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Another Portland Blog

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

 

Pluck it

Back in April, my sister and her boyfriend talked me into letting them build a garden box in my front yard. I'm pretty sure my place was officially the last non-student residence in the neighborhood to get one. Gardening is a big thing around here. Remarkably, this project didn't immediately turn into a complete disaster. The vegetables they planted actually grew, proved edible and all of this gave me the opportunity to buy a ceramic gnome.

Gimmie a break. It was on sale for $8. Check out the photo below. Doesn't he look both adorable and patriotic with his little American flag? His name is "Unsanctioned Knock-Off of Walt Disney's Trademarked Doc Character From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

That's not to say that this whole thing wasn't without its setbacks. A grasshopper snuck into the house in a batch of romaine lettuce back in June. It got loose and may be still roaming around in here like that nasty bugger from Alien. While the moles in the yard never went near the box (because moles prefer earthworms, according to Wikipedia), plenty of bugs nibbled on a few of the plants. We never did figure out an effective way to keep insects at bay that didn't involve hosing the garden down in chemicals.

Some of the plants thrived, others sputtered and one them may or may not have teamed up with the moles as part of an elaborate conspiracy plot to kill me. Now that our first season has drawn to a close, here's a harvest report:




WHAT WORKED:

Tomatoes: In fact, it's mid October and the plant is still cranking them out.

Eggplants: There always seemed to be one eggplant that caused the entire plant to lean to one side or the other but it never sustained any permanent back injuries. The eggplants wound up in a few pots of spaghetti and one batch of ratatouille. Interesting factoid about ratatouille: it takes no less than 15 billion hours to prepare. The scriptwriters at Pixar failed to mention that little detail in their movie about that French rat who cooks.

Carmen peppers: They grew like mad and thrived in the heat but we made the mistake of thinking we'd purchased a mislabeled green pepper plant instead. While they can be plucked and cooked while they're still green, we never let any of them fully ripen to red. I let one of the last peppers keep growing. It's finally turning red after six weeks on the vine.

Spaghetti squash: We almost tossed this plant in the box with the others but we actually read a guide online beforehand. Good thing because the squash completely overtook a flower bed on the side of the house and tried to strangle a sunflower seven feet away with its vines for no discernible reason other than that this particular genus is the curmudgeonly, flower-hating jerkface of the squash world. A plant with that much gusto and contempt is to be both respected and feared. It's also tasty.


AND HERE'S WHAT DIDN'T:

Cherry tomatoes: The plant was going strong until, mysteriously, in September its fruit took an odd turn. While the tomatoes looked OK and weren't mushy, they suddenly began tasting awful and sort of like hamburger patties. My sister's boyfriend supposedly purchased the plant from a student botany program at OSU. I can only assume that the plant was some mad genius undergrad's pet project along the lines of a tomacco plant.

Lettuce: Every bug in the yard couldn't get enough of them, they were high maintenance and they keeled like a transplant from Fairbanks within ten minutes of July's heat storm. It's a shame because super-fresh Romaine lettuce is the deep fried Oreo of the vegetable world.

Cascade hops: I remember the day I walked into Livingscape Nursery and saw it sitting there. It looked harmless enough, cute even, sort of like a kitten that can be bred for the express purpose of one day dicing it up and tossing it into a batch of lager. Not really knowing what I would do with the hops, I bought the plant and placed it in the flower bed in front of the house. Two months later, it was crawling across my roof. You could practically watch the thing grow. One day in late July I made the mistake of trying to organize its vines and direct them along a series of hooks. Big mistake. Little did I know that I had set up the ladder next to a mole hole. The ground gave way, I slammed into the side of the house and performed a pratfall that, thankfully, no one witnessed.

No one except the hops plant, which really shouldn't have grown so well during its first season in the yard. Typically, these plants don't take off until they've been in the ground for at least a full year. So its still out there, no doubt biding its time until spring when it can grow all the way to Lewis and Clark...and possibly apply for the legal program. If I don't intervene, this thing could seriously have a license to practice law in the state of Oregon by 2013. AND THEN IT WILL BE UNSTOPPABLE.

In hindsight, maybe the three of us should have taken up kayaking instead.

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