Today is a welcome rainy day. Welcome to me so that I have an excuse to be somewhat lazy, and welcome to my poor garden because I haven’t watered it in…let’s just say a very long time. I admit that most gardening is well out of my skill set. I am not a natural by a long shot. If the green thing can’t survive on little water and even less attention, it really shouldn’t be near me. I have a sheffalera (“Mr. Plant”) that has been around longer than I have. I think I’m its 3rd or 4th home and we get along great. He seems to like the kids well enough and generally the dogs ignore him. Monkey does like to do the drive-by defoliating trick every now and again, but Mr. Plant seems to see that as a reason to sprout a new leaf. He’s so optimistic–maybe I should pay more attention to him. Beyond Mr. Plant, though, I probably have one or two other leafy beings that have figured out life as a plant in my house and do just fine. But gardening…
There are many gardeners in my family. I am not one of them, but I’m trying. We live in the country and our back yard is more than big enough for a good size kitchen garden. Once grocery prices went way up and seemed to stay there, it seemed to make sense to start building my gardening muscles. As I am wont to do with every new thing I try, I picked up a book. I don’t think I could function without reference material handy even if I don’t read every page. Next thing was to pick a spot. It couldn’t be so far away that the hose wouldn’t reach, but in a nice sunny spot. Behind our screen house attached the the back of the barn was the perfect location. It wouldn’t make mowing the grass too tough and it was close to a door to make getting supplies and veggies back and forth reasonable. Plus, I could put the composter right near it too. Next we took the railroad ties that were used to border a deathtrap swing set we finally pitched and moved the whole rectangle over to the garden site. Over the next few weeks I worked at de-sodding the area for about an hour a day. I broke it up into 3 plots of 4 feet x 8 feet with 2 1-foot wide aisles in between to be able to work easily inside. I put new soil down in each of the plots and mulch down in between then. While all of this was going on, I thought about what I would want to eat and had a pretty long list of veggies to choose from.
Sadly, I got to the nursery somewhat late in the season, so my choices were limited. I ended up with eggplant, zucchini, roma and cherry tomatoes, cukes, sweet basil, pumpkin, cantaloupe, and jalapeno seedlings that the woman gave me for free because they looked rather droopy and forlorn. When I got everything into the ground, this is what it looked like:
Tomatoes, basil, zucchini and cukes on the left. Eggplant and chilies (and cherry tomatoes once I found them) in the middle, and melon and pumpkins (and later spinach from seeds) on the right. Here is another view:
You can see our little red shed over there where K. cleaned the whole thing out and made it a garden tool shed with lots of room for lawn furniture storage too. There are raspberries that grow on the long wall of the red shed, but the dogs destroyed them this year trying to hunt something that was living under the shed. Silly dogs. I would have shared the berries with them too!
We ended up putting up a makeshift chicken wire fence around the whole thing to keep the dogs from running through it and the deer from eating it. I also planted some marigolds to keep something or other away. I’m dubious they did anything besides look pretty, but in they went. I added some organic fertilizer and was pretty good about watering when it needed to be watered although we had a pretty rainy stretch. After a while I was pretty happy with how things were going. Here are some pictures from sometime in July–about a month after planting.
The whole shebang
Zucchini, Roma tomatoes, sweet basil, and cukes that I had planted without any sort of sprouted seeds even though they had probably germinated a bit.
Eggplants, jalapeno peppers, and cherry tomatoes way in the back. I lost the tomato plant for a couple of weeks near the shed while it hid behind a hosta I hadn’t planted yet, but when I found it, I had to make room for it because I had planted the whole rest of the garden already thinking I had left the plant behind at the nursery.
Pumpkins and cantaloupe and the spinach seeds I had tossed in there too. Amazingly they took hold.
And finally some pictures of the start of our modest haul.
Look! It’s edible!
Not fried green tomatoes.
I’d be rather embarrassed to show pictures of what the garden looks like right now if I had any. It’s not pretty anymore. A month or so ago we lost our outside water spigots when our well water pump shorted out our hot water heater for the rest of the house and we had to disconnect the pump so we could do crazy things like bathe in hot water. We are on city water but also have a well which is great for yard work and filling kiddie pools. So at some point I stopped watering and hoped for rain because watering a garden of that size with pitchers is no fun. Once was enough to convince me that hard work gardening was not my thing. At some point the Roma tomatoes ended up with blight and I didn’t get more than say 10 tomatoes total from both plants and they were not terribly juicy or appetizing. The pumpkins never pumpkined although they did flower beautifully and spread like crazy–especially outside of the garden fence. The cantaloupe just didn’t want to do anything. So, this weekend I pulled all those veggies out.
Zucchini’s did fantastic and I was never without–in fact I’m waiting for 3 more to finish growing. Eggplants are still growing like crazy and I’m hoping they’ll survive the frosts which have begun. I love eggplant and can’t wait to make up a few batches of eggplant parm to freeze for the winter. The cukes did really well (in spite of my Dad’s threats of banishing them from the Earth) and we got several pretty good sized ones and a few that grew through the chicken wire. The underdog jalapenos that I got for free from the nursery did amazingly well. I ended up with a couple dozen of them and we used them all summer in our Mexican dishes. Maybe they just needed the proper incentive. What could be better than steak fajitas, I ask?!
I’m pretty satisfied with my first foray into veggie gardening. I’ve learned quite a bit and am already revising plans for next year. I think next time I’m going to pass on the three sections and do one big garden. I’m going to get to the nursery earlier so I can have red and yellow peppers and maybe a little strawberry patch. I’m going to toss this year’s Halloween pumpkins someplace to rot and start its own patch like we accidentally did at our old house with great neglectful success. I think I’ll do more variety and fewer plants and try some different tomatoes. I’ll always have cherry tomatoes though because they are my favorites. I’m also going to try my hand at green beans since we enjoyed the ones from the Farmer’s Market so much all summer. But the item at the top of the list is to call an electrician and have the water pump rewired to its own circuit. I can’t maintain a garden without being able to water it with ease. I know next year I’m not going to have time to be running back and forth from the kitchen. And if all else fails, I’ll be starting a Marigold farm, because that was my best crop of all this year. They liked my yard and survived the dogs’ wrestling through them better than I expected.
Once I finish harvesting the last of the zucchini, eggplants, jalepenos, and cherry tomatoes, I’ve got to prep to close it up for the winter. I think that’s going to mean some compost at the very least, if not a chance to turn the soil over before it freezes. For Christmas last year, I got a Power Plant and attempted to grow some cilantro in it. It grew well, but I didn’t replant it fast enough and the roots all intertwined with the sponge and I was screwed when I went to replant into little pots. I killed all the nice seedlings pretty much immediately. So, my Winter experiment is going to be to work on my timing. I have the perfect window that gets sun all day , so I should be able to grow something. Just need to watch what I’m doing.
And there you have it. My own little “Let’s-Hope-for-A-Victory Garden.”