I swear even though it looks like all I do all day is cook, we are soooo much busier than that! Aside from job-hunting (so frustrating) and a host of other projects I’d wanted to finish, I finally got to plant the garden I’ve been dreaming about. Okay, maybe not the garden I’ve been dreaming about, since that distinction is currently given to the beautiful garden in It’s Complicated:
This was obviously not my photo; it's all over the internet, and not the best view of the gorgeous garden at that... Oh, if I only had the room for such a garden!
We have a pretty tiny backyard. It’s got clay soil and either gets a TON of sun or none at all. So it’s a challenge. I gardened back there in 2006 and 2007, but was so incredibly busy in 2008 that what little got planted never got watered (sigh). In 2009 I didn’t even bother.
Unfortunately, weeds took over. In mid-2009, though, hubby and I covered the whole yard with black tarp and left it there. In December, we removed it, in anticipation of the use of his uncle’s roto-tiller (we attempted to work the ground by hand, but it was packed solid). There were a few yellowed strands of crabgrass under the tarp, and unfortunately we got hit pretty hard by an industrious gopher, but overall the whole place looked good. And weed-free.
Sadly, hubby’s uncle’s roto-tiller had to wait; between rain, the holidays, more rain, and his uncle’s schedule, we simply couldn’t get the tilling done. Finally in late March we were able to rent a tiller, but not before we had killed four-foot dandelions (courtesy of all the rain we got during those three months) with boiling water and spent days ripping out the roots (I really really really don’t want to use chemicals – I try to garden organically). I have a photo but I refuse to post it. It’s bad. Really really bad. I feel really sorry for my neighbors who had to walk by it!
We then began a very long process of re-setting the paver patio (something I will never, EVER do again – I’d rather build a wooden deck myself than have to deal with paving sand again, and despite our liberal use of expensive paver fabric that hubby assured me would guard against weeds, we’re already getting crabgrass poking through), and planting the garden beds (6 in back, 2 in front – hubby got the landlord’s ok to till the front of the house, where the sprinkler’s demise had caused all the grass to die). We got weed control fabric (luckily cheap at Big Lots), drip hoses, and a TON of cedar wood mulch (which, I know, they say might harbor pests – but it was either that or weed every night, so we’re going to try this… plus it looks nice and keeps my plants moist). We have literally poured hundreds of hours into getting this yard useable and pretty again.
I have to play the proud momma and share baby photos of my garden:
Squash bed (finished last night!). Includes four globe artichoke (I purchased a single plant four years ago and never watered it but it's divided three times!), 5 patty pan squash, Malabar spinach (it apparently grows on a VINE, hence the support), and pots containing strawberries and the avocado tree I luckily didn't kill a year ago.
Cucumber and Pepper Bed - Includes two tomatoes (that's Kellogg's Breakfast at the edge, and Camp Joy in the middle), 9 pepper plants (including Purple Belle, Cubanelle, Tequila Sunrise, and a couple of others), three lemon cucumber plants, three "pickling"-size cucumber plants, and a tomatillo. Behind the bed you can barely see the bottom of the pot my garlic plant is in; beyond that are the two smallest beds in the yard. I've planted okra and herbs in one, and the other will be for sunflowers.
Tomato Bed - includes three tomato plants (from the top, Sungold, Black Krum, and Isis), Lavender Eggplant, several basil plants, parsley, and dill (both of which were planted after this photo was taken). Against the fence you might just be able to see some bean seedlings. I love being able to walk out the kitchen door and grab herbs!
We’ve already got quarter-sized green tomatoes on my Sungold plant, and Isis, Black Krum, and Kellogg’s Breakfast are flowering. We have peppers on three of our nine plants (two on Tequlia Sunrise plants and one Cubanelle), and flowers on the rest, and the cucumber and tomatillios are flowering too. No flowers yet on the patty pan squash, okra, or watermelon – but give it time.
Teeny-tiny tomato; this little guy was set this week on my Sungold plant.
This was one of the very first tomatoes my Sungold plant set.
Baby Tequila Sunrise pepper
The second set of seeds were planted yesterday (the first set having been decimated by birds – although I did get two squash plants and a single corn – from 20 seeds! – out of the ordeal), including pumpkins, okra, and salsify (which I’ve never tried, but if I’m successful I’ll blog about).
Seeds! Clockwise from the yellow straw on the top: Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin, Sweet Pea, Parsnip, Butternut Squash, Round Carrots, Jack-be-Little Mini Pumpkin, Multicolored Sunflowers, Okra, Salsify, and two pots of bush beans. In the middle are corn, and in the side container are more pole beans, since about half of my others were eaten by the birds.
We’ve even got some flowers – planted in the shady part of the yard, with the lettuce and beets, and some of the herbs. And I saw this beautiful pinwheel at Big Lots a few weeks ago and had to pick it up.
I've had a thing for pinwheels since I was a kid. This one's about three feet tall, and if I'd have seen it 28 or 29 years ago I think I'd have flipped out! The stains on the wall are from the people who lived there before us; they had climbing roses.
And even though I’ve been gardening for years, and have read a TON of gardening books (my favorite is the Reader’s Digest one my sister got me in 2006!), I’m still learning new things. For example, it’s my first time planting eggplant (since I only really learned to like it last year). Did you know that there are fierce spikes on the leaves?
I knew artichokes and okra defended themselves... But it was a total surprise when I was working with the eggplant and got stuck by these spikes!
My garden has always been my sanctuary – last time I had a nice garden, I would come home after work and sit for an hour or more just weeding away. I’d have breakfast on the patio. Of course it wasn’t always all veggies – at one time I spent over $100 on sod, and would come home at lunchtime just to water it. The landlord’s gardeners mowed it – twice, the second time after our express request for them not to – in the middle of July, when it was only a few months old. Of course it was dead soon afterwards. Oh well, more room for veggies!
My very first garden, complete with the doomed grass and the first incarnation of the patio, in April 2006. The veggies were only in the bed behind the patio - the rest was flowers. The tree you see on the left edge of the photo was chopped down a few months later by the landlord because it was getting in the plumbing. Sad - I liked that tree.
Four years ago a little baby mockingbird came out of a nest as Hubby (who was not yet Hubby) and I were eating lunch out there, and got wedged between some chairs. I moved them so he could get out, and we went inside to watch as his mother found him and fed him.
He was stuck between these chair legs in the corner of the yard! Doesn't he look like a cranky little old man?
Taken through the bedroom window screen, you can see the mommy bird on the tomato cage in my first garden; she's got food for baby (the shadow under the leaves on the right!)
Gardening makes me feel like I am doing something right – like not only am I helping to put good food on my table, but I’m helping the environment. Yes, it takes water (although when we move, eventually we’ll get a rain barrel and perhaps even a gray water system). And it’s not cheap, or particularly easy. But I’m not only getting awesome yummy vegetables, I’m also enjoying myself. I feel centered when I’m out there, and happy.
There’s still a lot to do – we have to finish three more garden beds and clean out the area next to the house where hubby left a “pretty” weed that has now grown literally up to the roof (oops), for starters, and finish putting things in their proper places (like the barbeque in the photo above) – but I’m so incredibly excited to finally have a garden of my own again!
All of this work is making me think about what we’ll do when we have a house of our own – which will eventually happen, even if it’s happening later than I’d hoped. I’m thinking raised beds, an automatic sprinkler system, a deck or poured concrete patio, a pretty flower bed with a bench shaded by grape vines, and fruit trees! Money permitting, of course. 🙂