The summer that wasn’t


2011 had the summer that wasn’t. It was nice in March and April, but by May it had all gone to shit. Cold, rain, high winds, no sunshine.

This was a triple bummer for me. First because I had told my dad to visit in May as that is usually our best month, even better than June-August. Was I wrong!

Second, because I am a sunshine addict and there isn’t much I like better than sitting or lying in the sun, reading or doing a stupid puzzle book.

Third is because one of the things I do like better than lazing in the sun is growing things.

When the year started out so well, I jumped right into starting seeds. I’d much rather start with a microscopic seed and care for it than buy something already started. I’m broke, duh, and a hundred count of seeds costs what two plants would cost. It is also an endless source of wonder for me that something so very tiny and dry can turn into a big plant, with nothing more than dirt, water, sun and a weekly fertiliser.

I’m also a pack rat, and keep seeds for years, and even decades, longer than I should.

Since I started so early, I figured I’d have a clear out of my seed cache and plant some of the really old ones. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Oldest ones I had were from…1987. No, I’m not kidding. They were baby’s breath, and didn’t germinate. I wasn’t terribly surprised. I had them so long because I’m not a big fan of baby’s breath, and I have issues throwing things away – especially potentially living things. Oh well.

The next oldest were 9 or 10 years old. Back then, I had a house and a garden. I grew a lot of stuff, and saved the seeds from one crop to start the next year’s crop, which never happened as I didn’t have a place to grow things again until 2005. I’ve already used a lot of the cache over the years since I moved here. But, I still had: dill, oregano, columbine, pumpkins, miniature pumpkins, several kinds of ornamental gourds, and an envelope marked ‘butternut squash?’

The dill, columbine, and oregano were too old. I knew that, but dumped em all in dirt and hoped. Oh well.

The different varieties of gourds were another story. Some of them had dried mold on them, meaning I let the original fruit get a bit ooky before I took the seeds out. The mini pumpkins were in the original packet dated 1999. I didn’t think any of them had a chance, so I crammed them into seed trays, more seed than dirt.

And left them alone, as you do, in my little Aldi greenhouse, watering occasionally.

Well, the little bastards had tons of life left in them! I think the only ones that never grew were the large pumpkins. Everything else, wow! Dozens and dozens of plants!

Which was not good, because I have very limited space. But, I planted them out in containers, only for most of them to die in May when it got cold. But, still, I had plenty – and more shoots every day!

Until my little greenhouse blew over in the wind, dumping ALL of the seeds and seedlings into the grass. Oh, hell, now I had no idea what gourd was what.

After the clean up, they all were dubbed ‘mystery gourds’ and it became a bit more fun to watch them grow, and a bit more sad when they didn’t survive.

Then they bloomed, and some set fruit, but most of the fruit died on the vine. I should probably research why, but it probably would be a chemical cure and I’m not keen on those. Nor do I have money to spend on ‘free’ plants.

It’s now October, and I do still have a few vines alive. I’d brought most of them indoors last month when a hurricane was due to blow through, to save them from the winds. I didn’t take them back outside, because of my bad back, and all the indoor ones died. Still about half a dozen outside, though they no longer bloom.

The ones I brought in contained my entire crop, four whole gourds. One rotted, so I composted it. Here’s the rest, just in time for Halloween decorations:


The tea light is there for scale. What a let down!

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Thoughts? Gardening tips? Cocktail recipes? Don't just like and leave, please - I can talk for Ireland and would love to prove it!

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