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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Spring continues to creep up, almost imperceptibly. While out walking Moose on the canal I noticed small colorful waterfowl that hadn’t been there days before when I went out looking for manifestations of spring. And yet, here they were, returning much more surreptitiously than their noisy goose counterparts–wood ducks! I feel a special fondness for the diminutive wood ducks, mainly because I had never seen one in the Midwest until we moved to Rocky Ripple. They seem to like it here as much as I do. I was glad to see their funny little faces again.

Yesterday, I went out to play with Moose in the backyard on a rather gray and gloomy day. Earlier that morning I had had to scrape snow off my car windows before heading out to work. I wasn’t feeling very springy, but the temperature had mellowed out some, and I found myself poking around in the garden. I decided that it was about time I turned the compost pile. Lo and behold, I found dozens of earthworms deep in the thick of the pile, doing their work tirelessly while I thought the whole natural world was in hibernation. Thanks to them, I will have rich fertilizer to spread in my garden beds come May.

While the robins splashed in the puddle at the bottom of my neighbor’s (not well-drained) yard, I made further inspections, eager to spot the very first signs of new growth and promise of fresh food to come. I found several holes in the garden where some animal had pulled up the remaining carrots I had missed months ago. I found one last intact carrot, and was surprised to find that it still tasted great after months of freezing weather. I spotted a few new buds on my peppermint plant, and enjoyed the aroma as I did a little early pruning. It looks as though my peppermint intends to take over the garden bed as soon as possible this year.

I finally pulled up last years weeds and spaded the already-soft soil. Visions of seed packets danced in my head as I realized that I could easily begin planting lettuce, spinach, and more carrots as soon as I could make it to a gardening supply store and back. For now, I just feel refreshed to be getting my hands dirty again.

Spring seems to be coming along quite nicely I think.

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things

Read many, many books.

Grow more flowers than vegetables.

Learn to love the dog, or at least get along with her.

Make many beautiful photographs.

Play. Music, games, whatever.

Attend every social event that presents itself (within reason).

Write more: more blogs, more letters, more journals, more everything.

Give birthday gifts to family members.

Bake more cookies. Nobody ever complained of a surplus of cookies.

Create things to sell at the Rocky Ripple Festival.

Tend a plot in the community garden.

Go camping more often. Even if it’s just in the backyard.

Defy my anxiety (while embracing my mental and emotional needs).

Explore more places alone.

Find new favorite spots to share.

Do something entirely new.

Yoga, every day. There’s just no real excuse.

Seize the day, every day. Even if that means staying in bed with a good book and a steady supply of hot tea.

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Well, you can’t win them all. This summer has been brutal to say the least, with Indianapolis setting it’s all-time record for hottest July in recorded history! That, coupled with a water ban, tripled with rampant insect infestations, has left my garden looking rather sorry.

The stink bugs ravaged the bean field, and even went so far as to annihilate any seedlings that I tried to replant.

A humongous hornworm made short order of all three tomato plants.

And as far as the zucchini, squash, and pumpkin patch are concerned, there’s not even any remaining devastation to show for my troubles.

But it hasn’t all been bad.

The potatoes are still growing quite nicely, and starting to spill over the top of their cage.

A few flowers are managing to bloom.

We came out on top with one nicely sized pumpkin to grace our front porch this fall.

And the raspberries plants have proven once again that nothing can kill them at this point!

I still hold out hopes for some cool-weather crops I have planted, including peas and carrots, as well as some impending spinach.

Even so, the season hasn’t been too much of a bust. The worst failures are great learning experiences, and I’ve learned a few important things through this summer’s tribulation:

1. No more expensive mail-order plantlings. My home-grown seedlings outperform every time, even if I never know what to do with all those extra seeds in the seed packet.

2. Only small tomato varieties for me, from here on out. The cherries grow faster, are much more prolific, and are easier to eat than regular or oversized tomatoes.

3. Next year: pre-order some organic pest control.

4. Get that rain barrel hooked up to a downspout! When you go six weeks without seeing a single good rainstorm, you start to kick yourself for not saving what you once had in abundance.

