Gardening Bloopers

propogating tomato

Cuttings from injured tomato plant starting to root.

Learning by trial and error can be some of the best teachers, no matter how painful they may seem in the moment in terms of loss and set backs. Reading the signals, they are the sign posts to keep you on track. Sometimes, I find it hard not to take it personally, especially with living plants, when, obviously, they look back at you drooping, ailing, or on the verge of death, screaming “You did this to me! You inadequate bumble-head! Just look at me!” Moving through the heart-ache, these moments can be spiritually rejuvenating in the sense as they can humble you. It dawns on you that you can not control every thing; there are others things at work here. You can only attempt to steer it to a desirable outcome, giving it the best you’ve got. You become more aware of your sense of place in the scheme of things, and renew and strengthen your friendship with your goal to be better.

On this particular day, gardening bloopers seemed to abound. Having had a mostly cloudy period, with hardly any sun, when the sun did come out, I took the opportunity to place a couple of container plants outside to take in some rays. Checking on them minutes later, I noticed that the leaves started to droop and wilt rather severely. Perhaps I over watered it, maybe the sun would help to air it out, and rejuvenate the plant. Just in case, I decided to limit the sun exposure to one hour for the plants to get accustomed to it. When I did bring the plants back in, the earth was hot to the touch!  I found out why the plants had wilted. I had practically boiled my poor plant roots! The top of the earth had been covered with plastic to keep the moisture in. This had been fine for early spring, only with the temperature rising, in direct sun, these covers now acted as a steamer. Some of the pots were also black attracting even more heat. In the short time they were out, I was cooking the poor things.
Not knowing quite what to do, remembering that plants didn’t go for extremes too much, I decided to water one plant with room temperature water, and one plant, a Savoura tomato with cold water to help cool off the earth and roots quicker. The tomato plant didn’t respond and remained wilted, and more than just the leaves, one of the main stems had cracked and split open.  An open wound- not good. Seeing this plant was purchased from the farmers market, and there were no seeds to replant in case it died, I went back and did some research on how to fix it.. To my surprise, I discovered that you can get new tomato plants from cuttings. So, I snipped off the whole branch just below its wound, then, snipped off the wound and divided the remaining into parts, trimmed the lower leaves, and placed it into some water with a touch of seaweed to help fortify it. It was great to learn a new propagation method, but I wished I didn’t have to learn it quite this way.
The other plant, a cucumber, that received the room temperature water seemed to do better, however, it didn’t stay in the pot too long as it was due for a transplant, and was almost immediately taken out of the pot and cooled.
The transplant too, had gone horribly wrong. Cucumbers have numerous and very delicate roots, and half of them were lost when the pot was turned over and the plant pulled out. Another cucumber fared better, a smaller cucumber plant which I had potted temporarily in a recycled container. The container wasn’t food grade, so I had placed a plastic food grade wrap between the pot and the earth. Recycled things are cheap, but sometimes they don’t make the grade. It turned out to be the saving grace, as underground the plastic acted as a shield against the heat.When it came time to transplanting, the plant slid out easily, all I did was un-wrap the plastic off the roots, and the delicate ball of roots remained intact, rather than fall and tear apart.
The cucumber plant soon overwhelmed me with their many tendrils wrapped around a previous make shift trellis made out of coat hangers that now needed to be replaced with larger supports. These plants were not planned, and bought on a whim on a beautiful Mother’s Day. Being large, tender, and complicated, I saw now, the whole transplanting to larger pots, and larger trellis could have been avoided. Planning for these large plants is a prerequisite. In hindsight though, if I had planned, I wouldn’t have started or bought these, realizing their size in a small space could get greedy. So whether getting them on impulse was benefit to the garden still remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure, the plants taught me a few things! I probably still would not have known that you can propagate tomato through cuttings if I had not blundered.

Large plants need pre-planning for space and trellis placement. Tender complicated root systems of cucumbers were severed when transplanting to a larger pot, and tendrils were lost being re-trellised, but may, hopefully, still survive. Round wire cage with bamboo extension trellis.

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  1. You had quite a challenge! Last year I planted tomatoes in a tub… did it so that we could take them with us whenever we went away in our fifth-wheel trailer. The tub sat in the showers tall, which worked quite well since there was a skylight above. It grew so well it became hard to move, but it didn’t produce all that many tomatoes. From an economic point of view it would have been cheaper to buy supermarket tomatoes, but they really did taste wonderful. I hope your efforts work out and the results are rewarding.

    • Yes, I am noticing a difference. To be expected I suppose, as the environment is different. I haven’t set up all my LED lights yet to supplement the low light levels from the windows. It’s time consuming to hook up all the little LED lights, but no bulb replacements or heat worries after that. The carrots are growing far too slowly, I should be eating them by now, but they just aren’t receiving enough sun. Nice you stopped by, I am always glad to read your words, no matter where. Hmm-m! A traveling garden, now there’s an idea!


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