Why did my plant die?

7 Mar

Down here in the swamp (aka Zone 9) we’ve passed our final frost date.

After two full days of hard labor, my veggie garden is now fully planted with tomatoes, yellow squash, eggplant, lettuce, radishes, broccoli and beans, with hot peppers and herbs in various containers on the porch. I’ve also got a butterfly garden started, with butterfly weeds (what a lovely name), an assortment of native salvias and some purple coneflower plants.

While this is all hugely exciting and full of hope, it also means a good bit of work for the next few weeks, making sure the little wee plantlings stay happy and watered while they get established before the baking summer sun attempts to turn them into toast. And of course, all the new, tender, fragile plants kick off the innate worries of every gardener. What if they don’t make it? What if I get bugs? What if they don’t make any veggies?

What if they die and I can’t figure out what happened…

Why Did My Plant Die?
by Geoffrey B. Charlesworth.

You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.
You hoed it down. You weeded it.
You planted it the wrong way up.
You grew it in a yogurt cup
But you forgot to make a hole;
The soggy compost took its toll.
September storm. November drought.
It heaved in March, the roots popped out.
You watered it with herbicide.
You scattered bonemeal far and wide.
Attracting local omnivores,
Who ate your plant and stayed for more.
You left it baking in the sun
While you departed at a run
To find a spade, perhaps a trowel,
Meanwhile the plant threw in the towel.
You planted it with crown too high;
The soil washed off, that explains why.
Too high pH. It hated lime.
Alas it needs a gentler clime.
You left the root ball wrapped in plastic.
You broke the roots. They’re not elastic.
You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.
You splashed the plant with mower oil.
You should do something to your soil.
Too rich. Too poor. Such wretched tilth.
Your soil is clay. Your soil is filth.
Your plant was eaten by a slug.
The growing point contained a bug.
These aphids are controlled by ants,
Who milk the juice, it kills the plants.
In early spring your garden’s mud.
You walked around! That’s not much good.
With heat and light you hurried it.
You worried it. You buried it.
The poor plant missed the mountain air:
No heat, no summer muggs up there.
You overfed it 10-10-10.
Forgot to water it again.
You hit it sharply with the hose.
You used a can without a rose.
Perhaps you sprinkled from above.
You should have talked to it with love.
The nursery mailed it without roots.
You killed it with those gardening boots.
You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.

Overall, though, I know that the satisfaction of growing my own food, of bringing in local birds and bees and butterflies, of tending something and working in the dirt is all worth the worry. If something doesn’t grow, I can try growing something else. Every year is different, every garden has its own personality. I know that I can’t grow certain things (it’s just too hot here for certain plants, no matter how much I love them) and that I can’t control the weather. Sometimes plants die – but sometimes they thrive.

Here’s hoping for baskets full of veggies come early May. (I’ll post pictures, I promise!)

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