Thursday, March 22, 2012

Back in the Garden!

Here we are! I will be gardening with a one year-old this year. If you are one of the three people that followed this blog in the past, I should warn you that this is probably going to be a "mommy blog" with an emphasis on gardening. It's inevitable. And my methods for getting some produce on the table... well, I'm not sure that even I will be able to recommend them to anyone.

I got 45 minutes to tear $hit up in the garden last night. Weeds had taken over and are getting an early start with our weird spring. I was able to place my seed order, finally, this morning. Thank you, Fedco for updating your website so that it SAVES THE ORDER beyond 30 minutes. It took me about 10,000 minutes to complete mine.

Two of my biggest issues this year are soil health and getting some compost into the ground and making the gardening area a safe and pleasant place for a toddler to dig (and eat dirt).

Here we go!


Thursday, July 7, 2011

This Blog on Hiatus

Until I have enough time to actually garden.
Until I have enough time to keep the swirls of postpartum hair from getting from the floor to my child's mouth.
Until I have enough time to properly care for the soil.
Until I have enough time to take a picture of anything more than a baby in a Jumperoo.
Until I have enough time to vary my diet from handfuls of raw pecans and chocolate chips on the way to put the diapers in the washer fill my water bottle put the mail by the door go pee grab the baby vitamins put on deodorant and oh! put on pants.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Three Months Later...

The new little gardener arrived March 1st. I assumed I would be ready to get lots of gardening done by the beginning of May. Ha! Turns out new motherhood is a bit more complicated, painful, and time-consuming than I was aware.  And the little sugar pea is much more interested in:

the Jumperoo...


 and toys she can chew on.

I've managed to plant a couple of squash plants, zucchini seeds, cucumber seeds. Carrots, beans, garlic, lettuce, basil, and cilantro are growing in ragged rows of not-weeded-well-enough soil. I have not managed to take any pictures of the garden. There is a flat of veggie plants waiting for some weed free soil. 

I have no idea what kind of gardening we'll accomplish this year. I have plans to rely on local farmers for our food this time around, even though it makes me a little bit sad and disappointed. On the other hand, I'm looking forward to the relationships you form when know your farmer or grower. I'm very appreciative of our local growers right now!

Wouldn't it be great to grow and make your own baby food?  Yeah! It would! But that's just not going to happen on any large scale here. I don't know how the timing could have been any better, but between pregnancy and childbirth and infant care, my body has been broken for a loooong time. Never mind how difficult it is to find any time to do anything that isn't immediately necessary.

But we're trying! Anything we get from the garden this year is considered BONUS!  It's the Bonus Garden Project!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda: The Last of the Regrets

I'm only going to say this one last time: Ooops. I've never failed so hard at gardening. I was a little distracted by the hormone haze of nausea. I also had a big fat case of the Maybe Laters. Imagine someone on muscle relaxers. (Actually... pregnancy does involve natural muscle relaxers. I hadn't thought of that.) Here's my Didn't Do List:

1) Rake and pile up leaves in my compost. Snow fell before I got to it. Not that the snow came early...
2) Dig the carrots. I've been digging carrots the first week in December for the past few years. Apparently I have just been getting lucky. It's 7F out there. Carrotsicles!
3) Plant late spinach to overwinter. This stinks because spinach never grows for me unless I overwinter it. And next spring I likely won't be out in the garden early with a newborn. Oh well. Letting go of spinach... right now... That hurts a little.
4) Roll up the hose. I didn't even roll up the hose? It's strung out under 6 inches of snow. Luckily the landlords don't mow until July. I might be able to save it.
5) Plant the cover crop or green manure. Eh. Maybe next time.

FAIL!  I love it. I'm keeping my expectations for spring low as well.

Wait a minute! I DID get the garlic in! (Tiny little heel click dance to celebrate.)

The baby's due the first week of March. My only goal is to get outside and get some fresh air with the new itty bitty gardener. We'll see what we can do!
The pregnant, neglectful gardener far from the garden in southeast Arizona.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Oh, Garden!

There are two reasons that I've been neglecting and avoiding this space. One, my garden sucked eggs this year. Two, we have a baby on the way, so I was pregnant and sick for most of the summer. I still had a garden this season. I did have some successful harvests. However, I had the worst gardening season I've ever had in my 8 or so years of gardening.

To begin, I had the toughest time getting beans to germinate and grow into plants. The first batch never made an appearance above the soil. The second batch was mowed down by creatures. The third batch was mowed down by creatures. Eventually, I was able to make a humble harvest of green beans, but not nearly enough. I froze two quarts. And they're already gone.

For some reason my basil and carrots and some winter squash seemed to suffer from poor germination. I haven't been able to pin it on any one factor.

Next, and this is really the biggest issue, is that I got pregnant in June, found out in July, and was almost entirely worthless for physical labor in the humid heat of this past summer. I cursed the sun. I really hated sunny days for some reason. The first several weeks were like one long, slow migraine headache.

But I forgave myself as I was growing a baby instead of veggies!

