Archive for May, 2012

I never dreamed that growing beans would be so instantly gratifying. It’s only been one day since my first beanlings broke ground, and I already have rows and rows of sturdy plants!

In an effort to be more progressive, I’ve planted heirloom beans (how ironic is that?) that I ordered from Seed Savers Exchange. Heirloom seeds are seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation, just like our great-grandparents used to do. They are special because they produce plants that will produce actual viable seeds! If that sounds like a no-brainer, I will tell you that it’s not easy these days to find seeds that are so magical. The hybrid varieties I buy at the local hardware store will produce seeds, but they are, sadly, just duds.

I have a little fantasy of some day becoming an heirloom bean farmer. How much greater could life get? These bush beans I grow will need no trellises or staking. They grow fast (as you can see) and are prolific. Their magical fruits are delicious, colorful, fun to harvest, nutritious, and easy to store. Perhaps some day, when my student loan balance reaches zero, you will see me peddling my vast collection of beans at the local farmers’ market.

For now, I chose four varieties for my initial foray into bean farming:

Black Valentine: this is a standard black bean, which grows pods that can be eaten green as green beans (duh), or can be left to dry and harvested as individual black gems.

Ireland Creek Annie: This is actually an English bean with a lovely pale yellow color. I chose it because, according to the package, it “makes it’s own thick sauce when stewed.” Sounds great for bean soup!

Jacob’s Cattle: This is your typical Northeastern baked bean, which was originally cultivated by Native Americans in Maine. I liked the red and white pattern reminiscent of a speckled horse.

Bumble Bee: Need I say more? I’d like to say these are yellow beans with black stripes, but alas they were named instead for their big, bulbous, bumblebee shape. Even so, the name alone is worth the effort to grow it.

There’s just something inexplicably fun about growing beans. If anyone wants to give it a try, I have plenty of seeds left over!

Stay tuned for more about beans. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Normally I’m pretty impatient with my garden’s progress, but I can’t argue with these results! The root crops are coming along quite well. Even the radishes are starting to look radishy:

The raspberries are coming along nicely, and the pumpkin patch is simply flourishing.

Every day I come home from work, lug my things out of my car, and head straight to the garden to poke and prod. It’s my meditative way of unwinding after a long or stressful day.

What did I discover today? Dozens of bean seedlings, pushing through the earth just six short days after they were planted! Just yesterday I was digging little holes in the bean bed to see if any of them were germinating. Lo and behold, overnight they decided to make a surprise appearance.

Equally as exciting, the potatoes are beginning their grand climb skyward, making delicious potential potato energy as they go.

Sometimes I fuss too much over my precious plants. I’m currently paranoid that my tomatoes and sweet peppers are suffering from sharing a yard with the black walnuts. Even though they are placed 50 feet from the nearest tree trunk, and are enclosed in their own little self-watering environments, I’m convinced that they are looking “wilty” and malnourished. I am probably anxious about nothing, considering that they actually look pretty good. But a good plant mother has to find something to worry over. Besides, these things cost me $5 apiece!

Only time will tell for my delicate garden residents. After all, the best way to become a good gardener is through trial and error. I hope that in another ten days I can report back with good news about all my green endeavors.

Oh, and Evie says hi.


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I should probably take off my ring before I go playing in the dirt…

But then I’d never get to wear it!



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This has officially been the craziest spring on record. Incredibly mild March days gave way to frosty April nights, which so far have given way to intermittent torrential downpours and almost 90-degree weather in this lovely Indiana May.

I’m still a gardening amateur, so the wonky weather has gotten me a little off my game. Many of my seedlings, which were happily hardening off in the balmy April afternoons, did not survive a few sudden frosts. Admittedly, I had even already planted a few morning glories out by the ugly fence, in the hopes that they would get a head start on their cover-up job. The shock was too much, and they simply stopped growing.

