Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bloomfield Balcony Garden, Part 2: Zucchini

It's easy to make mistakes when you're new at gardening, and I've made quite a few.  Every failure is a lesson, though, and there are so many things I learned this year so far that will be invaluable each year to come.  Some of my early mistakes?  Well, as I mentioned in my last entry, I know now that there is no need to start zucchini indoors.  When I put some seeds into my sub-irrigated planter, they sprouted within a week and were monsters within a month.
Zucchini just starting to fruit

You can see all the blossoms and some baby fruit in that picture.  I couldn't even manage to stand far enough away from the plant on my balcony to take a picture that included everything.  The leaves were huge -- up to two feet wide, I'd say.

A gardening friend who lives somewhat nearby told me that she'd decided against doing zucchini again this year because last year, the squash bugs destroyed them.  Stink bugs, too, she said.  I thought I'd try my luck with it anyway.  But she wasn't wrong.  As soon as the leaves were out and open, I began observing some holes through them.  I decided not to waste any time before taking action.

I made the Bad Breath Pepper Garlic Spray from Gayla Trail's web site You Grow Girl and sprayed it all over the leaves.  This stuff is basically just water, pepper (I used cayenne), garlic, and onion.  Totally edible, but it worked like magic to stop bugs from eating the zucchini leaves!  My zucchs grew, provided maaaad fruit, took more water than the plants in any of my other sub-irrigated planter, and kept reaching for the sun.

Then I left town for a weekend.  My friend Sara agreed to come by on Saturday to refill my sub-irrigated planters, because those zucchs easily drank the whole thing in one day if it was hot.  I left on Thursday; then, apparently, on Friday, there was a storm.  A wicked, intense, probably-made-stronger-by-global-warming storm.  On Saturday, I got an email from Sara.  My zucchini had taken the plunge.

It's tragic really.  Zucchini plants with everything to live for, reaching a little too hard for the sun off my balcony, thrown into my neighbor's cavernous yard by a storm!  Sara couldn't even figure out how to get over there to retrieve it from the ground, which I cannot blame her for.  I mean, you guys have seen those pictures of the view off my balcony.  Here's another one.
Check out his turtle sandbox guy! Haha!
It's a worker yard.  Gated off.  No one lives there, although a kind-seeming older gentleman does come by on weekends sometimes to do handy work.  He called up to me one time, "You've got a farm going!", which made me feel all warm and fuzzy.  The main building has an incomplete wall, waiting to be bricked up.  There's no proper entrance.

When I came back on Monday night, I had to move a gate that actually wasn't attached to anything to break in there.  It was difficult and heavy to carry everything back.  My poor zucchs were goners.  Dried up, broken, dirty.  They were once so alive and productive!  The worst part, though, is that my GrowBox actually broke.  The part that holds water is completely cracked.  It's too big of a job for duct tape to solve.  Believe me, I tried.

I learned some valuable lesson, though, from the whole zucchini experience.  Like NEVER EVER LEAVE TOWN, EVEN FOR FIVE MINUTES.  Nah, I kid.  But really.  Here's what I learned, in chronological order:

1.  Only plant zucchini outside (OK, OK, we've got that one, move on!).

2.  Only put zucchini and squash together into one planter, and no other type of plant, because there is nothing else that can compete with its zealous largeness!  Half my planter was empty, because I was stupid enough to try to start some lettuces in the same planter.  They sprouted, but proceeded to be 100% blocked from sunlight by the greedy, space-hogging zucchini.  I mean, you'd hate to be seated next to these things on a plane.

3.  Next year, while still being on an edge, I'll place my zucchini on the edge that actually gets some sunlight from both sides, so that it won't want to lean so badly and be so susceptible, with its enormous, flight-worthy leaves, to tip on over in a storm.  See, look, let me show you another picture of my setup.

You can see up on my balcony, but down on the left by my stairs, there is a wall.  It's pretty difficult to access, actually, but next year, I'm gonna keep zucchs and yellow squash in a sub-irrigated planter down there.  That way, it'll get enough sun from either side to, you know, take over the neighborhood, a la Little Shop of Horrors.

More on gardening in a day or two!

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