From Pipi’s Pasture: A failure-to-thrive garden | CraigDailyPress.com

From Pipi’s Pasture: A failure-to-thrive garden

Diane Prather/For Craig Press

For years, it has been my habit to work in the garden for a half an hour or so each morning after corral chores. I enjoy the cool morning air and the sounds of the robins and other birds as they hunt for worms and insects. I've found that if I weed a little at a time, I pretty much stay on top of the weeds. If I water a little bit each morning, then water more heavily on the weekends, I stay on top of it, too. However, this year has been different.

Yesterday morning, as I pulled weeds from around the green beans and cabbage plants, I thought about how sad the garden looks. For the first time in the 18 years we have lived at Pipi's Pasture, the garden plants have a failure-to-thrive look. They're short, undeveloped, and lack that bright-green color.

I'm ashamed to write that some of the corn is only 18 to 24 inches tall, some of it shorter. By now, we should be eating corn-on-the-cob. The cabbages have just now developed little heads, and the green beans and potatoes haven't bloomed yet. I usually take pride in the green bell peppers, but this year, instead of being bushy and full of blossoms and peppers, they're short and dull-looking.

One little watermelon plant has remained the same size for weeks and has not yet vined out, but the poor thing has a flower now. A cucumber plant is in the same shape.

The pumpkins are putting out vines, but unless we have a long fall, there won't be even a tiny green pumpkin this year. However, happily, the squash plants are doing just fine — the only garden plants to be growing as normal. We have been harvesting zucchini and yellow squash for two weeks now.

So, what happened this year? The garden was planted a little late but not that much. Part of the problem may be that I have a busier-than-usual work schedule away from home, resulting in less time to spend in the garden. As a result, there are too many weeds, and because we stored hay bales in the garden area over the winter, there's a lot of grass in the garden this year, too — a nightmare to deal with.

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Probably the main culprit has been the heat and accompanying winds. Though I have watered, even enough to make the soil soft to walk on, it hasn't seemed to be enough. Perhaps the weather conditions this year have had something to do with the nitrogen-fixing activity in the soil. Whatever it is, we did notice a difference in the growth and brightness of the plants when the rain and hail fell recently.

So, as fall approaches, I continue to work in the garden as much as possible in the mornings, weeding and watering and hoping for some cooler, damper weather to help the failure-to-thrive garden.

There's always another year.