Meanwhile, I enthusiastically awaited the arrival of my prized botanical possession this year: two raspberry plants! They arrived in a cardboard box, basically just two sticks with roots wrapped in plastic. I very lovingly and carefully planted them in the ground, and marveled at their beauty:

Okay, so they weren’t much to look at. But I knew they held potential. I knew, that is, until one day I came home and found both my precious canes whittled down to the ground by ravenous rodent teeth. I wondered whether it would be better to dig up the damaged canes and start anew, but I decided to wait and see what would happen. After all, I reasoned, these plants are meant to be cut back to the ground after every growing season, so perhaps, just maybe, they could grow back from almost nothing this season? Pretty please?

After a week or so of painful anticipation, my plan worked! The raspberries are growing fresh new canes (like I knew they would) from the base of the half-masticated nubs.


As the weeks have passed and Mother Nature is trying to pull herself together, the new garden is starting to fall into some sort of order. We now have, from left to right:

Farmer Ollie, Earth Boxes for tomatoes and peppers, a potato cage, a preliminary pumpkin patch, and two (for now) garden beds!

Let me introduce you to each in more detail.

When Farmer Ollie is not reposing peacefully, he can be found carefully making the rounds among the grounds with a watchful eye. He tests the soundness of every structure, tends to any pests, and may even do a little digging and watering of his own from time to time. Without him, the garden would be a little less green and a lot less gray.

Our Earth Boxes, courtesy of Theresa, are solely for the purpose of growing those plants which are susceptible to juglone poisoning. As I have mentioned before, many plants will suddenly wilt and die as they are growing in proximity of black walnut trees. Since we have two such lovely trees in our backyard, I have planted the sweet peppers, tomatoes, and a few miscellaneous plants in these special planters. I have placed them close to the rest of the garden, but outside the drip line of the black walnut branches. Hopefully, this will do the trick to keep them protected and healthy.

The potato cage is an interesting experiment. I headed to the hardware store, originally intending to make four small garden beds from untreated wood. The idea was to stack more wood beds on top of these as the plants grew higher, thus maximizing my ultimate potato yield. As I pondered the prices of lumber, however, something about the math didn’t make sense. I would end up spending upwards of $100 just on wood to grow potatoes, which sell, even at the farmers’ market, for much less.

Instead, I decided to try out a less attractive but relatively inexpensive approach. $15 for a 10-foot roll of hardware cloth was all I ended up needing to buy. I put down newspaper to act as a weed barrier, and placed about a dozen potatoes of different varieties directly onto the newspaper bed. With the 3-foot high hardware cloth staked into something of a circular shape around all this, I could then dump a few bags of delicious top soil, peat moss, and composted manure on top of the taters. As the potato plants break through the soil and begin to climb skyward, I can pile up more soil and straw around the stems to keep them producing all summer long.

Fingers crossed!

The pumpkin patch isn’t much to shout about—yet. I just happened to have a large patch of soil that wasn’t being used for anything, and ย this pumpkin seedling was one of the few that survived the Seedling Frost Massacre of April. So now it’s a big patch of soil with a tiny green thing sticking out of it, with a wooden stake close by to make sure that no one accidentally steps on it. I’m looking forward to big things from this little afterthought addition to the garden.

The garden beds are, of course, an important component of our garden. This is my raspberry bed, can’t you tell? I decided to go ahead and plant some small root crops on either side of the raspberry canes, since they don’t need all that space yet. The turnips, radishes, and beets are doing great (though I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with all of them). I also planted a row of carrots, which are slower to grow but coming along at their own pace. All in good time.

The second bed, not pictured, is currently empty. With my next paycheck I will be able to afford the nearly half ton of soil that will be needed to fill it. This bed is reserved for my heirloom bean garden. And maybe even a few corn stalks. Excitement!

Even more excitement is brewing beyond the borders of the garden.

My zinnia and marigold seedlings are awaiting their annual Mother’s Day transplant across town.

More seeds are quietly germinating, to replace those lost last month.

And a new generation of morning glories are braving the fierce weather, giving me a reason not to tear down the ugliest fence ever.

Grow, my minions, grow!

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