Garden Update: Invasion Of the Pumpkins

My garden tendencies are a matter of public record on this blog.

Too much. Too close. Great ideas gone awry (not posted in previous stories to protect the innocent).

I tried to behave this year. I actually planted those tiny seeds and transplants far apart – like the label and catalog recommends. Really! I did not cheat on the 3 feet between rows and 6 feet between hills this time.

My reward? A cool, rainy spring and several years of work improving my garden soil (Operation Cow Manure) means that I still cannot walk between rows and I am going to have to replace all of the cheap, crappy tomato cages that collapsed.

Oh, and I finally understand why zucchini is a weed (after many years of struggling to keep mine alive past powdery mildew/vine borer season).

pumpkin invasion 2

Pumpkins growing out into the lawn (buffalograss in case you were wondering)

This morning, I was out in the garden before starting my work day, per my usual routine. A quick two-day family trip down the Niobrara River (next blog post) meant the plants were a bit neglected….in 85 degree weather….with humidity….and rain. In other words, if you listen closely, you can hear the corn (and other plants) growing.

My keen eyes immediately noticed the asparagus wall was being breached by the pumpkin patch. Not just the asparagus (north side), but the barbed wire fence/lawn (east), raspberry patch (south), and popcorn (west) were all struggling to hold back this cucurbita menace.

I will explain why I have a three-strand barbed wire fence around my garden another time. (Hint: cows)

I waded through the tomatoes/collapsed tomato cages in my main path. The zucchini managed to grow in all four directions (how?). The “bush” beans are still showing “pole” bean tendencies and sent vines across the walking path, maybe to intimidate fellow legume and non-Nebraska native – peanuts? (Son 3’s idea – yes, another blog post).

When I hacked my way to the asparagus wall, I was dismayed to see that many weeds had snuck into the mix. I now had two jobs: 1) detangle the pumpkins from the asparagus and turn the vines back toward their native patch and 2) pull up the weeds.

pumpkin invasionDetangling the pumpkins and asparagus proved to be a fruitless task. The fine, feathery foliage on asparagus, coupled with strong stems, is a perfect place for pumpkin tendrils to attach and curl. I had to choose between the two.

The struggle to grow asparagus (Son 2’s favorite vegetable) in my previously crappy soil means that those plants are treated with great deference. I chose to begin cutting the pumpkin vines in order to end their assault.

I was not as nice to the weeds as I was to the asparagus. Those were ripped up by the roots and…then….I had to decide what to do with the weed carcasses.

I could compost them. I could throw them into the lawn to be chopped up by the lawnmower. I could pile them to dry and burn them.

Or, I could toss them into the pumpkin patch itself. This very simple solution seemed perfect.

Velvetleaf. Kochia. Lamsquarter. Nightshade. Bean vine (Oops).

All were tossed into the pumpkin patch as quickly as I could pull them. The area was soon much neater and I was left with the feeling that I somehow made a sacrifice to appease the pumpkin gods.

I will let you know in a week or so if they were pleased with my offering…

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About jheem

I grew up on a diversified dairy farm in southeast South Dakota where I learned how to throw a hay bale, pull a calf, deal with death, and "name" the cows. I was in 4H and FFA, and was privileged to serve as a state FFA officer. In college, I studied animal science, focusing on beef cows, mostly because I figured they were less work than dairy cows....I ended up with a Masters Degree in ruminant nutrition and went to work for the University of Nebraska, first as a research tech coordinating data collection for a swine unit and beef feedlot on a research farm and then as an extension educator. In my current job, I focus on environmental issues related to animal agriculture (which is a nice way of saying I talk about manure alot). My husband and I live and work on a seedstock cattle operation in northeast Nebraska. You can learn more about our cattle operation by visiting my husband's blog at http://aldersonangus.wordpress.com.
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