I'm not Martha Stewart and this is not Pinterest. Even though I consider myself an experienced and knowledgeable gardener, not everything goes according to plan all of the time. After all, gardening is a collaboration with Nature. When I get the balance right and my garden flourishes, I get to enjoy the literal fruits of my labor. When I get it wrong, I allow myself to be upset for a little bit, then I get back to work.
Last week, my edamame plants looked great. They were even starting to flower, meaning that the tasty beans would be coming along soon. Then a few days ago, this happened:
You can see the white flowers on the edamame plant, but look closely at the side stems and you will see that THE LEAVES HAVE BEEN CHEWED OFF! Excuse me, I need a moment. [incomprehensible swearing]
At first, I thought it might be caterpillars because I've seen similar damage before on leafy greens. However, caterpillars tend to leave "evidence" of their presence and there were no little caterpillar poopies to be seen. We share our neighborhood with opossums and groundhogs, so maybe one of those critters decided it was snack time. Regardless, it is almost impossible to fight an unseen opponent, so I'm not going to do anything except wait and see what happens. Don't give up, I'm cheering for you, edamame-babies. I'm grateful that the melon vines (upper right corner of the photo) were not affected.
Before I move on to explain my okra failure, I've got to talk about collards, kale, and carrots. I've been experimenting more with interplanting, to have slow-growing, bigger vegetables planted with speedier, smaller vegetables. This allows you to get two harvests out of the same space over the same time period because you end up harvesting the small, fast-growing vegetable before the bigger, slow-growing vegetable needs the space...except, I didn't exactly do that. I planted bigger collards and kale with smaller carrots, but carrots are not faster to grow than dark leafy greens. Greens take about two months whereas carrots take about three. So I ended up harvesting the greens and leaving the carrots, then planting okra in the spaces where the greens were. I think the towering carrot tops were shading out the okra babies, stunting their growth. I even had one of the okras shrivel up and die *whimper*. After I pulled the carrots, the okra started growing better. Next time, I will pair collards and kale with spring root vegetables that mature in about one month such as 'Easter Egg' radishes or Japanese baby turnips like 'Tokyo Market.' On the other hand, fast-growing salad greens like leaf lettuces and mizuna would pair well with slow-growing roots like carrots and beets. (By the way, I don't have a scientific reason for interplanting greens with root vegetables...I just figure it's super easy to tell them apart that way.)
In this photo, look for the red stems to spot the okra. The healthiest looking okra is on the right side. There's also a tiny baby on the left, planted at the same time as its larger sibling. It's only mid-July, so there's still time, but I expect a reduced harvest. Meanwhile, my next door neighbor's okra is looking so fabulous and I'm so jealous.
As for my snake gourd, it's just not growing very well. The yardlong beans (planted at the same time, in the same bed, and on the other side of the A-frame trellis) have already grown to the top of the trellis while the snake gourd has barely reached the second rung. I only planted a single snake gourd because that's all I've ever needed in previous summers. A healthy snake gourd plant will become so huge as to grow up one side of the trellis and down the other. I'm going to call it bad luck that this specimen seems less than vigorous. Again, there's still time for it to grow and this is my garden teaching me (again) about patience.