second blight, second nature

First the spaghetti squash went, shriveling into a ghastly shadow of their former selves, and the tomatoes quickly followed. Was it the rain? Insects? Mold? Despair? Suicide?

For anyone interested in helping me diagnose my plants, it happened like this: one morning I woke up and found all of the plants had wilted. There were brown blotches on the stems, and the fruits had turned hard and brown.

Just as the tomatoes went, I started reading Michael Pollan’s book about gardening: Second Nature. I wasn’t expecting it to be a page-turner—who expects any book about gardening to be a page turner?—but it really was. More than a gardening manual (though you might pick up a tip or two of you’re paying careful attention), it is a philosophical workbook for those interested in tending vegetables, lawn, or forest.

With a section devoted to each season, Pollan examines questions about morality, metaphor, and culture as they relate to gardening. Fascinating questions, and I dare say, rather important. Between the questions about the appropriate level of intervention in a garden (or a park or a preserved forest) and musings on the stories trees have to tell us is the notion that humans should stop considering themselves as opposed to nature, as outside of it. Because, as Pollan often points out, if we are to find a way to preserve human life on this planet, we are going to need to develop an entirely new relationship to it, to learn to see ourselves as part of it and it as a part of us.

Second Nature is a book of questions and interesting conversation starters. Even if—or perhaps especially because—his style of gardening is so different than mine. For example, in a discussion of weeds, Pollan’s list of adversaries mirrors almost exactly the list of plants I’d like to meet in the surrounding land. Though he at first attempts to let weeds live alongside what he’s planted, when he comes to the conclusion that it is his responsibility to get rid of the weeds (in order to enrich the lives of the plants he has planted) he does so without ever even briefly mentioning (noticing?) how useful the plants he’s decided to oust can be.

Later in the book, he plants an “ornamental herb garden” whose contents I see as anything but ornamental. And yet it does not seem to occur to him that he can actually use the plants whose appearance and scent so please him. But this is an intelligent man we are talking about, so maybe he (or his editor) just didn’t feel like talking about harvesting rosemary and sage.

But reading Second Nature remained exciting, providing me with questions to chew on while I’m ripping the corpses of my tomatoes and squash out of my own small garden bed and hope for what will inevitably be a completely different season next year.

This post was a part of the Garden Life Series at No Ordinary Homestead.

0 Comments on “second blight, second nature

  1. Hey nikki, on the matter of your tomatoes: i’m very positive that this is phytophtora infestans (german braun- und krautfäule, english people seem to go by the latin name). there ist a lot of info onlne, e.g. most importantly, you want to keep potatoes and tomatoes apart. this reduces the chance of an infection but with a summer as wet as this one, this seems to be happening to everyone.
    wiki also tells me that the orange edible flowers from the post below are called Tropaeolum majus (Garden Nasturtium, Indian Cress or Monks Cress // Kapuzinerkresse in german). wiki told me that ‘kress’ is ancient german for orange.

  2. And it wasn’t from lack of water? I would guess some kind of root problem, if the whole plant just up and died all at once. Have you pulled one up to have a look? There’s all sorts of things that can cause root rot.

  3. It DEF wasn’t from lack of water. All summer long it has rained torrentially almost every single day. The roots don’t appear to be rotted in any way. Will have to look at them again though, I haven’t pulled out all of the plants yet.

  4. Does anyone who touches the plants smoke (tobacco)? Tobacco mosaic virus is a terrible blight, very contagious, and carried in just about all tobacco products. Smokers should wash thoroughly before handling tomatoes/related plants.

  5. wow! too sad! bad news, whatever that stinking blight or disease is, how are the tomato fruit themselves, can you ripen or salvage, my eyes are not so good, can’t quite make them out

  6. Tess: The tomato fruits themselves all turned brown and hard. No harvest for me. Sniff sniff.

    Uhu: Didn’t grow any potatoes, so that isn’t an issue. Will have to see some more pictures of what you think caused it. From those on Wiki it doesn’t look like it. On mine the leaves had no spots (just the brown blotches on the stems), just wilted over night. Will have to look at some more photos.

    G: Yes, someone who smokes tobacco has handled the plants. But someone who smokes tobacco has handled every crop of tomatoes I’ve ever grown, so I am having a hard time believing that’s the cause. But you never do know.

  7. Mine did the same thing and then someone told me that it is impossible to grow tomatoes here in Germany without a plastic roof over them. Otherwise, they get too much rain and rot.

  8. Google pic search is your friend in this case (“Phytophthora tomato”): all them tomatoes look just as unhappy as yours. The spots seem to be more typical for potatoes, I guess…

  9. Clickclackgorilla, your soil has probably been poisoned, as has much soil all over the globe, by chemtrails. Many suggest this is a huge monsanto-inspired conspiracy to force people to buy their GM seeds which are immune to the aluminium and barium poisoning destroying most traditional crops. You will get the full picture by watching this full-length detailed documentary:

  10. I have seen and photographed the same in many areas of mid Germany. All since this spring plants are sickening and dying. Many people in my village have scrapped their crops… all make traditional explanations – too hot, too cold, its this blight or another deficiency – but considering it all over with so many species affected Id give the most blame to Fukushima radiation and perhaps Barium and Aluminum etc from Chemtrails, which may also be spraying other diseases and infections.Made a video – no time for more Glad finally to see others noticing! . Cheers

  11. Definitely looks like “late blight” — We had that two years ago and it robbed us of our huge, beautiful tomatoes just before they started to turn red. It’s super common here in Germany and just about everyone gets it. You probably noticed me talking about it in last week’s Garden Life that you linked up to. It totally sucks a fat one! Growing them under a roof or spraying them with chemicals seems to be the only way to avoid getting it. And you can’t plant tomatoes there again for the next few years — nor should you put those plants into your compost because it will just be passed on.

    Someone on my blog recommended looking for heirloom tomatoes native to Germany — if/when I discover a source of heirloom ANYTHING in Germany, I’ll let you know. 😉

    So glad you linked up.

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