A real one! This news fills me with deep joy since after the tomato-pocalypse of last summer, I was ready to pull a Pontius Pilate and wash my hands of growing vegetables altogether.
Scenes like this are not erased lightly, and my dreams were full of broken tomatoes crying ‘why, hail why?’ Just kidding on the dreams part, but it was traumatic, trust me.
But I have this very handy friend, who kindly took pity on me, and is going to help me build my very own greenhouse. Can we say SCORE?!! Not only do I get some valuable building experience, which I badly want, (being so much of a city kid it’s pathetic), but I also get a veggie growin’ house out of the deal.
And with his help, (this guy is overqualified, believe me), the greenhouse will look more like this:
And less like this:
Photo from supergreenhouses.biz
All I have to say, is HAIL – BRING IT!!!
And, I guess I’d better get going on my seedlings after all.. 🙂
On Sunday a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions struck my garden. James and I went for a lovely drive out in the country side, and while there was a bit of rain and some darkly menacing clouds in the sky, we really didn’t see anything more alarming than the goat below, which stood in the middle of the road and refused to move for love or money.
By the way, excuse the crappy iphone photos in this post, the camera did not travel with me.
Upon venturing back to Calgary we spotted signs that something’s amiss:
And then some more:
And by the time we turned into our street, we drove right into winter. That ever happen to you? You leave and it’s summer, come back to winter? Not in August, you say? Welcome to Calgary.
All the streets were white, there were huge puddles of slush, and stunned kids were wearing parkas.
Except for that wasn’t snow on the ground, it was it’s dangerous cousin – hail. Apparently we missed a hailstorm of epic proportions, hail so thick and powerful that ‘it came down like a brick wall’ according to my mother.
Signs of destruction and carnage were everywhere – tree branches broken, leaves stripped, flowers trampled, plants and cars wrecked. Of course my poor garden did not escape unscathed.
These tomatoes that were bushy and gorgeous:
Are stripped bare:
Raspberry bushes crumpled:
Tomatoes that were lush and gorgeous:
Now broken and sad:
And I’m not even talking about my poor flowers, or trees, or anything else. I guess we’re lucky our car escaped, seeing our neighbors car covered with a hastily thrown on blanket. It was an event of epic destruction and carnage. The neighborhood plants are destroyed, which is fine I guess, since our temperature this morning was only 5 degrees, and it really did feel like winter is in the air. The local paper is reporting that outdoor pools are going broke because this is our third cold summer in a row.
And for me? After I find it in me to pick up the pieces, I quit this game. Way too much time, money and effort went into this gardening adventure for me to have such losses so late in the season. I don’t mind feeding baby cucumbers to local rabbits, as I figure if they’re brave enough to venture into my yard and get yelled at by my cats, they probably need them more than I do. But to lose them to hail seems so senseless, and uniquely Albertan, that it makes me want to pack up and move with a greater zeal than I’ve ever felt. I will grow no more veggies until I have a greenhouse. A hail proof one.
I spent six hours repotting tomatoes on Saturday. And if that sounds right up there with a root canal, you wouldn’t be far off at all. I think I’ve about reached my natural limit of tomato plants I’m willing to nurture, and next year all the people I’ve started some for are absolutely SOL. The demands in time and effort are close to maxed out and it seems like forty adolescent tomatoes is all I can handle. See if you live in a normal climate, you’d start your tomatoes something like four weeks before last frost. They would have to be replanted once, from peat pods to four inch pots while they are still a manageable three inch size, and happily occupy maybe six square feet by the time they go outside.
Living in Calgary though, requires the starting of tomatoes in oh say, late March or so, while they won’t see the light of day until approximately oh say, June. In those three months, the baby tomatoes are guaranteed to outgrow their four inch pots and become hugely tall and root-bound. Apparently you don’t want that to happen since it’s bad for the roots, limits the uptake of nutrients, and is stressful for the plant, and who wants to eat stressed out tomatoes? Not me, man.
So when they reached what I thought was a good height of ten inches or so (although as with all my plans I was a week behind), I repotted the tomatoes into empty 2L milk and pop bottles. Why bottles? Well, I did mention forty tomato plants, right? And each large-ish plastic pot at the garden store (and the home hardware store, and the superstore) was approaching four dollars. You do the math. I could buy caseloads of tomatoes for those prices. Plus, and this is huge, I wanted to plant the tomatoes deeply, burying the bulk of each long stem because tomatoes are able to grow new roots out of the fine hairs they’re covered with, and a large root ball means a healthy plant. Well, every single 8” pot was wide and squat. Perfect for petunias perhaps, but completely opposite of the tall narrow pot I’d wanted for the tomatoes.
A container collecting frenzy ensued, with my boyfriends’ six-litre-a-week milk habit coming in quite handy. (No I’m not kidding, I wondered if we should get a cow on several occasions.) Finally I had a table covered in clean 2L jugs with cut-off tops and punctured bottoms and it looked like the bottle depot exploded all over the table.
Then it was a routine of moistening potting soil in two huge bowls, removing the cat off the counter, adding some soil to the bottom of each container, gently shaking the plant upside down to dislodge it, dropping the plant down the well, adding more potting soil, removing the cat again, watering the plant, using a chopstick to poke a hole to the bottom of the container and watching half the soil disappear in a river of mud down to the bottom, adding more soil, water, label, and finally locking the cat in the bedroom. Repeat X 40. I am not the most patient person, and the fact that I didn’t lose it once, speaks volumes to my newly cultivated zen-like attitude. Chop wood, carry water and all that.
The cool thing out of the deal is that in clear containers you can clearly watch the trickle of moisture down the sides and have a semblance of how dry your plants are getting. The downside is that my plants now take up a dozen feet of space and require some yoga skillz to water.
***Speaking of watering, some of the plants (especially the paste variety – Ardwyna) were looking a bit…. ragged. They were tall and spindly, not bushy and in general looked like survivors of a tomato-pocalypse. Some of their lowest leaves were yellowing too. I googled all the symptoms and the consensus was a mineral deficiency that can be cured with Epsom salt. So when I was done the Herculean task of repotting them, I watered them with a very dilute Epsom salt solution. Lo and behold, they all greened up, grew some more leaves and smartened up in general. I did not have this problem last year, so I am at a loss to imagine why they needed those nutrients, but there you go.
I’ve also started cukes and zucchinis this weekend, and they’ll be coming up too. God help me.