OMG! We have sugar snap peas!!!!
You must excuse me; I got a little overexcited there. It’s just that we’re finally getting glimpses of the fruit of our labors (or the vegetables of our labors, if you’re looking at it from a culinary stance rather than a botanical one). You know those blossoms we had last week? Well, in less than seven days they turned from delicate white petals into these:
I’m only a little sorry to say that the first pea pictured is no longer with us. I ate it. And boy howdy, was it tasty! So fresh and sweet and lovely and yum! I just plucked the little thing straight from the vine and popped it in my mouth. Absolute best thing about having a garden, whatever the size.
One of the more challenging aspects of having a garden is mustering the patience to wait for more deliciousness to show up. Although we have some sugar snap peas (yay!), we don’t have a whole lot (boo!), and the ones we do have are very small and, for the most part, rather scrawny (peaky boo – ba dum cha!). The inclination for novice gardeners such as myself, then, is to not touch them, to leave them on the vine in the hopes that they’ll plump up and turn into full-sized pods like those of their farmers market cousins. The thing that I’m learning, thanks to Bro and from reading books and blogs, is that this is the absolute wrong thing to do. For starters, most new plants’ first harvests are sparse to begin with. By leaving stunted first fruit or veg on the vine, you’re asking that plant to keep allocating nourishment and energy to something that is not likely to ever amount to much. (I’m all for rooting for the underdog, but in gardening, it’s not always the best choice.) If you pick the produce, though, that plant can redirect all of those nutrients into creating healthier specimens.
Another thing that happens when you pick the first stunted fruit off of a plant is that you encourage the next batch to grow even bigger than the first would have. Bro explained it to me more or less like so: The plant is trying to procreate, but when you pick the produce before it’s allowed to ripen, fall to the ground, and deposit its seeds, it obviously can’t do that. According to plant logic, this happens because the fruit it has produced isn’t up to the job, so the plant must adapt to what it perceives to be a harsher environment. Basically, on a genetic level the plant thinks, “Crap, I have to make bigger, hardier offspring if I want to have a chance at passing on my leafy legacy!” (Yes, plants can wax eloquent. You should join us one night for the patio garden poetry slam. Next week it’s Tomatoes verses Cucumbers; it’s gonna be epic.)
In a huge way, this tendency is tied directly to the idea that you have to prune a plant to make it grow better and faster. You trim it, it thinks, “Holy Moses, I don’t have enough leaves to get the amount of sunlight I need. Better grow more, pronto. And for good measure, I’d better add a few extras, in case whatever cut me down comes back for more!” (Plants are very paranoid. They seem so stoic, you’d never guess!) At least that’s the way it makes sense to me. However you want to look at it, whatever the reason plants react this way on a biological level, it seems to be true pretty much across the board. You want it to grow better, cut it back.
(Note: Different plants require different degrees of pruning. Before you whip out your machete and start hacking away, do a little research online, or if you have more than one of the same plant, prune one and not the other so you can observe how much doing so effects growth.)
This brings me to my tomato friend, Legz.
It turns out, as awesome as it was to watch him racing toward the sky, it wasn’t ultimately the best thing for the plant itself. Bro informed me that we really should have been topping it, cutting it back to encourage it to get bushier, rather than “leggier”. With more leafy girth, Legz’s eventual fruit would stand a better chance because there would be more cover to protect it from the hot sun. Plus horizontal growth would mean more plant, which would mean even more tomatoes. So it seems we did Legz and ourselves a disservice by letting it stretch so quickly. I can’t say I’m overly sorry, though. Legz was still a great way to demonstrate just how quickly things can grow under the right conditions. I mean, look!
|Week One||Week Two||Week Three (a little fuzzy)|
|Week Four||Week Five||Week Six|
So lesson learned, next time I take comparison photos, I’ll be sure to take them all from the same angle and distance. But you can tell he still grew loads every week, right? And look, he’s got blooms now, too!
Thankfully, we’ve got a ton of other tomato plants which *have* been properly pruned and ought to bring a lot of tomatoes, if we’re lucky.
Admittedly, it’s hard to get a proper look at the tomatoes these days because of that shade that Bro built. In fact, we’ve got everything so crammed in and around the patio that’s it’s tough to see the entire garden from any one angle, and it’s absolutely impossible to photograph as a whole. Below are some attempts I’ve made at capturing it over the course of several pics.
See that small space mostly in shadow just to the left of the pots in the photo? That is the only room we have to walk on the patio. I can barely get back to the plants tucked in that far corner. When everything really gets growing, it’ll be next to impossible to get through! Good thing Bro is skinny!
Here’s a shot from the opposite angle, so you can see the other end of the fence a little better.
Here is a photo of the wall side of the patio, including that tomato shade that Bro built.
And here are a few gems that are kind of hidden from the above views.
That about wraps up Week Seven. Next week Bro leaves me alone with the garden entire seven full days. Will any of our beloved plants make it out alive? You’ll have to check back here to find out!
Dun dun duuuuuuuuuun….