Sunday, July 22, 2012

on watermelon babies and other round things

I've dabbled with gardening here and there in various ways over the years. It's the kind of thing that I love the idea of but often not so much the actual work. I loved envisioning a garden and choosing and planting the plants. But after that my interest waned. (I believe this is typical ENFP behaviour.) Rather, my interest remained, in a passing kind of abstract way; I loved watching the plants grow and bloom and make seeds. I just didn't much care for the work of maintaining a garden: mostly, weeding. Such tedium!

I have a friend who is a brilliant flower gardener. I am a little in awe at how he never seems to mind the weeding. And he spends so much time just standing there, watching and looking. I liked looking at the garden while I walked by on the way somewhere else. But I was never a fan of watching a garden, like, just watching. I mean, there were no people!

In the vegetable garden this year, I was hoping that the promise of food would keep me motivated to get through the tedious work. Now, I have to say I don't spend a lot of time just watching, like while standing still. But I am loving the practice of observation it is instilling me. I manage to take an awful lot of information in about the weeds and the bugs and the plants and the soil. And whatever I miss is pointed out with great excitement by Eldest. His voice goes up several octaves when he exclaims about something new that I hadn't noticed. I don't weed as much as it needs it, but I am surprised by how much I actually enjoy weeding. It's very satisfying. I wish I could get more time there by myself but there are creatures I need to attend to at home as well. (Well, one creature, mainly, who would crash through everyone's garden plots and wreak havoc if a grown-up weren't policing his every move.)

I didn't spend much time planning, and I had no real context for envisioning what my vegetable garden might look like. I based all my decisions on what I enjoyed eating through the winter. I figured local organic produce is easy to get in the summer and was probably better purchased from people more knowledgeable than me. But winter vegetables were harder to find from local sources. I planted some Swiss chard, beets, lots of potatoes and a decent amount of carrots. I plan to grow cabbage and more beets in the fall to store. If I could find Brussels sprouts seeds I would try some of those, but I'll have to wait for next year. I stuck in some cilantro, basil, rosemary, cayenne peppers and sweet peppers because why not? And some peas because people said they were just too good not to. (Having eaten my weight in bought fresh peas recently, I must concur, but it looks like we won't be harvesting any from our own garden. Barely any seeds germinated and several of those that did died. Two plants were left and just as the pods were fattening up, they suddenly turned yellow and flaccid. I think it was just too hot for the poor peas. Next year, we'll plant them much sooner.) Eventually I want to grow my own beans for drying but I figured I'd start with bush beans to eat green this year. And some lettuce, because salads are good. Most I've planted from seeds, except for the herbs and peppers, which I bought as seedlings.

Just before I bought the seedlings, when I was still trying to figure out what to grow, Eldest mentioned that his favourite vegetable is cucumber and his very favourite fruit is watermelon. So when I saw cucumber and watermelon seedlings at the market, I made an impulse purchase. The cucumber shrivelled within days of transplanting (I've since learned that cucumbers do not like transplanting. And I think I added insult to injury with I fiddled with its roots in the process. Next year I'll direct seed.) The watermelon definitely suffered, and I thought it was going to go the way of the cucumber, but it made a comeback. Today it is healthy and happy and spreading like mad, so we put it up on a support so it doesn't crowd out my entire plot. Last week, or maybe it was the week before, it got the most beautiful small yellow blossoms on it, and we watched ants pollinate them. So far we've counted four tiny baby melons on it and there are more blossoms too.

When I was pregnant with Youngest, we told Eldest quite early on. Earlier than I really felt comfortable with, but my parents were coming for Thanksgiving and I was so horrendously nauseous I knew there was no way I could hide it from them. And it seemed so very wrong to tell anyone else in the family before telling Eldest. So we told him and hoped for the best. I remember each week telling him about how the baby was growing, and more than once the three of laughed about how the updates described the baby's size. It was always food related: "Your baby is the size of a kidney bean," a grape, a stuffed green olive... later, it was a cantaloupe and, eventually (it seemed to me anyways), a watermelon. Maybe I'm imagining the watermelon. Today, Eldest and I were shocked and delighted to discover that the biggest baby melon has already grown from pea-sized (and a small pea at that) to grape-sized. Actually, plump cherry-sized. In just a day or two! It's amazing!

In the early pages of The Resilient Gardener is the "Plant Gardener Covenant: 33 Gardening Golden Rules." Now, I'm going from sieve-like memory here, so I may not get it exactly right and anyways you should read it yourself because it's so eloquently written, but the covenant's premise is that domesticated plants are not so good at surviving the perils of life so they need our protection and care. They can't compete with weeds because their resources are spent making bigger fruits or roots or leaves for us to eat instead of competing. Even though I can't recite the details of the golden rules, I do feel deep affection for my plants. I mourned when I discovered my Norland potatoes have early blight (they're still producing potatoes but perhaps not as much as they would otherwise, and I believe they won't store for long, so we'll be eating them all up sooner than I might otherwise and eating them faster). I got angry with the unknown rabbit who ate our lettuce (although thankfully they all came back just fine from the trimming and we enjoyed them) and again with the unknown animal who messed with my cabbage seeds the other day. I felt genuine remorse when my poor peas succumbed, and not only because we probably wouldn't get to eat them. I felt I failed them.

Tonight, as Eldest and I crowed over the baby melons and how very cute they are and imagined enjoying them when they get big and ripe (even though I cautioned myself and him that I'd heard watermelons are very hard to grow so we mustn't get our hopes up too high. But surely getting pollinated and forming baby melons is a very important milestone?!?), it struck me as a bit odd to feel such tenderness for something I'm later going to around and EAT. But I guess livestock farmers do that all the time. And now that I think about it, maybe it isn't so odd. Maybe what's really odd is that I think it's odd.

Here are the very adorable babies:
the smallest one P7221725
the biggest one

(And now that I'm looking at the biggest one I'm fretting that the wire will cut off circulation to the melon. I hope it will be ok until morning when I can change it. Soon we will need to support the melons with slings made from old t-shirts.)


  1. We planted cucumbers from transplants, and I *thought* they were dead, when they rallied unexpectedly. They've got wee blossoms on them now and I'm hoping to see some actual cukes by fall.

    You can plant peas crazy-early - as soon as the frost is out of the ground. As a kid I remember my neighbour using a broom handle to poke through the spring snow and into the softening ground to plant his.

  2. i'm not much of a gardener, myself, but i love those wee melons and your sweet boy!