Thursday, August 7, 2008

Botanical Genocide

As you’ve heard me mention in my two previous entries, my garden had somewhat of an…accident early in the season. I utilize two four foot sun-spectrum fluorescent grow bulbs to grow plants from seed in my basement, typically starting in February with my leeks, early March for my peppers and eggplants, and mid-March for my tomatoes. Various herbs and other vegetables are started between those dates.

I had great success with this for two years at the duplex, not only raising tomatoes and peppers from seed, but keeping my perennial herbs alive over the winter. However, this year, I moved to a house with a large, somewhat moist basement. The dehumidifier that the previous tenant left with the house wasn’t sufficient to keep the basement from smelling musty, so I set up the one we bought for the duplex as well. Even this wasn’t apparently sufficient, as I had an outbreak of powdery mildew amongst my herbs in February. Fearing for this year’s crop, I cranked down both dehumidifiers to 35% humidity to stop and prevent further outbreak.

Life at 35% humidity was hard on my plants, and I had to water two or three times a day to fight against the dehumidifiers. Seedlings were often wilty by the time I got to them. But things came to a head in April when I came down ill with the flu, and forgot to water one day. That apparently was enough. My Purple Haze eggplants, Chapman and German Red Strawberry tomatoes, Fish, Ancho, NuMex, Hungarian Wax, and Lipstick peppers, as well as my cache of stevia, salad burnet and leeks were all severely dehydrated or dead. By the time I took a long-weekend vacation in early May, the aforementioned were dead, and my stocks of several other plants were severely depleted.

So for the first time in three years, I was forced to actually buy vegetable plants at the nursery this season. This was tough, as I get quite a bit of joy out of picking the exact plants I want over the winter, and was particularly looking forward to the Fish and Lipstick peppers. While I was able to find Hungarian Wax and Ancho peppers at the nursery, everything else ended up being a bit of a concession.

How am I going to fix this next year? Of that, I’m unsure. With powdery mildew on one end, and dehydration on the other, I’m stuck either finding some way to constantly water just the soil, or enclose the plants to become their own climate, and find some other way to avoid powdery mildew.

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