Friday, August 27, 2010

Adult Pleasures I: Gambling

I recall gambling thrice in my life, though I could be wrong: twice in Central City, Colorado (once with my “in-laws” at the nickel slots armed with $1, which I promptly lost); once with a broad assemblage of Viet’s relatives (again, with nickel slots but armed with $2; as evidence I had no clue what I was doing, I kept feeding the machine, oblivious to the blinking lights, until someone point out I “won” and needed to push a button, at which point a barrage of nickels came pouring out…maybe $50, probably much more as I filled one enormous sized tumbler with my winnings…but which was quickly squandered as relatives dipped into my tumbler and I as became enamored with the idea of winning more); and once in Las Vegas.

Yes, I have a Vegas story, but, as the marketing byline goes…

Oh, who am I kidding?! Here’s my dirty secret: I went to Vegas for a conference and gambled $1 at my hotel, which I lost within seconds. Blegh. Vegas sucks.

I gambled for the 4th time this week.

As I reported, some prized hostas in my rear shade garden have been stricken by a sudden outbreak of the fatal Sclerotium rolfsii, a soil-based fungus. Upon identifying the nodules (the sclerota), I began generously spraying the affected plants with a 10% bleach solution. Unfortunately, I realized that I disposed of all the yellowing leaves from June Plantain hosta in the ground compost pile (which fortunately I had cleaned out and harvested the good compost before I left for Europe). I lifted up the debris and witnessed a festival of white and red-brown sclerota, both ridiculing me for my stupidity and thanking me for adding to their ranks. Nasty.

I felt dirty, robbed, diseased.

My garden: infected. My cleanliness: made a mockery of.

What could I do? In lieu of resorting to fungicides, I decided to gamble.

I first tackled the compost heap and carefully bagged everything. I even scraped the pile down to the hard clay surface, and then exacted my revenge by spraying a 10% bleach solution over the surface, being careful to remove the worms first. I do hope they return.
Next, I set about excavating the affected plants by digging 14 x 14 holes around them (larger than the recommended 8 x 8 holes), carefully removed the root ball and surrounding soil, placed each onto large white bags, and then carefully removed the rotting segments and salvaged the healthy segments.

All horticultural doctor websites recommended removal of all affected plants and soil. But, upon seeing healthy crowns, firm, white and bulbous as could be, with delicious thick yellow-white roots descending from the crown, I concluded that I might actually be catching this fungus early, and so decided to gamble.

June Plantain had two remaining healthy crowns (3 were rotted), while all of Lemon Drop seemed healthy (the sclerota were few, and my shower of bleach, which seems not to have harmed the plant, apparently stymied their sordid deeds and bought me enough time to cleanse the plant of them). I washed the remaining crowns and root systems of all soil, sprayed the plants in their entirety with a 10% bleach solution, and then rinsed them thoroughly. My next act of gambling took the form of situating the plants back where they came (but only after I scraped the sides of the holes and sprayed the bleach solution into the hole and along the sides), along with rich humus and compost mixed with soil.

Thus far, my gamble seems to be paying off. I see no new infections, and the plants, assisted no doubt by the brief spell of cool weather, appear as vibrant as can be expected after such trauma. Of course I can't help but feel a sense of loss, especially when I see older photos of what Lemon Drop and June Plantain once were. But I take heart in being robustly proactive, and remain optimistic. They will return, and they will be gorgeous.

In the meantime, I’ve been inspecting twice a day. And in my “off times,” my little garden helper, Gramsci, keeps watch.

I’ll keep my dear readers posted, as I am sure Gramsci will keep me posted.

** For Judy, whose valor, intelligence, wit, charm and remarkable ability to run 9.5 miles (even while undergoing chemotherapy) inspire. Let's hear it for Judy!! **

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