Happy Mother’s Day 2014

Dan made me breakfast.

Elly gave me a beautiful necklace and pin.

I spent the rest of the day in the place where I hope to spend every Mother’s Day: my garden.

I planted the after-frost seeds today, inserted all the cages and frames, and laid down the soaker hose system.

I purchased my soaker hose system from Gardeners Supply Company. It is worth its weight in gold, especially since I detest standing over a garden in the heat holding a hose. With the soaker system, I just attach our hose, turn the water on and walk away for 2 hours. It’s a thing of beauty and the only reason my garden survives the long, hot summer.

Vegetable and Herbs in my grow beds and garden bed this year:

Asparagus
Strawberries
Tomatoes, of course
Jalapenos
Parsley
Basil
Zucchini
Cucumbers
Spinach
Swiss Chard
Rhubarb
Marigold
Chives
Thyme
Sage
Rosemary
Lavender
3 different kinds of mint for tea
Lemon balm

Gosh, when I write it all down, it looks like I went and lost my mind. It should be noted that the asparagus, rhubarb, chives, thyme, sage, rosemary, lavender, mint and lemon balm are all perennials and thus require little to no effort. All I have to do is keep the weeds at bay. Here’s hoping our local shop hurries up and fixes Dan’s lawn mower soon. I could use some grass clippings to mulch around all the plants and help discourage the weeds.

After a day of gardening, I am sore and a little chewed upon thanks to the swarm of gnats that followed me everywhere. It was a wonderful day though.

I hope your Mother’s Day was just as wonderful!

Sunday Snapshots (of tomatoes)

The prize jewel of my garden every year is my tomatoes.

I loved eating the spinach, swiss chard and zucchini. The peas were OK though I will likely never grow them again since the shelling was more work than I liked. I can’t wait to try fresh corn. Yet, nothing holds a candle to a fresh tomato.

It doesn’t matter that nobody agrees with me. Both Dan and Elly won’t eat fresh tomatoes. They have to be cooked up into something – anything – first before they will touch my tomatoes. Fools. Yet, I suppose it means more for me and that is just fine.

It has been a year now since I have had to purchase spaghetti sauce or tomato soup. It didn’t take me long to become completely spoiled by the taste of fresh tomato sauce. So, I wasted no time in pulling out the canning pot this year and processing the first batch of tomatoes.

Hooray! My Garden is Growing!

Barely.

Seeds have only just started to poke their heads out of the ground, but I am already dancing for joy!

Spinach!

Swiss Chard!

Asparagus!

Peas!

Carrots that Elly and I planted last Fall!

Unfortunately, I need to remove the lion’s share. One, they are growing too close together and two, I need room to plant seeds of corn.

Other plants require less squinting to find, such as the garlic and herbs.

Just this past week, I tossed the dried thyme in my spice rack because the thyme in my garden is available year round. And fresh is better.

Soon I will be able to toss the rosemary too. Even though it dies back in the winter, I can whip out my dehydrator and dry my own supply in the Fall before the first freeze.

It’s rewarding and really fun to reap what you sow.

Grass Mulch

It is a goal of ours to eventually replace all the grass in our front lawn with trees, bushes and an overabundance of ground cover plants.

Dan hates to mow. He especially hates to mow under the low hanging branches of all the dogwood trees. Apparently, it is difficult to get the mower underneath the tree to cut the grass without getting whacked in the head.

Perhaps most importantly, we don’t use the lawn in the front yard. It is strictly for decoration. The backyard is where we play, lounge about and run barefoot.

Slowly but surely, I am eating all the grass up with my ever-expanding vegetable garden and miniature trees.


Japanese Maple and Japanese Stewartia trees
When I am 100, they might be as tall as me. Which is to say, they are terribly slow growing.

In the meantime, the grass is earning its keep by providing free mulch.

Dan saves the grass clippings for me every time he mows. The grass mulch is used all over the yard, but most heavily in the vegetable and herb gardens.

How My Garden Grows

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
How Does Your Garden Grow? 

Perhaps I’ve been reading too many Mother Goose rhymes.

My garden looks like it isn’t growing at all.

It always looks horrible in the Spring. The few seeds that have been planted are still buried under the earth and the warm weather plants, like tomatoes and watermelon, won’t be planted until Mother’s Day.

This year, the garden is actually looking better than normal for at least the garlic is growing.

Like every previous year except the year Elly was born, the vegetable garden has been expanded. A new grow bed was added in front. (We use this model and this model). It will house asparagus, eventually, since asparagus takes a year or two before it produces a good crop.

 

If all seeds and plants take in my vegetable garden, I will be able to harvest the following: spinach, swiss chard, corn, tomatoes, parsley, basil, peas, zucchini, garlic, two types of mint, blueberries, strawberries, pumpkins, watermelon and a few other herbs.

