I have been trying to grow vegetables for years. There were a few years when I had more tomatoes or beans or kale than I knew what to do with, but those were bright spots on a long, farrow journey.
This year started the same: with neat rows of beans and peas, a patch of kale, some leeks that overwintered, two cucumber plants, and four butternut squash. I tucked everything in, sprinkled it with Sluggo and surveyed the hopeful starts. This is going to be My Year, I thought.
The slugs promptly ate the beans.
I planted more beans. I used more Sluggo. They ate that, too. I planted more beans. I used an ungoldly amount of Sluggo. The bean plants greened and grew and plumped. I was right! This really was going to be My Year!
The beans even made it so far as to cover themselves with white flowers before the rabbits ate them down to nothing.
Just about that time, my first crop of peas produced several lovely handfuls. “This is My Year,” I told my family as we divvied up the peas! I planted a second crop. The rabbits, all hopped up on bean power, ate it down to the dirt.
Fortunately, nothing ever wants to eat the kale. At least they didn’t until My Year. I had to plant a first crop, a second crop, and a third crop or, as the slugs called it, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The good news is that they didn’t eat the leeks! The bad news is that leeks, in fact, do not overwinter well and were inedible.
Even the tomatoes, which back in the day we couldn’t keep up with, just sat there doing nothing this year.
You are looking at the green tomatoes on this bush thinking, “Well, at least you got something.” Right. These are the same tomatoes that were already on the plant when I put it in the ground in June. None of the plants grew a single inch. I think they’re infested with nemotodes, so I guess you can’t say we grew nothing.
But all was not lost.The cucumber plants made it through unscathed! Last week I picked the first one.
Let’s just roll ‘er over…
Oh rats! Or perhaps something more sinister?
But wait—we have fruit trees. Lots of fruit trees! Pear, fig, and plum, 4 blueberry bushes, and three apple trees. Let’s glean!
That’s it. That’s all we got.
I’m afraid to turn it over…
The rest of the fruit trees didn’t get anything on them and the birds ate every last blueberry.
But there was still one last hope. Behold: my butternut squash plants.
I’ve got butternut squash for miles! This is My Butternut Squash Year!
Of course, this presents a new problem of what I’m going to do with buckets of butternut squash…but how fun it will be to brag about my problem to my friends!
Let’s just push the leaves aside and pick a few.
Why am I even surprised? I don’t know what would make squash turn brown and shrivel on the vine, but it’s starting to feel personal. It’s not the baby’s fault; he’s just there for scale.
All this is to say that last weekend, in a moment of passion, I went and ripped it all out. Not the cucumbers or butternut squash, which I still have hope for, but every last bean and pea and tomato plant there is. I yanked it up by the roots and kicked it all into a pile.
It was not a very big pile.
I’m done with vegetable gardening. I’m done losing the same battle year after year after year. Wow, it’s actually a relief to say that. The vegetable garden was so much work for such little payoff, and May’s hope was not worth June, July, and August’s frustration. The slugs hold no power over me anymore.
The wind seems softer lately. The sun seems brighter. I smile more now, especially when I imagine what I’ll do with vegetable garden next year. Something like this:
Yes, I will plant a garden chockful of black-eyed susans, lupine, coneflowers, foxglove, and all other manner of flowers that are poisonous to wildlife.
Next year is going to be My Year.
*A special thanks to my younger sister for leaving a bag of babies on my front porch. This was not the actual reason I asked for her babies, but what a fun detour it has been!
WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE: