Thursday, May 24, 2012

Developing my green thumb, part 2

And now for what is definitely one of my favorite parts of being outdoors during the summer: the food garden!

Last year, we went for a relatively simple herb garden, attempted a few plants (like squash, which flowered but gave us no fruit), and grew a bunch of tomatoes.  This year, I felt I had learned a lot from last year's attempts, and I was ready to try a few more ambitious plants.

Because we have such a small plot of land for a garden, I wanted to save that space for the "real" vegetables.  So I moved our herbs up to a box, and made another box of heirloom carrots (more on that in a second).  Here's our herb and veggie setup:

In the herb box (top left) are: basil, dill, chocolate mint, rosemary, onion chives, and Greek oregano.  The oregano is a favorite - nice and spicy!  Below that picture are our strawberries - we don't have enough to actually do anything with them, but they're nice for a treat.  The box on the bottom, which looks a little sad in the picture, is for growing the carrots - they are just tiny sprouts in the pic, but they're coming up a bit more now.

The vegetable garden has: garden peas (back row, can't see them very well yet but they will get huge and start climbing up the trellis), fingerling potatoes (next row up, they are much taller now), onions, broccoli (just 3 - we lost one to slugs before I figured out how to fix that), lettuce, and kale.  The kale looked better in this picture than it looks now - we have an ant problem that seems to be just at the kale, but I think I've fixed that, too.

Thus far, we've just had a few strawberries and a salad with the lettuce.  The rest of the veggies aren't ready yet, but we're excited for when they are!

Now, I said I'd come back to the carrots.  They are a special kind of heirloom carrot (Paris Market), which we ordered from SeedSavers.  The reason for this is, we tried to grow carrots last year and got nothing.  This year, I found a variety that will grow well in carrots - it's short and stumpy, kinda like a radish.  Hopefully, when we're done, they'll look like this:

Weird, right?  I hope they work out and taste awesome - I'm pretty excited about them.

The other things we've got growing are all on the deck, in medium and large pots by their own.  Here's the montage:

They are, clockwise from top left:  green pepper, red pepper, Sweet 100 Cherry, Early Girl (a hybrid - gotta get lots of tomatoes somehow!), Pink Brandywine, yellow cherry, and Black Krim.  We went for a mixture of colors and sizes with the tomatoes - most are heirloom and should taste wonderful, but we did pick a few hybrids to make sure we have some tomatoes at the end of the season.  Not in the picture are the Gold Medal seedlings that just came up, as well as the Mountain Gold VFF-resistant tomato plant we bought last week.

I'm really hoping that by planting a few weeks early this year, we will have lots and lots of tomatoes and veggies to eat throughout the season.  Although gardening is kinda fun, it's much more fun when there's actual food to show for it.

And now I will leave you with a funny garden story:

Last winter, when everything froze and the snow fell in October, I decided I wasn't willing to really work on the garden anymore.  I left everything in the ground over the winter and just waited until spring to pull everything up.  When I was tilling this spring, I came across a scraggly-looking oregano plant in the corner of the garden.  It didn't look too hot, but still had leaves on it, so I figured I'd stick it in a pot and see what happened.  I wish I had a picture so you could see how sad it looked when I pulled it up - but here it is now (actually, it looks even better now than it did when I took this picture):

Apparently, the lesson of gardening is to be as lazy as possible in the winter, and you might have some bonus plants come spring!  This year, I plan to cover all the herb pots with burlap and leave them out for the winter - it seems most of them can over-winter as long as they're covered, and if we have a mild winter again, we may not have to buy any more herbs next year!

I promise to post recipes and updates about the garden this year - hopefully we will have a little more time to devote to our little garden, and we'll get a lot more out of it this summer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Developing my green thumb, part 1

OK, it's finally time for the long-awaited garden post!

