The adventure begins.
A proposal from a company called Reforestation Technologies Incorporated arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, offering a sample of products guaranteed to help me grow a giant pumpkin. Though I ignore plenty of offers, this struck a chord in me because my spouse, who routinely suffers through experiments I run in the yard, has always had a dream. One day he hopes to grow a pumpkin large enough to hollow out and climb into on Halloween, then jump up like a deranged pop-tart and scare small children coming to our door.
Each year I try to give him the dream, sowing seeds reputed to have the genetics of giants, but so far my efforts have resulted in nothing larger than an 80 pound squash. Impressive, but it was only large enough to cover his tush.
Plus, I like experiments. Those of you who’ve followed my writings may recall The Harpin Incident of 2008, which I’ll include at the end of this post in case you missed it. That year, I trialed harpin in the garden, getting what I deserved after loading up those females on hormones.
This time it’s bio-products: mycorrhyzal fungi, Azos bacterium, and calcium carbonate. Mycorrhyzae are fungi that attach to the roots of plants, forming a symbiotic relationship that helps the plant take up nutrients and feed carbon back into the fungi. This improves both top and root growth, and I liberally mixed it into the planting area ahead of putting in the seeds.
The bacterium, Azos, is said to help the plant fix nitrogen from the air, making me think it’s a type of rhizobium bacteria used to inoculate beans and peas. I had to roll the moistened seed in this before planting. The last product, calcium carbonate, is to be tank mixed and sprayed onto the undersides of the leaves to help the vine photosynthesize and strengthen cells walls, enabling the gourd to bloat to record proportions.
I doubt I’ll be called to testify at a congressional hearing over the use of such stimulants – apparently they’ve been in use by members of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, which endorses these products. No, I have to face a much tougher panel of critics: friends and family that will drop by, strolling out to the patch to view the swelling fruit.
As the summer rolls on, we’ll wait and see.
Has anyone seen my sanity?
I lost it somewhere between house and garden. There’s a product I was given to try, called Messenger, that uses Harpin proteins to fool the plant into thinking it’s under attack from an invading disease. Once it’s sprayed onto the leaves it triggers a surge of growth and production as a defense against the invader.
I admit I was conflicted about using it. I’m familiar with hormones stimulating production; it happens to me at certain points in the month, when my spouse makes a remark that my female physiology takes offense over. At those times I can clean the house to within an inch of its life, plus cook supper, mow the lawn, and tidy up the garage. Overall it’s an hour well spent, but I’m not happy during it.
Using physiology doesn’t bother me, and since this is a product that’s naturally occurring , I shrugged and set off to make my tomatoes hormonal.
The mixed gallon spread over the tomatoes easily, and I was excited by the possibility that they may grow out of their slump. Their performance this year has been sluggish so far, and as I spritzed them with Harpins I dreamed of booming harvests.
There was so much left over that I coated the eggplants, peppers, and melons. The label said this is safe for every plant I would ever grow, so the herbs came next, getting drenched along with the pumpkins and squash. I knew I was over the edge; I moved on to spraying the roses, snapdragons and Echinacea. It was only after I’d soaked the zucchini that I realized the extent of my insanity (although I held off on the cherry tomatoes; I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid).
Dear heavens what have I done? Every plant in the garden is awash in hormones now, and visions of menopausal chaos – tendrils waving angrily in the air, insects being flicked off and beaten by stalks – are starting to fill my mind. Surely I owe the male blossoms an apology.
“It’s ok, it’s safe, it’s safe,” I told myself, “a lot of science has gone into developing this.” But dare I go out there without chocolate and wine to offer?
In reality the increase in vigor of the plants may take more than one or two applications, and my one day of testing this product may not end in disaster. Only time will tell if this is triumph or tragedy for my garden. I’ll keep you posted. (Blogger’s note: the winter squash that resulted from this was some of the strangest I’ve ever seen. Instead of being acorn shaped, they resembled giant footballs and I couldn’t bring myself to eat them.) (Blogger note 2: company is now out of business).