By the time I started feeling better (um, mid-September) the damage had been done. I was able to keep the garden hobbling along with weed management, watering, and harvesting. It was a good year for chard, broccoli, new potatoes, butternut squash, eggplant, sweet bell peppers, garlic, snap peas, and spinach. Though, here's the most depressing thing about my garden: blight. I had blight on things I didn't know got blight. Of course my potatoes are a mess, blighted and scabby. I have yet to dig them and find out if anything is salvageable. My tomatoes started off with blight and are ending with blight, though we've been able to harvest some and use them right away. The crazy thing is that the carrots got some kind of blight. They pretty much all died back and are now just getting going. Baby carrots is what I will harvest I guess.

So, my favorite crops, carrots and potatoes, were a massive failure. The summer squash just never took off (which I realize is probably a blessing in disguise. I'm still using *last year's* frozen, shredded summer squash in zucchini bread.)  I will never grow broccoli again. I must have picked off a thousand green cabbage worms.

It was pretty depressing out there. The saddest thing is looking forward to next year without tomatoes or potatoes. The only solution I can think of is to take a break from that plant family.

So, now I'm working on this other growing project: the new kid. Next gardening season will be something else! The baby is due in March, so I'm hoping to be ready for some backyard gardening with the little one by May.,

Monday, August 16, 2010

Harvesting Butternut Squash

Winter squash is probably my favorite garden food. I love it baked, roasted, or whipped into a spicy soup.
I actually harvested two butternut squash today. One looks perfectly tan and ripe and basically fell off of the wilting vine. The other one still has faint green stripes and I kind of yanked it off of the vine by accident. So, I have an experiment on my hands. I've never grown butternuts before, so I'm not sure when the best time to harvest them is. I know that this summer's consistent heat and humidity has fast-forwarded everything into ripening sooner than expected, so I wouldn't be surprised if the mostly ripe-looking squash is ready. The other one could have used a couple more weeks I think. But we'll just have to see. Though I'm anxious to cut them open, I'm going to let them ripen a couple weeks on the counter.

Here's a link to Purdue U's extension with some advice for harvesting winter squash:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Letter from the Garden

Dear Reader,

I hope these words find you well and enjoying the long days of summer. It's early in the morning as I write and already warm and humid. After two days of haltingly chilly breezes, the hot soup of summer air is promising to collect and linger. The tomatoes, squash, and celery will thrive. I've pulled up the last of the peas to make room for tomatoes and more rows of carrots. Always planting more carrots! I just walked out to the garden this morning and had that falling down feeling I get when the garden is on its way. No more skinny rows of spiky seedlings in need of protection. You walk among the rows and feel surrounded, maybe even overtaken, by the towering and sprawling green. I recently heard a friend say, "It's not worth it to try to grow carrots in this clay soil when you can buy them so cheap at the grocery store these days." True, I thought. But my soil is getting more carrot-friendly all the time. And there really isn't a carrot in the grocery store as good as the ones I dig up in December. Sometimes I'd rather dig and compost and plant and water and weed and sacrifice a carrot or two to a swallowtail caterpillar than make another trip to the grocery store. (Though once, for two minutes, I looked at the slugs and beetles and half-eaten leaves and the blight and the deer tracks along the row of topless beets and didn't mind someone else growing my food for me!)

Sometimes growing a garden seems like the most everyday obvious thing to me. Lots of people do it. But in that way it's also like having children. Lots of people do it, but it can be a life-changing, challenging adventure that wakes you up to small miracles. The way gardens change the landscape and its people can be subtle. Maybe it's just a quiet, steady pulsing sign reading, "It's Possible" among numerous loud voices yelling, "No You Can't." Maybe it speaks to just one individual; maybe it's talking to a whole community.

Right now my garden is showing me all that I've learned over the years. My tomatoes are spaced and staked just right. My carrots are still squeezed in tight next to each other so I can pull up young ones as they all bulk up. The cool season spinach and peas have produced abundant harvests for the first time and now they are gone, letting the warm weather crops take their turn. Everything seems to be working just a little better this year. The soil just keeps getting richer and darker. There's so much to learn, and yet, what do you really need to know to grow a garden? Seed, water, soil, sun, pay attention.

It's been really interesting to listen to the changing bird chorus around the garden. All spring and summer the indigo buntings have been singing their little blue hearts out. I can hear one right now just as constant as the clock hands. Cardinals have been quiet until recently. The warbling vireos and chipping sparrows must be on their second or third broods, because they're quiet too. There's a red-winged blackbird that screams its metallic call notes from the small dead ash tree in the front yard every morning, every evening. A carolina wren showed up the past two evenings, singing it's bright strong galloping song. The somewhat rare dickcissel has left since the farmer finally cut the fallow field for silage, and all the nesting sparrows and blackbirds dispersed in what I can only imagine was desperate horror. The turkey vultures circled for hours that afternoon over eerily quiet fields.

Well, it's early and there's plenty to do. I should probably get on my way. The garlic is curing in the shade and I need to make sure it stays in the shade as the sun moves up and over. The black raspberries are at their peak and need to be picked. It's always difficult to get motivated to put on long-sleeves, hat and bug net, and then get buzzed by mosquitoes and ripped apart by thorns while wading through a sea of poison ivy. You forget all that when you spread the jam later, no middle-man grocery store or barcode price tag to distract from the experience. Makes you feel lucky.

Time to get back to work! Or not. Hope your summer is rolling along just fine, in and out of the garden.
All my best,