Saturday, 28 July 2018

Trial & Error

So we finally got our big rain!  And a high price we paid for it, too, missing the blood moon eclipse & the end of the world.  I hope for plenty of gorgeous rain photos amongst some of the SoSers today!

Here, though, I've been mulling a recent post by Hurtled to 60 wherein a fellow allotmenteer intimated that rural gardeners are superior to townies.  I myself grew up on a farm, yet don't see veg as more virtuous than sunflowers.  But then, my mother, who pressed her 7 chillen into conveyor belt cannery every year, also had a greenhouse devoted solely to African violets.

There are so many types of gardeners - neurodivergent, athletic, visual, artistic, scientific, clueless, those with long term mental or physical illnesses, those who garden by 'the rules'.   

Accidental design.

For every 10 gardeners who can understand a design well enough to perfectly replicate a gold medal display, there's one who can only garden in equal parts experience & serendipity. 

I have to 'do' to understand, something that got me banned from helping in the kitchen a long time ago.  What starts as, 'But why . . . wouldn't it be better . . . how about we . . .' ends with the clenched-teethed cook pointing to the door  =>  Out!  Out!  OUT!!!!!

I'm on my own in the garden, which means I'm also able to process information there in the way I need to.

Other gardeners & their ideas do give me inspiration, but it's only by seeing how this particular plant grows in this particular spot that I understand my garden at all.

Today I celebrate those of us, including myself, who can only garden by the seat of our pants.  Here's some of my trials & perhaps even an error or two.

1.  To bite or not to bite.

Like any first-time parent, I've been discussing the progress of my cucumelons with other gardeners.  Mine reached all their developmental markers right on schedule, but I wasn't sure when I could eat the little darlins.

My delightfully green striped chillen.

Fred the French Gardener said he picks his when they're as long as the distal phalanx of his little finger, at which point they taste like cucumber with a zing of lime.

Out to the garden with me to find one the right size, then gobble down a mouthful of crunchy, tasteless blech.

Well, having a trial & error mind means not stopping at the first hurdle.  Or the second.  Eventually, it occurred to me that, although I'm not petite, I may indeed have a smaller pinky than Fred.

So I waited, like the troll under the bridge, for a bigger billy goats cucumelon & learned that to get that zing, the optimum size is the middle phalanx of my index finger - about 1.25".

Size zingy.

Now that my berries have all dried up, it's cucumelon for brekky.

2.  Hosta trials.

As I've written before, I've never thought hostas worth the ongoing slug war, until I found Big Daddy.  He was fairly slug free in the beginning, I thought because I'd put dried cedar & bramble twigs at his base.  But you can see, the slugs found a way.  When Big Daddy started his 2nd growth of leaves, the slugs threw a keg party.

Big Daddy blues.

About that time, various bloggers were trying out sheep's wool slug pellets.  I had a sheep fleece in the closet that'd gone past its spinning days, so've stuck some of it under BD.

Big Daddy has new leaves.

That's my current trial.  We'll see if it's also an error.  There's a frog quite happy with the new arrangement, so if not the fleece, then maybe the frog will sort those slugs out.

3.  Great Pea Debate of 2018.

Despite other gardeners' distaste of them, we've enjoyed a good season of blauwschokker peas.  Our resident chef has this trick of pouring boiling water over them & letting them sit a few minutes rather than cooking them on the hob.  Sweet as mange tout, tasty as peas.

There were no cooks at home when I decided that was too much palaver.  I tossed peas in with my tortellini & boiled away.  A quick drain, a splash of chili oil, sprinkle some mozzarella, & voila!  I, too, am a chef.

Picture me sitting under the deck umbrella, utterly pleased with myself & surrounded by the sound of bees pollinating my cucumelon vines . . . note the literary device signalling a previous bad dining experience.

Do not boil your blauwschokker.  Ever.  Tough as old boots.  Ptoo Ptoo Ptoo.  Dogs liked them, though.

Last of the blauwschokker.

4.  Seeds, glorious seeds.

I usually toss out last year's seeds at the end of summer, having collected new from the current plants.  This spring, however, I found several small containers of seed I'd collected from 2 gardens ago.

Eventually, I sorted out what still interested me & planted various trays with only a few stragglers germinating.

Except for the hollyhocks.

22 of them bad boys.

The parents were both single & double in pastel colours - yellow, peach, & pink.  Can't wait for next year's blooms!

5.  For the love of trees.

The things I love most in the plant world are trees, which is a shame since I'm rubbish at telling them apart.  That doesn't, however, stop me from gathering seeds at every chance.  In all the years I've done this, I've successfully grown one tree - a motley looking monkey puzzle whom I hold very dear.

So an empress tree growing in the local park dropped these nuggets.

