A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Intrepid Urban Farmer: July 4th is key date for gardening experiment in backyard; oh, say can I see

By Ginger Dawson
Special to NKyTribune

The Fourth of July. Not only is this the birthdate of the wonderful American experiment as a democratic republic, it is also an important date for the gardening experiment going on in my backyard.
 

Celebrating 4th of July

Now, I admit, my garden started out as more of a dictatorship.  I called the shots.  And, like a dictatorship, it was fraught with the mishaps and misjudgments of the chief executive.
 
Wikipedia, that great dilettante’s reference source, explains it, in one way, like this– “In social choice theory, the notion of a dictator is formally defined as a person who can achieve any feasible social outcome he/she wishes.” Human nature be damned.

Well, therein lies the folly of my banana republic. It may have started out as a dictatorship, but it became obvious a few years into it that this was not going to work. There was too much unrest and too much unhappy, unhealthy produce. Plant nature could NOT be damned.

I clearly had a revolt on my hands. But it was not a good revolt. It was a passive, retiring revolt. Even as the primary target, I couldn’t even muster up a good righteous outrage at having been wronged by the disloyalty! It was just pitiful.

The unripe elite!

If I had just listened to the peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, etc…I would have had a much more stable, and possibly, more predictable outcome in the future of my little country.

Something had to change. Mercifully, I do have the capacity to learn from my mistakes, and now, having seen the light, I transitioned into a democratic republic.    
I learned to listen.  Or rather, I learned to see. Plant protests are not blatant affairs. You have to really pay attention.

Protests show up in the early blight; the tobacco mosaic; the blossom-end rot; the buggy leaves; the god-awful Japanese beetles and squash vine borers (a congress, of sorts), and hateful slugs. They are all there to tell you that there is trouble with the masses.

I have become a good leader, I think — well, at least I’ve become a good observer.

More unripened elite!

I have put good programs in place that seem to work, and I am always tweaking the techniques, effort-for-benefit realized being important because gardening is a lot of work.  I do not need any pork barrels of wasted time and effort.
  
And here we are at the Fourth of July.

The fourth has always been the date when we all expect the first tomatoes (unless you are among the greenhouse-owning elite). I had a couple of early outliers, but for the most part, I am still waiting for the rest to get on with it.

This seems to always be the case. For the past twenty-five years nothing has changed to bump this date up a little (yes, I know….a greenhouse).

Why can’t tomatoes be like corn? Years ago, the mantra about corn was “knee-high by the fourth of July”. Well, that’s a quaint memory. The corn in the fields now is over six feet tall!

Why can’t tomatoes up their game like this? Why can’t I have ripe tomatoes by June 15th!  My plants are loaded and half of them are over six feet. It doesn’t matter how tall the plants are — ripen and put out! Good lord. That sounds sexist.
 
The eggplant is starting to come on and I have bell peppers earlier than I ever have. I have harvested cabbage and okra, and even the zucchini is getting wild (at least for the moment, *sigh*).

Egalitarian Eggplant

One would think that the tomatoes would feel some kind of peer pressure, but they don’t.

Tomatoes are the garden elitists. They are at the top of the pecking order, and they know it. Holding off puts them right where they want to be.  They have all the power. They could care less that the others are so quick to accommodate.  

The bugs even seem to bow to the tomatoes by leaving them alone.  One would think that this kind of deferential treatment would stir up a little class war, but it doesn’t.

All of the plants, except the tomatoes, are all tolerant and exhibit the best in plant nature.  

The tomatoes, though, are becoming a little pushy. They seem to think that by holding out they will gain power and become the garden sovereigns.

Now you know, this is not an overt campaign.  This is just something that I have observed. The tomatoes are very clever about how they jockey for position. I will have to stay vigilant for any signs of a coup.

Is my little democratic republic in danger?  Or has my imagination become a little too vivid?  Let’s not vote on that.

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Ginger Dawson has resided in Covington, Kentucky since 1988. Raised on a farm in South Central Ohio, she has enjoyed a very eclectic and enriching life. She loves her Italianate Victorian Townhouse and particularly the garden behind it. See her new website at intrepidurbanfarmer.com

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