Friday, November 11, 2011

2011 Vegetable Garden Tragedies

Although there were hits in the garden this year there were a lot of misses. 

The spring started off with a whimper.  While I wanted to be digging new beds and working on the soil the weather just would not cooperate.  It was cold and rained continuously allowing little time to be outdoors.  Even when the weather warmed up enough to start planting it wasn't regularly warm enough to properly germinate the seeds I put in the ground.  I planted several veggies over and over again with no result.  Beautiful purple kale, the light tasting greens of claytonia, and beets just would not germinate this year no matter how many times I tried.  Some seeds sprouted only to be attacked by slugs and decimated in short order.  I planted an entire raised bed full of carrot seed expecting it would need to be thinned later.  There was no thinning necessary as only a quarter of the seeds sprouted.

What should have been a box packed with carrots was very slim pickings
Instead I found myself reseeding carrots repeatedly.  Three or four times in fact before I finally got enough seeds to sprout.

To add to my frustration I found myself battling cats once again.

Priscilla wandering through the veggies
I love my pets but they love the soft dirt of my raised beds and it resulted in conflict once again.  As you can see in the photo of the carrots I put sticks throughout my beds to try and keep the cats away but it's a hard fought battle.  Priscilla particularly has the skills of a trapeze artist and is able to maneuver through my fortress of sticks and dig around in the dirt.  Numerous seedlings were lost due to her activities.  We are considering erecting a snow fence around the boxes next spring to try and keep her out.

The biggest tragedy of all this year was the tomatoes.  I worked hard to get 20 tomato plants started from seed indoors and I had dreams about the bounty of tomatoes I would have this fall.  Things started off well enough.  All the tomatoes transplanted into the garden survived and due to a extra bag of manure in one bed some of the plants sprouted to great heights. 

Tomatoes on the left received more nitrogen and
were twice the size of those on the right
Flowers formed and by the start of August I had loads of green tomatoes hanging on vines but green they stayed.

My Clear Pink heirloom tomatoes were decidedly green all summer long
The cool wet weather of spring hung on right through summer and it wasn't having the right effect on my fruit.  I anxiously waited for the tomatoes to begin to turn red and finally in mid-August we started to see some hot weather.  Finally!  But what's this?

I didn't know it at the time but the wilted leaves at far left were the start of blight
Yellowing leaves seemed quite odd.  Too much water I wondered?  And then to make matters worse along came Hurricane Irene.

Irene flattened the lot sending vines sprawling all over the grass.
Picking through the vines in the aftermath of the hurricane I finally found a few ripening tomatoes.  Hurrah!  and then disappointment.....

A quick look revealed tomatoes in one of my raised beds had blossom end rot.  This condition is due to a lack of calcium in the soil.  I was frustrated but I still had other beds of tomatoes so not all was lost, right?

Wrong again.  As other tomatoes began to turn red the effects of blight became clear.  Suddenly there was rotting fruit everywhere and vines began to turn black.  At that point there was nothing that could be saved.  I tried picking some fruit that didn't appear infected, separating it out and washing it, hoping but it didn't work.  Every last tomato went to the garbage.  Bags of plants had to be cut down and hauled to the garbage, tools and gloves sanitized in bleach.  A lot of work and no reward at all.  Sadly we will be purchasing tomato sauce at the grocers this winter.

It's times like that when I am thankful that vegetable gardening is done anew each year.  There's always the possibility that next year will be different and the issues that arose this year will be long forgotten the next.


  1. How frustrating. And how optimistic you remain! We should all be thankful that our families do not depend on our gardens for food. If the plants fail, we go to the supermarket. That just isn't an option for many and wasn't for our ancestors. I like your attitude: there is always next year!

  2. I admire your efforts. Gardening is often like this due to the many factors you have mentioned. Weather,pests, etc. My cat likes my veggie plot especially when the soil has been warmed by the sun then she will sleep on it. In the winter she goes into the greenhouse and sleeps on the seed trays. She has a perfectly cozy bed indoors but would much rather sit on my sewing and new quilts.

  3. Hi Marguerite: How sad to lose so many tomatoes when the plants looked so healthy..I too had trouble getting a full row of carrots which is frustrating, they taste so wonderful when picked. We had to build a short wooden fence around part of our garden here and line the inside of it with chicken wire to try and keep out a groundhog who loves our place. Perhaps chicken wire around your carrots? We all get discourage but with the advent of spring "hope springs eternal"..all the best next spring..happy gardening Lannie

  4. My husband picked up at a yard sale years ago a roll of metal screen. We spread this over top of the garden cutting holes where the plants come out. This is helping to discourage our cats who like yours love the garden :)
    I tented some over the spot were I put the carrots. This year was my first year for carrots and I love them :)
    Good luck for next year

  5. At least it is your kitty in the garden disturbing the soil and seedlings. Here in the city it is multitudes of feral cats bedding down in the catmint and digging up the beds to lay their deposits. And they are no fun to find when digging in or around any plant. And what is it with them digging out young plants? Happens all the time.

