As has become a common affair when tending to the garden, I had a very long conservation with my neighbor, the president of the block association. I learned that she has lived in our neighborhood 46 years and has gardened down the street for over 20 years. I was impressed. They apparently just installed a sprinkler system. She said that other people often ask her what the fronds on the street side of my garden are, and I explained they are asparagus sprouts. She pointed out that my zucchini so far had only male flowers and that the female flowers have little nubs on them that produce the vegetable. You’re supposed to pick off the male flowers and eat them, since they’re otherwise useless.
She also suggested I plant more perennial flowers next time.I couldn’t care less about that, but I held my tongue. She warned me squirrels might eat the tomatoes. What tomatoes? Fuck! I didn’t think of that, though. I was more worried about animals on the ground, but squirrels are crafty. We closed the conversation speaking about how people bring their dogs to her garden even though there are signs. She said one once told her it was fine for the plants, because dogs are natural. Yes that makes sense! We both agreed dog piss was not the same thing as grass-fed cow manure. I felt a little bad for her.
How has the garden fared as the summer has dragged on?
Well I added four more herbs to balance things out: purple basil, oregano, dill, and catnip for the children. Obviously rats are going to eat all of these.
The tomato plants continue to grow larger than any I have seen with plenty of flowers, but there’s still no fruit. The green pepper plants are doing similarly well/poorly. I took to creating a complicated lattice of bamboo stakes and foam wires just to support their growing weight. A few weeks later while I was watering, a man stopped by saying he wondered who had planted the garden. That person is me, folks. He admired the tomatoes and said he had the same problem with lack of fruit. Neither of us could point to a solution. Maybe pollinators are to blame? Should there be flowers to attract bees? Maybe I need to actually measure the fertilizer level. All of that sounds hard, but it’s an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed. The leaves all look like they are doing fine, though. Maybe next year stick to non-fruiting produce, like lettuce. I’m also going to try adding a few more random asparagus roots in the non-danger zone of the street side of the garden.
Days layer I met new neighbors, Andrew and Lucinda, who deserve a special shout-out since they were the first people I’ve seen scanning the bar code on the garden’s sign. Maybe next year I should augment make the signs saying, “take some catnip,” or perhaps include a diagram (or link to a web diagram) of the layout of the plants. I want people to be able to [responsibly] use the herbs I do not need.
Eventually, the zucchini sprouted a single tiny fruit. It would be that plants only produce for the summer, and I left it in my vegetable pile in the kitchen too long. It eventually rotted. So yah, job well done.
A week or so later I spoke again with the block association president, whose name I continue to forget. Margaret? Let’s call her Margaret from now on. She thinks there is just not enough sunlight under the tree’s shady limbs, which explains why everything I’ve planted has gotten so tall. They are putting energy into growing towards the light rather than producing fruit. It’s like the rainforest? She suggested planting early in the spring hardy non-fruiting things like kale and broccoli because here will be more sun due to less leaves. Before sauntering away, Margaret clarified that the white flies swarming everything are harmless but annoying. Good to know.
Then immediately after she left, a man named Tim came up to me. Was he waiting his turn? He said he had similar troubles with tomatoes and shade, and he congratulated me on the garden. He was glad some idiot hadn’t destroyed it, unlike a time some jerk stole a tree from him. On my way to work the following morning, I noted that someone had watered my tomatoes for me. Only the tomatoes. These things are really popular!