This year, spring arrived a bit early, prompting us to start gardening in mid-April.  Sure, we had to move some plants over to the shed for a few nights, and we devised an elaborate covering method for the plants in the ground (using boxes and big rocks), but it was well worth the effort - I think we may actually get food from our garden this year!

First, here's the "good" part of our landscaping setup:

My apologies for the shoddy putting-together of the photos - I hardly have time to put anything together, so this will have to be good enough.  Anyway, this part of the hill is what I worked hardest on last year - the weeding to be done this spring was minimal, and Brendan's dad helped us with putting down the mulch.  We had some beautiful color from the phlox (the pink flowers you can see in the pictures), and everything else seems to be coming along nicely.  I still have no idea what most of these plants are - but that's another post for another day.

And now for the other side: the not-so-nice part of the landscaping:

As you can see, it's a bit of in progress?  Last year I would have said "mess," but the truth is, I've actually done a lot of work over in this area this spring.  This was the corner I never got to last year, and when I started this year, it was an unidentifiable mass of green stuff - mostly weeds.  I just finished weeding last week, and since these pictures were taken, mulch has been put in up to the hibiscus.  We plan on waiting until the hibiscus plants flower, then transplanting some of the ones in the back (the ones that have migrated over time) to the big gap in the middle of the two bushes.  We think that the previous owners of our house had a plan to build a path between the bushes - but we have seen some people cutting through our property as it is, and don't want to encourage that by building an actual path.  A "wall" of hibiscus plants should give us some privacy, which is especially great since our neighbor recently cut down ALL the trees on the side of his property facing ours (and, well, parts that were the town's property, too).

My two favorite plants in our hillside are actually plants that haven't flowered yet this year.  See the ugly pale green plants in the bottom-right corner of the second-to-last picture?  Those are rose campions, and while I think they mostly look like a weed until they flower, they are beautiful when they come out:

And the tiny little green shoots that you can barely see around one of the bushes?  They don't look like much, and also look like weeds when they start coming up, but they are blazing stars:

Those two come out in late summer, but we are also planning on adding some fall color at some point this year.

So there you have it - our humble landscaping garden.  Definitely still needs some work, but I'm proud of all we've accomplished with it this year.  That's enough pictures for this post - but I promise to be back shortly with a post about the actual FOOD garden - my pride and joy!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My favorite food gardening resources

My apologies again for not posting garden pictures - apparently, while I had planned on taking pictures of our beautiful garden, Mother Nature had some other ideas, and it's been raining all week.  I hope to have the time and the right weather to take some shots tomorrow - the peas, potatoes, and tomatoes are all growing quickly now, and I am happy to say I haven't killed anything except one broccoli yet!

For now, please enjoy some of my favorite food-gardening blogs, resources, etc - you never know when you'll need a good resource for troubleshooting your garden!

Better Homes and Gardens

An oldie but a goodie!  I go here all the time for gardening tips and inspiration.  If you have more time (and money) than I, you could use their decorating tips to help design an architecturally beautiful garden - as for me, I just look up how to grow tomatoes and whatnot.  But they have great recipes for what you're growing, too, which will be great when the bountiful produce comes in a few months.


This spring, Brendan and I bought mostly Burpee plants - so it's only fitting that I go there to find growing directions.  As the ridiculously nerdy scientist I am, I made a spreadsheet of all the plants that we're attempting to grow, complete with time until we get fruit and what to do as they keep growing.

The Kitchn - Gardening

I definitely suggest going here for ingenious ideas, ways to be green, and other generally cool things.  The second post on their page right now is about growing green onions on your windowsill, which is an idea I absolutely LOVE because it keeps me from having to buy green onions over and over again.  It looks like their top post right now is about reusing celery, which sounds similar, so lots of great ideas over there!

OK, that's it for now!  If you want to find something more specialized or quirky, may I suggest checking out the list on Apartment Therapy's blog round-up post?  Seems like a lot of good ideas over there, too.

Back soon with actual garden pictures, I promise!