hardening

I put the last of my peppers out the day before yesterday, in five gallon grow bags out front. Before they went out, I did about a week of hardening, which involves taking them outside for a few increasing hours a day, so they can get used to the wind and sun. I put them out on a cloudy day, then it rained , but today they have full Texas sun. Most of them are doing fine, but there’s one that’s drooping, with flimsy leaves. The sun is too much for him.

You can put everyone through the same thing, it seems, but they come out of it with a different ability to cope.

advice

One of the most common pieces of advice to the new gardener is to not overwater your plants. In my experience, both as a new gardner and as someone who has seen a lot of plants dying from dehydration on the gardening subreddits, that’s one of the least likely ways they’ll kill a plant. When watering, you should soak the plant, then let it dry, but instead — out of fear of killing it — they barely water it, which makes them do it day after day, never giving the plant enough to really grow. The plant gets weaker and weaker, and starts to die.

And the usual response is to water even less, because the advice was so emphatic it never occurs to them that all the experts are giving advice that doesn’t relate to them.

harvest

I harvested my first real vegetables from the garden, even if it was only five green beans i sauteed in butter and garlic. This year I planted wildly, going for variety instead of sensibility. So I have a single green bean plant, of the bushing variety, which means it’s not going to grow enough for a big harvest, but several little harvests.

I did the first of those yesterday, carefully removing the beans, knowing that doing so will make the plant grow more. It’s a weird thing if you think too deeply about it. You’re stealing the plant’s babies, and it panics and has more babies when it realizes they’re gone, even though it has to expend its own energy to do it. In the same way there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism, there’s no way to live without killing something.

We all have to get our hands dirty, one way or the other.

names

I like names of things. I do woodworking sometimes, and all the names of the woods are enchanting, like a literal spell that captivates me. It should be no surprise, then, that other plants also have this proliferation of marvelous names. Basil, for example.

Sweet, Cinnamon, Mammoth, Genovese, Napoletano, Siam Queen, Lettuce Leaf, Dark Opal, Cuban, Purple Ruffles, Lemon, Boxcar, Lime, Christmas, Holy, Magical Michael, Greek, Spicy, Summerlong, Spicy Bush, Thai, Ararat, Cardinal, Nufar, and African Blue.

If I say their names, will they grow?

first harvest

Arugula and basil from the containers out front. I sat on the pavement and snipped the largest leaves from the arugula, leaving it to grow more, and then did the same with the basil. In thirty minutes, my wife and I will eat them as part of our dinner.

Even penned in, they became something wonderful.

unknowing

I spent 25 years in IT, where the diagnostic tools are some of the best for any domain of knowledge on the planet. I got used to being able to figure out exactly what was wrong with something before I attempted to fix it. Nature is not playing that game. I have yellowing leaves on my Daikon. They’re only at the bottom, so they’re probably a nitrogen deficiency and not one of the three or four other things that cause yellowing of leaves. Probably. I’ll give them a dash of fertilizer (not too much, how much is too much?) and I’ll wait. and maybe it will get better and maybe it won’t, and maybe I’ll be able to tell one way or the other.

For sure there’s no task manager that lets me see current nitrogen intake and reserves. So I bumble through, doing the best I can, on uncertain knowledge.

hardening

I took the last of the peppers out for their first day of hardening today. It’s mostly habaneros and jalapenos that came up a little later than the peppers I put in the back — mostly bell, marconi, and Anaheim. So they got their first taste of Texas sun for a few hours, before the house shaded them. The jalapenos took it rough, drooping and swaying under the heat, but the habaneros lapped it up like mother’s milk. A few more days, then I’ll pot them in their grow bags, on a cloudy day coming up, with a little rain shower following.

Then they’ll have to survive what the outside world throws at them.

growth

It’s May. The pale green has sprung up into the deep green. The garage smells like fresh soil from two hours of making potting soil from sphagnum moss, perlite, and cow manure. The peppers are outside, getting to know that world for the first time under overcast skies. The grow bags are a profusion of recently sprouted seedlings. Heart-shaped cotyledon leaves of the radishes, the elegant arrow-heads of the cherry tomatoes, the asterisks of baby cilantro — all drinking in the sun and the rain out front.

It’s enough to make a man a hippie.