Monday, May 19, 2008

feeling good

Feeling good
I feel good. This week hasn’t felt so great, but now, Friday, with the night coming on; some frog impersonating a diving submarine; pumpkin bread fresh from the toaster oven and a pair of happy dogs at my feet, well I feel good again.

The volunteer tomato is volunteering her first tiny green tomato. She has had three flowers thus far and I hope each will result in a fine red fruit. She’s in a bed of bromeliads so I have no idea what kind of tomato she is (I’m pretty sure she’s not a gee-whizz-bang H4 hybrid). She was the one who encouraged me to actively plant tomatoes and they too are already putting forth buds. I’m impressed by their short and stocky strength and how easily they germinated. I got the seeds from small cherry type tomatoes Moreno was selling, he said they were grown by a local and I figured they were a safe bet. They certainly look very hearty and have great foliage and sturdy stalks. I sowed them on March 18th, so 2 months until they bud, we’ll see how they do now. I’ve never grown tomatoes before but I have fond recollections of my grandfathers growing them in their greenhouses and I dimly remember picking the new shoots that came out above already established branches. Something to do with keeping the strength for the fruit – it gives an excuse to touch the plant and release that incredible scent. I remember seeing fields of sprawling tomato vines in a caked dry earth on Greek islands and wondering how they could possibly survive – so different from the lush steaming environment of a greenhouse. And I remember seeing open trucks holding thousands of tomatoes plowing the freeways in California, I never did see any growing there. And now here they are between the chayote and gandul looking quite happy. I’m glad.

There are also little white flowers on the chili peppers. These are a scotch bonnet type that came from Moreno’s produce shelf and are local too. We have 5 spots with I think 2 plants in each, so we should have something to add to the curries. They are all different heights and widths depending on when they were planted out and how much sun they get: the most advanced were the first planted and receive about a half day of direct sun. Pretty plants with dark green leaves and almost black crooks where the branches meet the stem.

My pumpkins are looking very sad. They have definitely had their season. They were the first things I planted and it was in the days before I kept track, but it was sometime in the latter half of January. Four months all in from birth to death – though they left a healthy legacy: the new generation I planted last weekend. I hope I learned from these parent plants:
- It’s okay to prune, rampant growth means more leaves, fewer pumpkins
- They need a LOT of space, don’t plant too many in one site
- Plant them so the main stem is easy to reach and water
- They wilt under strong sun and can do well with less
- It’s really wonderful to grow a plant that is entirely edible, next time freeze stems for a truly green pasta
- It’s a good idea to start new plants every 6 weeks
- They are a really pretty edging plant.
The bed where I had most of the first generation has the best sun. This time I am planting only two pumpkins and hopefully red peppers. This means I have a gap, still waiting for my peppers to get large enough to plant out. I think I’ll just mulch as heavily as I can. It’ll take a while for the new pumpkins to take over. I was caught unawares, they died back so quickly I was just thinking about sowing more when suddenly everything started turning yellow.