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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

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Baby Summer Squash

One of my favorite things about gardening is that you get to watch your food as it grows. First the unrecognizable cotyledons emerge from the soil, giving way to tiny but perfectly formed first leaves. The leaves grow and from the stem emerges more and more leaves, as if by magic. Out of nowhere, flowers appear. With many vegetables and fruit plants, this is where the real enchantment begins. We all know how babies are made, and even with food the process it is essentially the same. The only difference is, you actually get to see the new life form from the very beginning. The most observant will marvel at the miniature version of their anticipated food swelling almost imperceptibly behind the spent flower after fertilization. It’s difficult not to get excited at this point, even though you know that any number of factors may cause the demise of your infantile veggies.

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Baby Bean

At this point there is not much you can do except water your plants and keep close watch, to make sure they are not getting any unwanted attention from the more unsavory garden inhabitants. If you are lucky, your tender young fruits and veggies will continue the soak up the sun and rain and divide their cells in just the right way to become the final, grown-up version of themselves. And that’s when you think back and can hardly believe that they use to be just an inch long and so darned cute.

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Baby Zucchini

But even as they grow, it’s impossible to tell just how they will turn out in the end, which is another wonderful thing about gardening. Instead of the picture perfect produce stacked in pyramids at your local grocery store, the food that emerges from your garden is uniquely shaped by the land and the air and the sun from which it was made. They have a wholesomeness and, almost, a personality gained from the way they were raised and the conditions which were provided to them. (Which makes you wonder how the grocery stores manage to get all their vegetables to look exactly the same.) Real food isn’t perfect; real food is crooked, and knobby, and sometimes not quite the color you were expecting. Real food can’t be stacked perfectly, and isn’t bred for the purpose of surviving cross-country shipments. Real food comes out of the earth, covered in dirt and munched on by bugs. And it tastes damn good.

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Weird Tasty Carrot Mutants

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It’s a simple life I live, but one full of happy moments. Here are just a few that made their way onto my camera this week:

1. Sharing the Cozy Chair.

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2. Rainy days at home.

DSCN25433. My merry minstrel.

DSCN27474. Optimistic tomatoes.

DSCN27505. Surprise white bleeding hearts.

DSCN27536. The best scones ever. (Archer Farms!)

DSCN27627. My garden’s first flower.

DSCN27648. Pointy ears.

DSCN27659. A beautiful view on a gorgeous 70-degree day.

DSCN276810. Mulberry season.DSCN277011. Anything Charley Harper.DSCN277312. Foster kids.DSCN2777

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Last year was such a horrible season for bugs. They stripped my entire crop of bean plants down to bare stems almost overnight, and when I tried to replant, they simply did it again, ninja style, so that I didn’t even know what I was up against. So this spring, when I noticed holes appearing in my young bean plants, I kept a close eye out. Sowbugs (aka roly-polies) and slugs were the main culprits. There wasn’t much I could/can do about the sowbugs, aside from trying to eliminate the moist, shadowy areas where they congregate under planks of wood and rocks and the like. Avoiding watering in late afternoon might help by eliminating the chance for soggy soil during the darker hours when they get to work.

As for the slugs, I considered a few choices. Diotomaceous earth is supposed to be very effective in keeping slugs out of the garden. Made of microscopic glass-like organisms (diatoms), this fine dust scratches the tender undersides of slugs and makes it difficult for them to cross it. However, most of the stuff I found at the garden centers had very dubious labeling, and I couldn’t tell if what I was preparing to buy was actually organic, or just pretending to be organic, or if it had other more toxic stuff mixed in.

I decided to go with another approach that I had always read about but never tried. (Okay, I admit, I salted a few slugs, but that was only because it was a Sunday and I couldn’t buy any liquor.)

The best approach to catching and killing slugs is by intoxicating them. Simply find a dish at least half an inch deep, and sink it into the ground til it is level with the soil. Fill it with beer (I find that the cheaper beers tend to have better results). The next morning, you are bound to have a dish full of slugs who couldn’t resist the temptation and ended up drowning themselves in a drunken stupor. Not only is it effective, but the mere idea is entirely amusing.

Tip: try covering your beer trap with something that the slugs can easily crawl under, but will still protect the trap from rain, or from curious dogs who will eat or drink pretty much anything. I’ve been using a piece of broken flower pot, which has worked great. And if you are like me and forget to bring your ceramic pots inside for the winter, then I am sure you have plenty of broken crockery to work with.

Drink up, slugs!

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Though everything is coming along nicely, so far my garden has produced nothing but a ton of radishes. I’ve eaten them raw, roasted them, sauteed them with their greens, and chopped them to garnish salads. They’re so easy to grow that I just keep planting more, even though I’m starting to get pretty tired of them. Does anyone have any delicious and unique radish recipes I could try? If not, I’m just going to keep feeding them to Moose.

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I’m going to be taking a digital vacation for the month of April. That is, I’m going to be stowing away my laptop and focusing on other hobbies and interests for those 30 days. I have been spending far too much time staring at screens lately, and I need a chance to get away and let my mind wander. I need to chase down a little inspiration, and breathe some life back into this existence of mine. One can gather a lot of dust while sitting in front of a computer screen.

But before I go, I would like to post some final late-winter images before the world explodes with green growing things. The promise of a fresh start continues to creep up ever so slowly…

sycamore grove weed flowers new raspberry canes seedlings emerge DSCN2402

See you in May!

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If you live in Indiana and haven’t already started your indoor seedlings, now is the perfect time to start! We are about 6 or 7 weeks out from our last expected frost date, so it’s time to give your tomatoes a head start.

I headed out for some seed starting supplies this afternoon. With sunny skies and temps nearing the 50s, I had to get some gardening done before winter storms come again. Since the stores no longer sell my preferred Jiffy peat pellets (and my online order was never delivered) I had to settle for the newfangled Burpee seed starting kits that seem to be popular now. I can’t say that I am a fan at all. For one, they are not self-contained like the convenient Jiffy pellets. For another, you have to have the Burpee pellets oriented correctly in their pots (flat side down), but as soon as you add water to them they start to float and, of course, roll into the completely wrong position and end up expanding into an awkward sideways lump that threatens to punch through the sides of the peat pot.

Anyway. That’s my rant for the day. I don’t know why Burpee suddenly has a monopoly on seed starting supplies, but if you have a week to spare I would recommend ordering the Jiffy pellets online.

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I also seized the opportunity to begin my early spring crops out in the makeshift cold frame. The old windows seem to be doing the trick, as the soil inside the frame was quite warm at least two inches down. This will be perfect for germinating my first vegetables of the season.

DSCN2378Two rows each of radishes, carrots, and spinach are now nestled in their moist little bed, just waiting for the right moment to make their appearance. As you can see, the windows are doing a great job of locking all that humidity and sunlight energy inside where the seeds can use it. I can’t wait to see how things progress!


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Jerry-rigged Gardening

DSCN2242 I threw together a makeshift cold frame today, using some old storm windows that have been lying around in the garage. They fit almost perfectly over the existing bed, with enough space underneath to get some seedlings going before the weather turns for the better. 2013’s first cold season crop is coming soon!DSCN2238

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