Thursday, March 29, 2012

Okra odyssey

Last year our okra plants were out of this world in robust productivity.  I planted about 15 plants into our horseshoe shaped grapefruit tree bed and they loved it there.  Of course we had a few minor issues at first, the most notable was that the resident Border Collie failed to see why she could not just hurl herself through this bed several times a day, knocking over and crushing the little plants.

My solution to the 'dog hazard' was to make circular cages from short pieces of wire fencing.  These little cages stood at most about 2ft tall, but they were exactly what was needed to dissuade the rampaging Border Collie.  Unfortunately for her, she failed to notice them the first day they were up and hurled herself into the garden with her normal robust vigor.  I was in the garden and I heard a loud "Ooof!" - but fortunately not a yelp.  You can be sure I checked her over for any scratches.  We always make sure there are no sharp edges or poking tines to any of our garden installments due to oblivious Border Collies. Life is better when you have puncture free dogs.

The wire cages are hard to see but this is what it took to make this garden bed Border Collie proof.

So the little okra cages did the job and even seemed to lend some support to the gangly okra adolescent plants.  Mind you, I had to frequently extract leaves that got caught in the confines of the cage when they were all at a certain height and putting out their first adult sized leaves.  Once they were past that stage the cages provided continued protection to their trunks.

 Here they are at around four feet tall and less than half their eventual size.

This was good because it turns out that okra is some sort of doggie lure.  Our Westie has long been an okra connoisseur, especially to the long tough inedible things okra pods become if you forget to pick them for a day or two past their prime.  Not only did our okra patch provide us all with food but also a constant supply of home grown dog toys.

According to the resident dogs, this is a lure, food and toy all in one.
Once your dog knows that something he or she wants grows on a plant in the garden, then good luck in convincing them to leave that plant alone.  This was especially true of the Westie once he discovered cherry tomatoes.  He would watch me picking them and I like a good Mommie would give him a fresh picked tomato.  He being no dummy began to harvest his own which resulted in us having to fence off all the tomato plants one year.  Being naturally color blind he could not see which tomatoes were ripe and it always took him a few tries before he understood the smell of the ripe ones in order to make the best selection.  This meant he would pull off any tomato, cherry or other types before they were ripe and then act disgusted with the results.

What a ripe cherry tomato looks like to you and I.

What a ripe cherry tomato looks like to a Westie (color not as vibrant).

Last year we put our tomatoes behind the dog proof fence, but planted about a half dozen volunteer cherry tomato plants where the dogs could get to them.  Farmer Westie was in heaven and when his crop began to come in I took time to re-instruct him on which ones were ripe.   After that he would check his plants every day smelling for the ripe ones and picking his crop.  The Border Collie, being no dummy herself watched his every move and soon she too began to look for ripe tomatoes.

What a ripe cherry tomato looks like to a Westie nose.

Farmer Westie also remembered the okra pods from years past and began paying special attention to the juvenile okra plants.  He found that if a branch from the okra plant was just the right height, he could pluck off his own pod.  It took me a couple of days of looking at these truncated okra pods before I figured out what kind of disease was affecting my plants.  It was a bad case of "Westie-blight".

What the immature okra pod looks like if it survives the onslaught of dog.
His interest aroused the interest of the taller Border Collie who discovered that okra flowers taste great - this again took me a few days of trying to figure out why we weren't having any new pods and why all the petals were falling off the okra blooms.  A bad case of "Border Collie-bloom rot".

This year I have wised up - no matter what happens to the okra plants I am going to blame it on the dogs.

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