Cherry Tomatoes

I just stuck my hand out the door and waved it around.  My hand did not encounter 70 degrees so I snatched it back in and slammed the door. I don’t like cold weather and I don’t like what it does to the garden.  Our two beautiful cypress trees lose all their greenery, the hydrangeas get some sort of spotted dog disease, and precious little blooms.

Each time the weatherman threatens us with temps down in the 30’s, I run outside with my stash of old sheets to cover the plants. If the temps stay down, then the sheets stay in place looking like dead bodies lying all over the yard. Except for Casper the Ghost, of course, who stands upright. Casper is a fashionista with a two-sheet toga and some clothespin fasteners. Thus far, he has done a good job protecting the cherry tomatoes. Just yesterday I picked this bountiful bowl of tomatoes and just as many for my friend who brought me a big box of homegrown grapefruit.

Weeds In My Paradise

Florida Betony and Dollarweed

The weeds found my plot of paradise, long ago, without benefit of the bug’s air traffic controller.

Stachys floridana was the most annoying for many years. It is also known as Florida Betony or Rattlesnake Weed because of underground tubers resembling the tail of a rattlesnake. Assuming, of course, the rattlesnakes in your neck of the woods are albino because the tuber is white. A member of the mint family, it is an invasive, year-round nuisance that really takes over in the winter. Not just the flower beds, mind you, but the lawn, the veggie plot, every available speck of ground. You can’t help but wonder what was on God’s mind the day he created Betony. Kinda makes you want to offer up a bribe, er, bargain. “God, if I planted a lot, and I mean a LOT of flowering plants and bushes in my garden, would you ease up on the Betony?” I came up with this bargain when I saw the bees feeding on it and figured that was His plan. It’s funny, but the more time you spend in the garden, the more you notice things going on that have absolutely nothing to do with your agenda for the garden.

Dollarweed, or Pennywort, is another pest we’ve had forever and ever. Clemson University claims it’s a warm season perennial weed. I got news for them, the stuff hikes all over my yard all year long. One of my Bible study buds just sent me a book, I Eat Weeds by Priscilla G. Bowers, which claims that “eaten raw, the new young leaves are tender and tasty.” This means I will never go hungry.

In recent years, we’ve been the recipient of new weeds we didn’t order. Strictly in the lawn, I have to assume these did not come from plant nurseries. That leaves birds doing a fly-by-pooping. Not a thing I can do about it, though, because Poppie regularly fills a bird feeder a few feet from his recliner.

Desmodium, or Beggars Lice, was one of our pooping gifts. The experts claim it blooms from May to August and that part might be correct but the fruit – the part that sticks to your clothing – continues right on into the winter. Do you know how hard it is to pick that stuff off of your air-conditioned shoes?

Asteraceae, commonly known as Fleabane, is the only weed with a redeeming quality. It has little daisy-like white flowers over a dense mat of very green leaves. Note the word mat. You wouldn’t want to leave your foot out there overnight because the mat would grow over it and you’d never find it.

At this point, the Beggars Lice and Fleabane are in the grass, but how long before I am the recipient of a bird gifting in my flower beds? Jeez Louise, the whole weed thing is completely out of a gardener’s control!

JACOBINIA: Ain’t It Purty?

This is justicia carnea more commonly known as Jacobinia, Brazilian plume, King’s Crown or Plume Flower. It hails from South America and grows in the U.S. in Zones 9 to 11 but will come back from the root in Zone 8.

It was blooming yesterday next to the steps where I have about 3 plants in filtered shade. I have another 5 or 6 in the Wildflower Bed grouped in a mass planting in deeper shade where it thrives. According to Floridata, there are additional colors in white, pink, red, orange, purple and yellow. I have two colors — pink and pastel pink.

It makes a great passalong plant because it is very easy to root but the stems remind me of bamboo – hollow and jointed.

Here it is in full of blooms and almost-blooms:

justicia 2-1591

Shoes With Air

Shoes with Air
Due to budgetary constraints, clothing is not high on my list of discretionary purchases. Shoes don’t even make the list. I know, it’s a gender anomaly but I have a lot of them. Most of my gardening shoes are $3 canvas flats from back in the days when you could still get canvas flats for $3 on clearance at the end of summer. Needless to say, I haven’t purchased any in recent years.

The above photo is representative of my collection. You will note that I have air-conditioning vents in the north, east and west walls. Both soles are also split just under my toes making  it plum squishy when I encounter water.

The shoes are in great shape compared to the pair of shorts I was wearing when taking this photo. Formerly black, they are now gray with freckles sprinkled across the front from some unremembered incident involving spray bleach. A hole big enough for my thumb vents the left hip, elastic peeks out of the waistband and the southernmost back seam is about to bust out. I look at it this way – it covers my essential nakedness – and any discretionary income I manage to cobble together is going to be spent on seeds or a new plant from the Down-and-Out-but-Not-Quite-Dead Table at Lowes.

Now that you understand my priorities for discretionary spending, please don’t point at me in Wal-Mart. I am already under gawking scrutiny from the neighbors. For instance, I probably did not get this shoe photo without considerable cost to my reputation. Privacy fencing in rural neighborhoods is cost-prohibitive and outdoor activities fall victim to public consumption. I know this because I have, myself, wished to occasionally perform a little binocular surveillance on the neighbors. Alas, I do not own a pair of binoculars. Whether or not the neighbors own binoculars is irrelevant because most of them have installed barking dog alerts to make sure they don’t miss the latest installment on your particular perversions.  In all likelihood, the barking dog alert caused Country Boy, my next door neighbor in an easterly sort of way, to look out the window and call his wife over to help him gape in astonishment.

“Come ‘ere Honey an’ lookee what that crazy girl’s doin’ now. She’s sittin’ in a lawn chair takin’ a pitcher of her feet! Now what in tarnation you rekkon she’s gonna do with that?”

At least he didn’t fly out the door and start hollering at me as the screen door banged shut behind him. On those occasions when I know I’m doing something stupid, I prefer to pretend that I haven’t been caught in the act.

My Garden Now Has Its Own Address

My cousin asked me what I did about bugs in my new 12×25 spring garden plot.

“I don’t have bugs,” I replied, my brows knitting together quizzically.

God love him, he didn’t point out my naiveté and I learned the hard way that it takes a while for the bug population to recognize your garden plot as an address.

My plot went on the bug radar over the summer.

By the fall, my poor little garden had become one of the most popular landing strips in the neighborhood. The bok choy looks like a rabbit, raccoon or opossum stood up on its haunches, aimed a sling shot down the row and shot holes through the tops of all the bok choy. Why couldn’t the critters pick out one or two bok choy and gnaw them to the ground? Why all the splashy holes?

The cherry tomatoes, sigh, are under attack by tomato horn worms and two other unidentified assailants. What are these ant-like things with red bodies [click photo for slideshow]? How about the bugs wearing medieval armor (please note the miniature black bra on their orange backs)?

What’s the solution? Do you plow up a new plot of ground every season in an effort to thwart the air traffic controllers of the bug and critter kingdom? Yeah, yeah, I know I should be grateful that I’m picking tomatoes in December but I long for the Better Homes & Garden perfection of that spring garden.