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Even a pop-culture flunky like me can recognize the foothold they have in our daily lives. When they're not on television, people read about them, discuss them, and plan their evening activities around them.While there are a few of them that offer a positive message or an encouragement to better yourself, most of them highlight the ugliest parts of life and people. The funny thing is, in spite of the negative aspects of some of those shows, all is not lost. A person can always walk away with a positive thought, "Wow. I feel really good about my own life right now!"
When I was brainstorming topics for my series of gardening articles for Fiskars this summer, I set out with the goal of inspiring others to get out and get their hands dirty along with me. Showing photos of what you can achieve by investing a little time and sweat is a great way to motivate. But I also feel that sharing only the successes can be a discouragement, especially to someone who is new to gardening and may not realize that, in spite of following all the rules, those failures they are experiencing are perfectly normal. So I'm about to share some photos that show the reality of my garden; there is an ugly side to it!
We'll start with my black eyed peas. You see nice, thick, green foliage. There's new growth. Just what a gardener would want to see in their plants.
But take a step back and you see the reality. In this entire bed, only one seed germinated. Actually, 2 of them did. A visiting rabbit made a meal of the other one. I planted more seeds after taking this photo and have my fingers crossed for better luck with this batch.
Next we'll take a look at my kohlrabi. This was my first year growing kohlrabi so I didn't know what to expect. I'd never even seen one but the photo on the seed packet intrigued me. Not too bad! An unblemished bulb. Fabulous green color. The bulb is progressing exactly as it is supposed to.
Take a step back again and this is what you'll see. The foliage has been ravaged by flea beetles. Dealing with flea beetles has been a new experience for me this year. Trying to stick to organic care in my garden, I used diatomaceous earth to fight the flea beetles when my plants were young. While diatomaceous earth is an organic way to fight the flea beetles, it doesn't discriminate. Not wanting to also eliminate beneficial insects, I stopped using it when my plants were big and healthy enough to survive in spite of the beetles, even if they are unattractive. I have other organic methods planned for use to try and eliminate the flea beetles prior to next year's planting. For now, the reality is I have ugly foliage!
My onions are looking lovely. They are nearly ready for harvest. The foliage is dying back. There's a nice skin developing around the bulbs. This being my first time growing onions in my raised beds, I'm pretty pleased!
The reality is I'm pleased with what is left of my onions. This section of the bed was filled with onion sets in mid-March. I lost at least 1/2 of them.
Peas were another first-time crop for me. Look at those plump, mature pods! Unfortunately, this is my entire crop.
This is reality. I have to admit I didn't do any research to see what happened to them but they became diseased and died a quick death. More reality? I didn't remove them immediately as I should have, regardless of whether I knew what the problem was. Heavily diseased plants should be removed to prevent spread to other plants!
My potato plants look lush and healthy from this angle. They're blooming which means it won't be long before the foliage dies back and it's harvest time.
Reality? I have 2 problems. You can see in the first photo that flea beetles are enjoying the leaves. The second problem with my potatoes is the result of my soil. It's fantastic for plants with root growth that remains below the surface. For potatoes that need to have the dirt hilled around the plant as it grows, not so good. There is no clay in my fantastic soil so as water hits it, it washes right back down and levels out. I tried in vain to force the hills to remain but lost the battle. I also lost a lot of potatoes because, when exposed to sunlight, they turn green and unfit to eat. And it's possible I may even lose those that are still beneath the surface to the flea beetles. Next year my potatoes will be grown in tires which force the soil to remain hilled around the plant.
Our next subject of reality gardening today is my tomatoes. So far, so good?
The reality is those in the first photo have required a lot of attention and they're much smaller than those in this bed. The plants in this bed were planted at the same time. These are heirloom tomatoes and they've thrived without anything more than one application of an organic fertilizer and regular watering. The plants in the first photo are hybrid tomatoes and are actually a second planting in that bed. The original plants were unhealthy and beyond nursing back to health so I had to replace them.
This photo reveals why I had to replace them. We had unseasonably cool spring weather in our area and tomatoes are finicky about temperature. If the soil isn't warm enough, they can suffer from phosphorus deficiency. The underside of the leaves turn purple and while they can recover from it (the replacement plants also suffered from it for a short time) this batch of plants was not going to. The heirloom plants were unaffected; the hybrids had to be replaced.
As many problems as I've shared, I could assume everyone reading about my garden today will finish with the thought, "Wow. I feel really good about my garden right now!" If you have a trouble-free garden, I hope I've made you feel like your hard work has paid off! But the reality is, I know some people would wonder why they should even bother trying if this is what gardening is all about. I have to encourage those of you, as well! You've seen that a little discouragement doesn't necessarily equate to failure. But, in addition to my heirloom tomatoes, I have other perfectly beautiful, trouble-free plants growing, a few of which I'll now share.
My green bean plants are covered with tiny, newly emerged beans as my canning jars and pressure canner are front-and-center, waiting to be called into action.
And right here, on the other side of my loaded down bell pepper plants, is my carrot patch.
The reality of gardening is while there might be a measure of ugliness to it, unlike much of reality television, that doesn't have to be what defines your garden. Like reality in life, if you don't give up, much of what is most challenging can be salvaged. And in the end, the fruits of the more challenging plants in your garden can be enjoyed just as much as those of the trouble-free plants.