecticide on the trees.

The cherry trees had cherries. Then the deer or birds had cherries. Next year, I guess we’ll put netting on it.

Something is nibbling on our cantaloupe. Probably something small. We didn’t have an extensive problem with melon-munchers when we had outdoor cats. Perhaps we’ll have to see if we can lure some of the neighborhood outdoor cats into our vicinity again.

So I won’t be learning any peach cobbler recipes this summer. But we’re learning, slowly, through the “success” of this year what we need to look out for next year.

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Book Report: Let It Rot by Stu Campbell (1975, 1990)

Book coverI bought this book some time ago when I first got into gardening, since I’d heard that composting was all the rage, and I wanted to learn more about it. I’ve been doing some “composting in place” — basically you take some organic material, toss it in your garden, and throw some dirt on it — but I got some extra material from trimming back some bushes and the bucket in which we kept our kitchen scraps was getting full. So it was time to read this book.

It covers a variety of information not only about the history of composting, but also some different strategies, enclosures, basic scientific principles of it, and overall, how neat composting is.

But I won’t be doing it seriously.

Because, brothers, composting is work. It’s not a matter of just throwing waste you generate in your yard and your kitchen into a pile and watering it and turning it every once in a while. For starters, to get the best compost, you’ve got to go out and seek things that you don’t have, or at least I don’t have, including different kinds of organic material, manure, and so on. Secondly, he talks about six inches of this, three inches of that, and inch of this, and then repeating it. That’s a compost berm. Come on, I’m not interesting in rebuilding Cahokia Mounds here.

I can buy the soil amendments I need, even organic compost, in the quantities I need to make my soil better for what bit of gardening I do. Given how little time I have of late to actually get out there and weed or pick ripe vegetables and fruit, I don’t need to take on another bit of labor for it based in the neatness of it or the protection of Mother Gaia.

Still, I learned a lot that I’ll never use, except maybe to make some compost tea–that is, let rain collect in my scraps bucket and water with that–and perhaps consider a little tumbler. But I’m not going to be a proper composter, and I never would have given up on that thought without this book. So I guess I can say it changed my life.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Book Report: The Book of Tomatoes by National Gardening Association (1995)

I bought this book because I was going to put in some tomato plants. Of course, I didn’t read the book until I’d already done several wrong things with the tomato plants, but what’s a guy to do?

This book is a supplement to the National Gardening Association’s regular materials, apparently. It covers the gamut of tomato raising, from selecting the right variety between the determined/indetermined growth varieties, natural resistance to disease and insects, and onto fertilization techniques, planting considerations, and finally into canning tips and recipes for tomato dishes.

I learned a lot from this book and hope that next year I can put its lessons, coupled with the big ones I’m learning this year on my own, into practice.

Books mentioned in this review:

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