Sunday, 22 January 2017

When The Only Way Is Up

Like all gardeners, my yard never seems to be big enough.  I'm in the middle of a hefty backyard redesign at the moment and while construction is ongoing my productive space is reduced by two thirds.  I'm building the new garden myself to keep costs down, however using mainly hand tools and a strong back tends to push the build timeline out significantly.  There's still rebar trellising to go up, paving to be done, not to mention the several cubes of dirt to be dug for gravel paths, and all that's before a single plant goes into the ground.  Lots to do still, but today is nudging 35 degrees so I'm writing in the shade instead.

It's my first season without beans for several years and I'm trying, unsuccessfully, not to let it bother me.  I'd usually have a few varieties in and be picking bucket loads at this time of year.  Considering there are still several jars of dilly beans in the larder it's probably a good thing I decided to skip this year's crop.  At least that's what I tell myself.  Buying them at $7 a kilo from the market upsets me when they're are the easiest thing to grow.  But enough about beans.

Bean crops of years past

Right outside our backdoor are two large reo mesh archways that we use to grow shit up.  We've grown the aforementioned beans up them before, as well as tomatoes and zucchinis.  They're a great bit of kit to have in the garden.  They make the expanse of deck they cover a productive spot where it otherwise wouldn't be and leave the rest of the vegetable beds they're anchored into for other goodies.  After previous years' success with zucchinis in particular, I wanted to try pumpkins up them again this year.  I say 'again' because I grew them up one of the arches a couple of years ago.  After they'd been growing happily for a about a month I decided to tidy up the plant, cutting out the branches of the vine that were working their way into the vegetable bed, fast becoming a threat to the survival of other plants around it.  It was one of those 'oh, fuck' moments, realising a split second too late that I managed to cut the main leader off about three inches above ground level.  It was in the afternoon on a weekend so I was probably a few beers in (#consummateprofessional).  No pumpkins that year!

Zucchini 'Tromboncino' went ape a couple of years back

With a severe limitation on space this year I decided it was time to give the pumpkins another go and the only way was up.  I'd stay sober throughout all attempts at training it and so far so good!  Thankfully the cultivar I planted, pumpkin 'Buttercup', grew along a single leader for the first 8 weeks of its life, perhaps knowing I'd killed one of its brethren for being too unruly a couple of years previously.  It started branching about 4 weeks ago and is now of a significant size with one pumpkin already set and growing like the clappers.  Others have threatened to set, but after teasingly plumping up for a week they get all sickly-looking and drop off like the Second Earl of Rochester's infected extremities.

Growing on vertical supports like this is a great way to increase productive space.  Had I allowed this pumpkin to trail along the ground it wouldn't enjoy as much sun as it does now, especially since it made it onto the roof a week ago.  This side of the deck faces east so the ground level gets direct sun for only about 5 hours a day, but the archways get sun for 7-10 hours a day depending on the time of year.  The difference in sunlight takes a barely adequately productive spot to a photosynthetic powerhouse, perfect for pumpkins.

So while my garden isn't big enough at the moment I'm raising my sights and looking up.  It won't be long until I have ample space to fill with plants and, no doubt, be soon lamenting I've run out of space again.

Until next time, stay dirty.


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