5. Corn seedlings can use a good covering of chicken wire, to keep out the furry prying hands of squirrels.

6. If you see a big beautiful green caterpillar on your tomato plant, don’t spare it out of hope that it will someday turn into something beautiful. It kills your plants and will reward you with the ugliest moth you have ever seen!

7. Carrots need a lot of water and a lot of patience. But they are always worth it.

8. Ground cherries may be prolific and resistant to pests and diseases, but they don’t taste very good.

9. Eat as many blueberries as you can while they are in season.

10. Don’t think for one second that you can buy produce at the grocery store anymore and not be completely disappointed in its taste.

11. If at first you don’t succeed, plant something else, and water the heck out of it.

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It’s been a little while, so I thought I’d post some photos to mark the progress of our garden. Overall, things are going very well in the new location. The radishes outgrew themselves and have all been roasted or composted by now. (Remind me to post about roasted radishes sometime. They are a delicacy!) The turnips are humongous, and I have to continuously pluck them back so that they don’t crowd out the sunlight from the raspberries and carrots. Considering their size, and after pulling up a baby turnip and tasting it, I don’t think I will ever grow turnips again. It was something like taking a swig of nail polish remover (though I’ve never done that so I can’t quite compare the two). I’m sure a roasted turnip could yield a tastier result, but I will save it for the day when I have extra space to devote to the less desirable edibles. You live and you learn and you taste turnips and you know better for next spring.

The raspberries are still coming along slowly but surely. As long as they don’t die I remain a happy camper/gardener.

The bean bed is my little pride and joy these days. I (reluctantly) thinned them out to about 8 inches between plants, which seems to be a good amount. I’m a believer in packing as much greenery into a growing space as possible, so I like to let my veggies nestle as close together as they can without competing. One of these days I need to get around to reading Mel Bartholomew’s book Square Foot Gardening, to try to pick up a few tips for my method.

Grow, beans, grow! They look as if they might burst into blossom any day now…

The pumpkin is coming along quite happily in his little patch. I keep checking the spent flowers to see if any of them are “pregnant.” So far no baby pumpkin bumps to be seen yet.

The potato cage is filling up fast! With a little help from my next door neighbor I finally tracked down a local bale of straw for sale, and the towering potato plants are now nestled snugly and (I hope) producing lots of tasty little buds. I’m hoping they grow another foot or so before they start flowering. I want to get as much use out of that cage as possible!

Ollie reminds me to include him in the garden update.

I haven’t been able to resist the urge to fill every container I have with soil and find something to plant in it. I now have another dozen potato plants going in 5-gallon buckets, as well as some summer squash and zucchini which are coming along fine. Another EarthBox contains several onions, and several corn plants that survived the onslaught of some furry little digging creature who realized too late that already sprouted corn kernels are not worth the trouble.

Sadly, my heirloom ground cherry that I mail ordered from Seed Savers Exchange never got bigger than about 6 inches tall, but it has been blooming and producing these intriguing papery sheaths with some sort of marble-sized fruit hidden inside. I’m very curious to know what will come of all this. If I like it, I may have to try growing some from seed next season.

And last but not least exciting, my tabletop container herb garden is growing by the day. I’ve been too doting to actually use any of the mature herbs yet, but it is delightful to run my hands over them and take in their amazing scents. This is aromatherapy at it’s finest. And most picturesque.

But all the hard work and busyness has not been relegated merely to the garden lately. My goal for the month of June is to get the majority of the house scraping completed. I’m proud and excited to announce that, just this afternoon, we finished off the South facing side! I’m hoping this will prove to be the hardest side to scrape, because it has been a real pain (quite literally). But it will certainly be worth it in the end, just to get rid of that hideous brown. 🙂

Oh yes, and down there among the paint chips and the barren top soil beside the foundation, is the hope of beauty to come: super-tough nasturtium seedlings are peeking their heads and promising to grace a newly painted house with a little bit of complementary colors.

It’s gonna be good! …eventually.

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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. 🙂

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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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