Michelle and Me

Wildlife sighting of a lifetime. This morning as I’m sitting at the computer, a bobcat came up on the porch. I first thought it was a really big cat coming out of the woods but I quickly changed that assessment to a really gigantic cat coming out of the woods. Finally I realized this was no regular cat kind of cat but a real, live Bobcat – short tail, spiky ears and all. I would say he was about double the size of a normal cat in height. He sat there for maybe 5 minutes doing cat things such as licking his paws. He got to within 3′ before he spotted me and ran off into the woods. Wow! Tried to take pictures with the camera sitting right beside the computer but shooting through the screened window created glare and blur to make the cat barely distinguishable. I saw a bobcat one other time but he was way up a tree, not nearly so close and scooted away as soon as he saw me. I remember being impressed by how high up a pine tree he was and that he jumped down from at least 30′ up and hit the ground running. We have lots of rabbits and an occasional rat running around so being inside this cat’s territory is a good thing.

Most of you wouldn’t draw any connection between the fact that I started a garden a year ago and Michelle Obama started one this year. But I could have forecast it. The second year we lived in Salt Lake we moved to a house that had a great back yard and evidence that at some time way in the past there had been a small garden. I decided it would be neat to try to resurrect it. I expanded it from a 10’x20′ plot to a 20′ x 40′ plot and was spectacularly successful for a complete novice. We lived in a town called Bountiful so it became obvious why the founders had picked that name. A year later the President of the Mormon Church declared that it would be a good idea for all Mormons to have a vegetable garden in their back yard. Needless to say I was the only one in the neighborhood with a garden and the only non-Mormon for miles around. I gave the neighbors bragging rights and told them that if anybody checked up on them they could send them over to my place and I’d claim only to be sharecropping. Now do you see why it comes as no surprise to me that the Obama’s decided to follow that path? I’m going to make a wild ass guess that she will never know about the nematodes or the work that goes into a compost heap. In fact she probably has a resident nematodologist on staff who has access to all those banned chemicals to deal with such pests – The DC Exclusion Act of 2009 – and funded by the Homeland Security budget under the money covering underground terrorist attacks. Also, since I let my Mormon friends claim my garden, I’m letting my Dem friends do the same. So if Michelle calls, just give her my address and tell her you do your gardening there.

I’m in full switch over mode now with a third of the garden still putting out winter stuff, a third sprouting summer stuff and the final third sitting idle just waiting for my planting surge April 1. I know for a fact that the soil is in excellent condition so my only concern this year is the nematodes. I’m going after them with a full across the board attack and no scientific methodology. I’ve read that having a heavily composted soil is a deterrent. The soil in my garden has at least 6” of well refined compost made by yours truly over the past two years. I’ve read that Golden Guardian Marigolds ward off nematodes. I have already over a 100 Golden Guardians on standpoint to be transplanted in the next couple of weeks and lots of seeds to keep them coming. And I have mixed gallons of the secret sugar/clorox brew that is supposed to attract and destroy nematodes by the thousands if not millions. A good scientist would probably cordon off sections of the garden and try each remedy independently to see which is the most effective. Being an engineer, I hit them with everything i have and go for a total knockout. Last season it took maybe 2 months for the nematodes to gain the upper hand and it was all over for me after that. Let the rematch begin.

I’m also getting much more sophisticated in marking the garden. Last year I just stuck things in the ground and had cut up a sherbet container and written the variety with a sharpie pen. That washed off in a week or so and after that it was really no telling what variety we were looking at. This year I bought stakes and an indelible garden pen guaranteed to not wash off. That may sound like an overkill but not all varieties do as well and the plan is to weed out the ones that sound good on paper but don’t perform well in Florida. My system last year totally failed so I have no idea which ones were good and which ones failed. Of course last year, I was happy to see anything survive compared to this year where I’ll be blown away if anything doesn’t make it. Another example of my new level of sophistication, I learned that there are two types of tomatoes – determinate and Indeterminate. I knew that but wasn’t sure what that meant to me. I knew that determents have all the fruit come ripe at the same time whereas indeterminate’s produce over a long season. What I didn’t know was that determents do better in cages and indeterminate do better on trellises. I didn’t know that indeterminate do better with heavy pruning and determents want no pruning at all. And both want fertilizer with low nitrogen and heavy phosphate. That’s not intuitive because if you use fertilizers with lots of nitrogen, the plants grow much bigger and lusher. But, unbeknownst to me, all the plants efforts are going into putting on nice leaves and not to putting out fruit. Drop the nitrogen and pump up the phosphate and out pop the tomatoes.

The downside to all this knowledge is that if it all turns to crap, what do I have to blame. Ignorance was a good excuse in the past.

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