I have said it before: I hand water my kitchen garden.
Just yesterday I bought the latest bestseller from an actual brick and mortar bookstore—no downloading to an iPad, Kindle, or Nook. I am no Luddite but some things are meant to be taken at a slow pace. Watering the garden is one of them.
Watering by hand gives me time to putter around munching on cucumbers and sweet cherry tomatoes while inspecting the plants. I turn on the hose, squeeze the handle, and lock it in place. I lay it down at the base of a few plants and go about my chores in one section for a few minutes. I move the hose to another section and weed or pick off bugs where needed.
Here is the slow observation of the current state of my kitchen garden.
I have been harvesting eggplant in abundance this season. When I harvest the purple fruits, I always use scissors or a knife. This keeps the entire plant from uprooting when I pick enough for one batch of eggplant Parmigiana.
There are two insects that are also enjoying my eggplant leaves this year. The Colorado potato beetle and the eggplant flea beetle. One is taking out chunks of leaves, the other leaving tiny buck-shot holes. I lay the hose down at the base and let the water soak the roots while I hand pick the large beetles and squash them underfoot. I usually squish the tiny black bugs right on the leaf.
Finally I have enough tomatillos to make a batch of green tomatillo sauce. While I straighten out the kink in the hose, I find that many of the green, yellow fruits wrapped in their husks have already fallen to the ground. I scoop them up and put them in the harvest basket.
Some of my tomato plants arent looking so good at the beginning of August. I am afraid the yellow withered leaves are the result of fusarium wilt. The plants that are infected produced a good crop of tomatoes which are still turning red on the vine, though their growth is stunted. Ill harvest the tomatoes and destroy the dry, withered plant. Before they succumbed to the fungus I used the watering times to tie up wayward clambering vines. Now I harvest the ripe tomatoes.
I planted only three cucumber plants this year and that has been enough for fresh cucumbers daily and a batch or two of pickles. It has been a challenge to pick the cucumbers while young and small. I seem to miss them until they are yellow and gigantic.
Basil plants need constant pruning to keep them full and bushy. When they start to flower, they thin out and the leaves get smaller. It is important to keep them from flowering. The best way to prune them is to pinch off the top leaves and make batches of pesto regularly. I have been fortunate that my basil was not bothered by the basil fungus that is going around.
These hot, dry days of summer force me to go outside and water the garden. This is when I weed, examine the plants, harvest, and kill bugs. Watering, fertilizing, and inspecting my investment takes daily diligence. These everyday chores keep me connected to the nature that’s flourishing in my back yard.
By Jennifer Bartley, April 16 2020