  6. Ah with us gardeners hope spring eternal doesn't it? Or at least it grows eternally...

    Better luck for all of us next year.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  7. Hello Marguerite girl : )
    Sorry about the veggie problems and puss'n boots !
    I think "where" you are for colourful sky shots does make a huge difference and for some reason this part of Ontario has boring November skies .. I looked back over 3 years and they truly did suck ! LOL
    Wish I could see your beautiful sunsets .. not pictures girl ??

  8. Oh I am sorry to read about the worked so hard and to have it end like that. But this was one of the worst ever years for tomatoes here..absolute worst and so, do not feel too badly. I wouldn't grow them in the same place next year, and a little bit further apart (but I don't take my own advice)))). Staw mulch helps also. As you say, there is always next year and you have a huge garden area to grow in!

  9. Laurrie - when I consider the possibility of not being able to purchase my food at the store I cringe. Having your own veggie garden really brings home how much we depend on stores for our needs.

    Kentish - cats are so funny. Mine particularly like open patches of dirt which they love to roll around in. Rather sweet except when it means they're smothering my seedlings!

    Lannie - we've considered a number of alternatives. Fencing the entire garden is one of them. thus far we haven't had any trouble with rabbits but I know they're in the neighbourhood so that may have to happen yet. the cats seem to prefer the raised beds so right now our focus is on protecting those at least in spring when the seedlings are so small.

    Johanna, great job protecting those carrots. Hubby had a similar idea about building screens over the raised beds but I wasn't sure how it would work. Obviously it did the job for you so we should consider something similar.

    Donna - I've considered planting catmint in my garden but I'm afraid of what would happen. Our tom tends to run the other neighbourhood cats off now but if there was catmint involved we'd likely be overrun with cats.

  10. Jen - luckily we all get a new opportunity each spring to try again. One of my favourite aspects of gardening!

    Joy - coming next just for you, sunsets!

    Brenda - Moving plants year to year is something I've been trying to do but I'm unsure of what to do about tomatoes next year because I had tomatoes growing literally on both ends of our property and they all got blight. I'm going to be hard pressed to find a spot that didn't have affected plants. But maybe as you suggest straw mulch will help to keep the spores from spreading. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

  11. What a frustrating experience! Very few of my golden beets grew and those that did looked so bad I pulled them and filled the spot with annuals. But you have the right idea: we get to start fresh every year. I added Tums to the potting soil I grew my tomatoes in and for the first time in years didn't have problems resulting from a calcium deficiency. Your Super Carrot made up for all the others that were slackers. :o)

  12. Around here it's squirrels that dig everything up. I use sticks too, shish kebab sticks with the sharp pointed ends - I only have them stick up about 4 inches and it really helps keep those rodents at bay!
    I REALLY hope next spring and summer are nicer and the mosquitoes fewer!

  13. What a headache! I believe vegetable gardening is an art. It takes a lot of knowledge, preparation and planning and even then Mother Nature's elements can cause problems. I didn't have much luck growing tomatoes this year either...ironically too much heat and too little water. There is always next year when we are another year wiser through our experiences. I am glad you remain positive!

  14. Veg gardening can be really hit and miss, can't it, so frustrating at times. As you say, at least with most of it we get to start again the following year and hope for better things. Maybe chickenwire cages over your raised beds would work to keep the cats off?

  15. uh oh, I was wondering what had plagued our tomatoes. We did manage to get a decent crop, but lost a whole lot more than we harvested.

  16. sorry to read about your tomatoes Marguerite it is disheartening, here some plants didn't grow much or well due to the cool summer either, trying to deter a cat is trying the near impossible........... I read once to lay rose or other thorny prunings across the bed, chicken wire over the bed should help,
    congratulations on the wonderful bounty of the previous post (which I have just read) I would think sowing plants close is for hot dry areas so as to conserve moisture not our more humid climates,
    onwards and upwards, another year another story, Frances

  17. Tammy - I remember your post about tums in the tomatoes. Next year I"ll take heed. I had no troubles with calcium deficiency last year but I guess each bed could use a boost from time to time.

    Jane - I have sorry news about those mosquitos, I don't think they're going away anytime soon! It was something I noticed as soon as we moved here. Sometimes I feel like I'm just a big red welt from June through August.

    Karin - it was strange this summer watching the southern states baking in the heat while we were constantly being soaked in the rain. I guess you feel a lot closer to me than you really are - blogging makes the world a little smaller doesn't it?

  18. Janet - you're the third i think to suggest some wire over those beds so there must be something to that idea! I just need to put hubby to work.

    Kim - from what I have heard lots of people on island lost tomatoes this year to blight. It was my first time experiencing it so I was slow to figure out what was going on. If you stored any keep an eye on them as the fungus can show up later and ruin any stored fruit.

    Frances - you have a great point about hotter climates planting closer to conserve water. I read so many southern blogs where water conservation is so essential to the garden but here I virtually never water the garden other than a few seedlings in spring.

  19. How sad about your vegetable garden and specially your tomatoes. Tomatoes are really very sensitive and can grow easily. You can can try growing some tomato in a flower pot. It is a common thing in our place to use flower pots for our vegetable though they are not that good compared to the ones that are planted in the soil.