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I can’t handle East Asia. So it’s cucumbers instead.

You may recall that my project for 2013 was GEOGRAPHY. I was going to learn ALL THE COUNTRIES. It went quite well for a while. By September I’d done the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Any time the name of a country in the Americas, Europe, or Africa was mentioned, I’d say I know where that is, which my spouse found very delightful. Then the semester cruuuuuuuuuuushed me. By November I’d still only gotten through Africa. Whatever, I thought. It’s just Asia and Australia. And Asia is pretty much entirely Russia, right? I can knock that out in a month!

A few weeks before the new year, I took a look at the rest of the world and discovered that there are actually rather a lot of countries there. Feel free to mock my ignorance. My ignorance is the whole reason for Operation Geography. I managed the Middle East…and then I was like OMG East Asia is TOO HARD. I gave the fuck up.

I may return to it. After all, it’s summer now! But like I said in my birthday post, this year the focus is on the vegetable garden. Extra benefit: The vegetable garden project will be mostly over by the time the semester starts.

Previously I’ve been extremely unsystematic. I managed to grow some shit nonetheless! But not so much lately–the last couple of years have been a bit of a bust. And I couldn’t get it together at all last year.

So, this year I bought a BOOK. I was going to test my soil and get its ph all correctified and whatnot. I did not do that. And I was going to make sure the soil was all totally perfect, enriched with just the right things and as smooth as sand instead of still kind of lumpy. I did not do that. In part because of the endless fucking snow. Nothing in the garden is exactly growing in the slightest. But, I don’t know, maybe it will?


There are in fact spinach seedlings. Can you find them?

The garden calendar I’m using (the awesome and gloriously free smart gardener–you can lay out your beds and add adorable little plant graphics, and get a schedule and email reminders) tells me I should be harvesting arugula in a couple of weeks, and…uh…dubious about that. I can’t tell whether everything will be lush and fabulous now that it’s warming up, or whether it will be another year with no greens at all. It’s happened before. They sprout and then DIE. Any advice from experienced gardeners? Know any zone 6 garden blogs that give shitloads of daily updates about how the spinach is doing? NO! Because that would be really boring. Just like this is.

Things inside are more alive. Bun Bun and I germinated tomato seeds together, and I’ve enjoyed showing her how they’ve grown up to be seedlings. They’ll go out next weekend. This weekend is about beans and getting the cucumber trellis set up.

It turns out that being systematic is much more stressful. I’m thinking perhaps I should work on East Asia some more, just so the year isn’t a total failure.

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m already impressed by you. My geographical ignorance has been legendary since the 5th grade, when I was forced to take home a large stack of blank US maps because it was discovered that I couldn’t correctly identify all 50 states. Could I do it today? It hasn’t been tested for many years, so I can happily say Yes! without being a liar.

    My only ever really successful gardening has been in raised beds, with bagged soil, which I think makes it a lot easier. That’s when I was in college in VT, not sure what zone that is. Maybe plant a few really easy growing things? I think it helps with the overall feeling of gardening failure when other stuff fizzles. Hot peppers and herbs are what I’ve always had the best luck with. Also tomatoes that I bought as plants, not started myself. Good luck!

    May 9, 2014
  2. Actually, if you do find a blog that gives daily updates about the spinach, do let me know. I wouldn’t find that boring at all.

    You could try covering up your seedlings. Maybe, with all that snow, it’s a bit too cold still? Sometimes I put plastic covers over mine until they get established. You know, like a little green house. You can probably buy something at your garden shop, but I find clear plastic soft drink bottles (cut in half) work fine. Keeps the bugs out too.

    It could also be your soil, so make sure when you put the seeds in that the soil isn’t too clumpy. Ideally, it should be quite fine so that the seeds can break through. Our leafy greens seem to respond well to seaweed fertiliser (Seasol and the like), which is not so much a fertiliser, but a soil conditioner.

    May 10, 2014
  3. My cucumber seedlings were just fine until I took them outside and they either disappeared (birds?!) or plain ol’ gave up and died. Perhaps it was too early, who knows. It was definitely too early for the first tomato seedlings. THEY died because the fucking cold came back. I have some more, but I have to wait another week, because the cold is coming back AGAIN, and yeah, there goes my gardening.
    I have wild success with already grown plants though. Bought them two weeks ago and none has died so far. 🙂
    And the weeds, oh, the bane of my gardening success, weeds… I feel like hiring a weed plucker, to peruse my lawn and get rid of every weed, but alas, I don’t have enough money, because I want no chemicals used in my garden. And the organic ways of controling weeds are very … organic, and ineffectual.
    Asia sounds like a very doable plan, I say.

    May 10, 2014
  4. Australia is pretty easy. So at least you can nail that one, right?

    May 10, 2014
  5. I have high hopes for your garden, and your knowledge of every last country in the world. And gosh, those tiny spinach plants are so cute! I love baby plants!
    My only advice is COMPOST! In the soil. Spring and Fall. I can also hook you up with a professional farmer that lives at my house if you’d like.

    p.s. tomato plant leaves produce one of my favorite smells. I hope the seedlings make it to big plant status and that you can smell them at will.

    May 12, 2014
    • Oh me TOO. I love that smell so much. I sniff them now. Smells like summer.

      May 13, 2014
  6. SRB #

    You need a study aid. Here you go:

    GARDENING!!! I cannot even begin to explain to you the massive shift in my chest/heart/mind that happens when I crack the first yard waste bag of the season. The yard at our new house is a total wasteland, so this will be The Summer of Prep Work, but next year? Next year there will be raised beds and we will talk on the phone every day. Oh yes.

    In the past, I have found that as far as greens go, kale is a good one. Grows like gangbusters in meh soil, looks pretty, and you can cut it back tons all summer long. I have been less successful with chard, but only because I was growing bionic kale. Now, if you’ll excuse, I am going to create an imaginary garden on the link you provided and DREAM AWAY!!!

    May 12, 2014
    • SRB #

      FWIW, I tried the quiz and got 34/49. I FORGOT JAPAN.

      May 12, 2014
    • The Summer of Prep is probably going to be kind of unsatisfying–I know I have a hard time taking the long view instead of wanting it all to be perfect NOW. BUT I really enjoy looking back at the progress I’ve made in my yard. Be sure to take pictures, if possible from an upstairs window so you can have an aerial shot.

      May 13, 2014
      • SRB #

        I JUST NOW saw this reply, literally five minutes after doing this very thing. I will email them to you so that you can see the barren wasteland I am currently battling against.

        May 21, 2014
  7. I am zone 6a. Peppers. Peppers were planted before we bought the house and I ignored them and we got peppers late summer. I ordered a csa share this year but by the looks of it we may have peppers again. Playing the board game Risk really helped me with geography. That says a lot about me.

    May 13, 2014
  8. We had a map above the kitchen table when I was little and we would take turns memorizing the capitals. I’m positive I have retained all this knowledge, in addition to all the other knowledge I’ve acquired since then. Of course. Gardening! So awesome. Look forward to following the progress. We have no garden but we’ve got some kale in a pot that somehow lasted all winter. Agree with SRB that kale is the best.

    May 15, 2014
  9. misfit #

    I did an intense amount of memorization to get through the ‘stans in college. I could say that tackling that without a test being graded would like sitting next to someone clipping their nails in public. Unpleasant enough to avoid it.

    May 20, 2014

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