Empress tree seeds & pod.

I left them in the shed over winter.  Thinking nothing would come of this anyway, I did zilcho research into how to grow them, cracked one open & without being precise, dumped half its seeds into a small pot.

What cuckoo nested here?

I've lifted some of the seedlings (thus the bare spot in the pot) & moved them to a trough to give them more leg room.  Although I've image-searched empress seedlings, I don't have a good enough eye to come to any conclusion.  To be honest, I don't believe they're empress.

If they are, I now have a jungle.

6.  Corn angst.

My corn saga started with losing a third of my plug plants during hardening off, followed by the supplier being out of stock, so replacing them with a different strain from another supplier.  Although the new plants were about the same size as the originals, their growth rate was slower, so I ended up with Tall Corn & Short Corn.

Amazingly, the Short Corn tasseled first.  But their tassels didn't open.

Silked, but closed tassel.

Tall Corn gave me brilliant tassels, so pollen all around.  Now, though, even regularly watered, the tassels are brown, yet new silks keep popping up.  I do my feather duster routine & hope great corn sex to be had by both Tall & Short.

Dried tassel.

Expect photos of some funny looking cobs come autumn.

Who splattered paint on Spidey?

There's my Six trials & errors.

If you'd like a gander at other gardens, check out these Six on Saturday Guidelines by The Propagator.  He'll also have a post of his own Six, plus you'll find links from all over the world in his comment section.

Thanks for stopping by.  Look forward to seeing you next week.


  1. Another Sixer said that cucumelons are good in a G&T......

    1. Now that's a great idea! Off to the drinks cabinet.

  2. Not liking those Hosta photo’s. I am starting to grow host as again ready for a display next year. I am going to trip coffee granules and a shotgun to get rid of the slugs. With regards to the Hollyhocks I bought 2 for a pound each from Morrison’s and although they are doing well and have had flower buds for weeks the buggers will not flower! Perhaps they will after the rain though.

    1. My neighbour uses a mallet on her slugs. Quite liking the shotgun idea. Hope your hollyhocks burst forth soon.

  3. Kudos for a great post from another "seat of the pants" gardener.

    1. However you do it, your garden is beautiful!

  4. I think you found the right size for your cucamelons. I didn't know that my hand could be so big ... Did you like the taste? I am the only one at home to like them, maybe because I am "their father"?!...

    1. I do, fred. I eat them off the vine for brekky & have to remember to save some for the resident chef to experiment w/. I like the idea of gin & tonic. I also think they'd go well in all sorts of salads, both fruit & veg. I'll grow them again next year.

  5. Oooh lovely. Can I sk where you got your cucumber on seeds/plants? Would love to try these......they look yummy.

    1. I got plugs from Suttons, altho I know others've grown them from seed. I really enjoy them, but they have to be picked at the right time.

    2. I will look into these next year...perhaps instead of spouts! :)

  6. That's a creative frame for your cucamelon - mine's just winding itself around a bamboo cane wigwam, but I have a feeling that'll make it harder to pick the fruits form the middle.... I hope that now you know the optimum size, they're a lot tastier than the first one you tried?

    1. That's my upcycled bedspring which I cut in half to make 2 trellises. And yes, knowing the right size makes all the difference. I pick & eat a handful right off the vine in the mornings. I bet there's a ton of recipes people who cook could come up w/for these guys.

  7. Lora - your blog always makes me chuckle veer between chuckling and wistful smiles. Only you could have a fleece past it's spinning days in your closet. Your Mum sounds wonderful - a country woman with a greenhouse of African Violets. Wow.

    1. Your own life never sounds weird until someone else says it! My mother grew up on an Appalachian farm during the Depression but played classical violin & sang opera, grew violets, raised guinea fowl . . . ordinary folk have such interesting lives.

  8. I love how you have managed to grow your cucamelons so they look like Christmas ornaments dangling from their metal frame.
    I have just one tall corn, which was blown over by this weekend's storm - I have just rescued it with a tree stake and am lavishing lots of love and attention on it, so I know where you are coming from.

    1. I've actually been wondering if my cucumelon vines aren't a bit sparse. They're putting out tons of fruit, but look pretty much like these photos. Good luck w/the corn. Lots of folk have had damage from the wind & rains.

  9. Am a bit worried about my hosta. They have been unmunched so far but I hear theres been rain. Those hollyhocks look very healthy, I know inlet some in a tray that will undoubtedly be shrivelled when in get back from hols. Sigh.

    1. So far, the fleece is working w/the hosta, but someone on Twitter said she'd tried that trick & it gave a nice warm bed to the slugs. And if your hollyhocks die, you'll simply have to bite the bullet & propagate some more. We know how you hate that.