The vacation-neglected desert organic garden update (Or: If my garden won’t be fruitful, perhaps my Godly character will)

I was really worried about my garden while I was on vacation. Actually, scratch that. I was worried about my garden before I went on vacation. While I was out there, I thought about it approximately three times, with a bit of resign, “If it dies, it dies.” I had some neighbor girls watching over everything, instructions written down, but as sweet and responsible as they are, I knew they just weren’t going to be able to keep the same hawk’s eye on it as I do. Even if they did, tender care can’t always rescue plants from 2+ weeks of 105-110° weather.

When I got back on Saturday, though it was dark, the garden was the first thing I checked. NOTHING DIED. That was fabulous and surprising.

This garden is turning out like way too many other areas of my life: A chance for character growth. I’m a good starter: Lots of ideas and energy and expectation. But, when a project gets about half or 3/4 done, or even 95% done, and the results aren’t measuring up to my initial hopes, discouragement threatens to take root and make me toss in the towel. That’s where I’m at right now. A part of me — smaller, thank God, than it would have been five or ten years ago — just wants to shut off the water and give up. But, I won’t. Nothing is doing as fabulously as I expected, and it’s hard not to take that personally. I shouldn’t be surprised that my first big foray into gardening in years is not as bountiful as I imagined it would be… I shouldn’t be, but I am.

It’s rather like marriage. And parenting. And everything else, “I did everything right! Why aren’t the results more fruitful???”  But, it repeatedly turns out that I just can’t do everything right, even though it is continually my intention to do so.  There’s always something in which I’ve erred, always some area where I lack knowledge, always some bit I could have done better, always some choice that I should have made differently, always something additional I need to learn…  Like the rest of my life, I thought God wanted me to do stuff “correctly”, with excellence, but it seems like He’s more interested in my perseverance, and my resolve in the face of discouragement, and in the testing of my character when things don’t go right… and in my humility.

Lots of pathos for a garden, eh???


My Maricopa sweet corn, which should have been ready to start harvesting, is troubled.  The stalks are huge:  5-7 feet high.  Each stalk has 2-3 ears on it.  The ears are 8-9″ long.  However, each ear only has about 20 pollinated kernels on it.  😦  Very sad.  I’m not sure what the problem is;  I haven’t had the gumption to look into it thoroughly yet;  I have to get over my mourning.  It’s probably a lack of nitrogen in my soil, even though I amended it thoroughly with homemade and store-bought compost…  The soil just wasn’t healthy enough, I’m guessing.  I sadly nibble each kernel off of each sad ear, snap it in a few pieces, and throw it, along with the husks, into one of my compost bins, sighing, “At least those stalks will provide lots of fodder for my compost.”  Small victory.

My 12 tomato plants (Punta Banda) are doing OK, especially considering that I started them so late.  The largest is about 12″ high and starting to flower;  the rest aren’t far behind.

I have four successful tomatillo plants.  One of them took off like gangbusters in my absence;  it’s about 18″ high and full of blooms.

I have six Chile Negro plants, all still quite small, but looking healthy.

One one side of my garden is my Hopi pumpkin.  It wasn’t looking healthy when I left:  just not very vigorous.  Now, it has really taken off, plenty of lovely green leaves, growing larger, and has lots of blooms.

My Mexican grey squash (like mild, light-colored, fat zucchini) is still healthy, but most of the blooms are not developing into fruit…  Is that normal?  I don’t know.  There are only about three small fruit on them, one for each vine.

My string beans LOOK good — tall, robust, leafy.  But, they have no fruit at all.  I think the small blossoms are drying up in the heat as soon as they open.  I hope they continue to grow and recover.

I’ve planted basil between all of my tomato plants.  I don’t even like basil all that much, but it’s supposed to keep the bugs away from tomatoes.  And, it figures that the plant which receives the least care from me is doing the best.  Irony.  It took a surprisingly long time for the basil to really start growing…  I harvested the top leaves off of all the plants, and I’ll do something tonight with them.

See?  Fruitful where I’m not wanting it.  😀

I’m sure glad I have my God, because so often, I really have no idea what I’m doing — even when I think I do — and I’m glad that He does.  He has a plan, and His intentions are most often not what mine are.  His ways are not my own.  And, He uses absolutely EVERYTHING as a “teaching moment.”

Help me hear you, Oh God, even in the morning, as I dig weeds out of my not-very-successful garden, and weeds out of the garden of my heart…

I bought two packets of seeds last night:  Seeds of Change Newburg Onion and Dragon Carrot.  Hope springs eternal.  I think I can put them in, in about a month for the start of a winter garden.  🙂


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on July 12, 2011, in Introspective Musings. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Talked to Allyn about your corn, here is what he thinks; if you have normal size stalks and normal size cobs, then you most likely have a pollination problem. If you had small cobs then that would indicatte a nutrient problem, most likely potash. I know that when I lived in Texas we had to hand pollinate our corn in the garden to have a successful crop.

    • Thank you, Aunt Sandy (and Uncle Allyn)! My husband and I were just talking about that this morning, that it is probably a pollination problem. I was thinking that pollination wouldn’t be a problem, because we live in a breezy/windy area, and I planted in square areas, rather than rows. But, clearly, that wasn’t enough. Now, I’ll have to look up about hand-pollinating. 🙂

  2. Squash/zucchinis/cucumbers, etc. make both male and female flowers. Here is a quote that I pulled off a website about male and female squash flowers:

    Male blossoms are easily distinguished from the female blossoms. The stem of the male blossom is thin and trim. The stem of the female blossom is very thick. At the base of the female flower below the petals is a small bulge, which is the developing squash.

    Always leave a few male blossoms on the vine for pollination purposes. There are always many more male flowers than female. Harvest only the male squash blossoms unless you are trying to reduce production. The female blossom can be harvested with a tiny squash growing at the end and used in recipes along with full blossoms. Use the blossom of any variety of summer or winter squash in your favorite squash blossom recipe.

    I can’t really tell you WHY your Mexican grey squash isn’t producing more fruit, though… But the truth is that gardens never seem to do as well in the first year, I’m not sure why; it’s almost as if the soil just needs to get used to growing stuff, which I know sounds kind of dumb.

    • Yes, I have discovered (since I wrote this) that there are male and female flowers. Now my problem is that they’re dying on the vine. Blossom end rot and just plain stumpy growth. I think it’s because my soil doesn’t have enough drainage… Rotten clay soil. I’m going to continue to add compost, and add some more coarse sand, and maybe some gypsum.

      • Well, gypsum should hopefully help with blossom end rot, as it is caused by a lack of calcium in the soil for the developing fruit.

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