Elly has asked for broccoli. I might squeeze in one plant just for her.

And to think that I hated gardening 8 years ago. Ha!

Come On Spring!

Winter needs to leave now. The cold weather is keeping me from my garden. Seeds for the garden arrived 2 months ago, but it’s still too cold to plant them.

The cold weather is NOT keeping Elly from doing what she loves to do:

playing in her sandbox

(note the boots)

and swinging

Balls of steel my girl has!

Makings of a Proper Root Cellar

When I was growing up, I remember our basement having a small room off of the main area. The room was lined with shelves. By the end of summer, those shelves held what looked like thousands of Mason jars. All of the jars held pickles.

I thought it was silly for several reasons.
1. I don’t like pickles.
2. You could buy pickles at the grocery store.
3. We didn’t have a vegetable garden. So, the cucumbers had to be bought and then pickled.
4. It looked like a lot of work, especially when you take into account #2.

And here I am many years later stocking my shelves in the basement with the very same Mason jars.

But, I have a an excuse or two.

I do have a garden.
This has been my best year ever for tomatoes. I can’t possibly eat them all. Although my intention was to freeze all the spaghetti sauce and tomato soup, my freezer is pretty full. Boy, do I regret buying the smaller size now. It seemed like a good idea 5 years ago, but 5 years ago I didn’t have a garden or a reason to stock pike my freezer with ready-made meals.

Thus, my shelves got a good wash down this past weekend. I wasn’t about to put my pretty Mason jars down on dusty shelves. And since it’s only early August, I expect my shelves to be full by the time Fall rolls in.

I suppose the apple never does fall far from the tree.

Harvesting Onions

This is the 3rd year I have tried to grow onions.

Three times is a charm.

Not only did they grow well but I also didn’t lose a 1/3 of them in the drying process.

Here’s what I’ve learned about growing and harvesting onions.

Soil is important. I amended the soil with compost. I had done so before, but this year I increased the amount of compost twofold. It mattered. This is the largest they have ever grown.

Mulch is necessary. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I used grass clippings. Yet, it helped retain the water that the soaker hose or Mother Nature delivered.

Air flow is essential in the drying process. The previous two times, I had laid the onions out on our front porch. They got a lot of sun thanks to the southern exposure, but there is very little airflow due to brick wall. This year, I laid them in the garden for a few days before transferring them to the chaise lounge.

Total onions lost in the drying process: 1. It was eaten by a bug.

Now to make my favorite onion dish, onion tart.

My Biggest Garden Yet

After 2 years of neglecting my garden (pregnancy and Elly’s 1st year kept me busy), I made up for lost time this year.

Not only did I fill the 3 raised garden beds, purchased from Garden Supply Co, with the following vegetables and herbs:
Spinach
Tomatoes
Parsley
Basil
Curry
Carrots
Peppers
Zucchini
Onions,
But I also made a herb bed.

The herbs I chose to plant are all perennials (the annuals went in the raised beds).
Rather than start from seed as I did in the raised beds, I purchased saplings from my local nursery, Achin Back. The following herbs were planted:
Lavender
Rosemary
Sage
Thyme
The chives were originally in the raised beds, but I moved them over to allow more room for vegetables.

Then, because I lost my mind, I made a strawberry patch and a pumpkin patch.

OK. So, this patch looks nothing more than cleared land with some flowers and mulch, but trust me there are at least 70 seeds just under the soil. If they all take, I’ll be doing a bunch of thinning. Goodness knows, I don’t need 70 pumpkins.

And this doesn’t look like a strawberry patch either, but you have to trust me on this one too. The green plants under the lilac bushes are wild strawberries. The itty bitty strawberries that do ripen are disgusting. So, my goal is to let the strawberry plants that I picked up from my local nursery to take over this bit of land.

Here’s hoping.

Even more exciting, I’ve already reaped what I sowed. On Mother’s Day, I made a spinach and strawberry salad with spinach from my garden. It was delicious.

Tomorrow I plan to make a pesto from the spinach.

Optimism Required

I’ve read that in order to be a farmer, one has to be an optimistic person.

It’s easy to understand why.

Any person who believes that these boxes of bare earth will bear oodles of vegetables by summer/fall needs to see the glass as half full.

Motivation doesn’t hurt either. There is much work to be done before I can plant the first seeds and take the first step in creating my dream veggie garden.

Fingers are crossed that Elly is old enough to help or at least willing enough to play nearby while I do all the work. Last year, gardening was a tag team effort. I invited my neighbor to sit with us whenever we were outside gardening. She would inevitably catch Elly trying to sneak off to the school playground a block away.