After introducing me to her husband, Mrs R took me out to her backyard.
She doesn't have any fencing around the property and her whole garden is still inground, no raised beds. They have a rototiller and one of those turning barrel composters. She gives most of her produce away to neighbors and friends. She doesn't can. "Stopped that years ago." She says.
"You have to understand that this year is our worst garden that we've had since starting 10 years ago." Mrs R explains before starting her tour. (Mr R is in failing health so it's just her out and about right now.
"We're getting old." She says looking at me in the eye.
I wanted to ask how old but that's something you just don't do in polite company. I think they're both in their mid to late 70's. Mrs R is my height but slender and gets around easily still.
Their backyard is in the part of the neighborhood that has the wooded section. Great big old trees. They took a few down to allow for the garden sunshine, but I note that her garden is in the shade during the worst heat of the afternoon. That's something I don't have. Shade.
We stroll down amongst her tomatoes. Huge, unlike mine. She buys all her plants from a local nursery. Mrs R says her secret is to dig the hole deep and back fill it with mushroom compost and aged cow manure. Many years ago, Mr R built tomato cages from cattle panels.
"Those weren't cheap to build," she points out "But they've lasted forever." These cages are 5-6 feet high and heavy duty.
This year the squirrels are eating their tomatoes. "20-30 of them a day" Mrs R says exasperated. "They pull them off green, run them up the tree and take a bunch of bites out to them and then toss them back into the yard." Nothing stops them.
I asked her about SVB's and her squash. She only grows summer squash, no winter or pumpkins, but has had SVB's every year except this year. This year she bought a Spectracide Triazicide granular insect killer that she sprinkled around the base of the plant while it was still young. No SVB's this year.
(Geez. That's what I was starting to think. Chemical intervention was the only way to avoid these suckers.)
She grows okra (yuck) and eggplants that she gives away. Like me, shes tried the cole crops...broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts..."Too hot." She says shaking her head. I asked her if she does a hoop house in the winter. "No. I just put in greens. Lots of turnip greens and kale."
She points out the bean trellis Mr R built for the pole beans. "We've never had a bean harvest in 10 years."
"Never?" I ask, eyebrows raised.
"Never" She replies. "Must be doing something wrong with the soil. We get beautiful vines, but no beans. We've tried pole, bush...nothing."
We wander over to her sweet peppers. "Now here I tried something different this year. I planted them farther apart. Big mistake. They like to be close to each other. The leaves protect the plants better." She kicks at the dirt. "I won't do THAT again." She also points out the black landscape fabric that she put down to supress the grass that (like me) "You just can't kill it."
I told her about using cardboard. She got really excited with that suggestion. "I can see that...Keeps the moisture in and blocks the weeds and grass." I even told her my favorite dumpster diving site to get it. (Uh Oh...competition)
She has a small herb garden that's over run with weeds right now. I asked her about fruit trees. "Yes, we had them but the squirrels ate the fruit before we could get it maturity so we cut them down. Same with the pecan tree. Can't get any."
Funny how we ALL have our issues. At least I don't have squirrels.
We spent about an hour and a half chatting. A wonderful morning. I made a new gardening friend and got some great advice.
Thanks Mrs R!