vegetable garden

Quality Time in the Garden

You’ve made your beds, planted your seeds, nurtured your seedlings through the perils of sprouthood and now you spend your time watering and feeding.  (My Arctic Amigos might be a bit behind on this schedule but think of what you have to look forward!!) You meticulously weed, prune and pinch and stand watch—for bugs and spots, all things that go bump in the night—all the normal stuff a gardener does throughout the growing season.

Ashley's beautiful garden

And what a fine gardener you’ve become!  You’re diligent, vigilant and looking forward to harvest.  But as you linger among the layers of leaves and sprays of bloom, your mind wanders, your longing builds, your connection to nature grows deeper.  Where you didn’t expect it, you’ve grown quite attached to your garden, lovingly caring for it as you would a child.  Why, if you could, you’d spend hours out here—days—toiling about the promise of produce.

Strolling down a row of squash, you notice a bright red ladybug busily traveling the expanse of the broad green leaves.  Bending near to watch her work, you get that tingly thrill of discovery.  Sure in the grand scheme of things, it’s a common bug doing a common job, but to you she’s incredible—beautiful!—and you revel in the miracle of nature (and she’s eating those bugs before they can do any more damage!)

ladybug in action!

Now if only there was a bench nearby.  You glance from one end of your garden to the other.  Boy, would that be handy right about now.  You could sit, relax and enjoy the wonders unfolding before you.  A pretty bench, one with an intricately carved iron frame supporting slatted teak strips. Better yet, one that rocks to and fro, gently keeping pace with the breeze.  More

Community Gardening

When you see a gal falling behind in her garden schedule, you lend a hand, right? 

Of course you do.  Why, it’s already April and she hasn’t the first seed in!  She bought a plant, sure, but nothing’s planted.  Agh!

But then, she received a little help from her friends.  While Julie did manage to get the dirt in on her own (independent woman that she is), she certainly wouldn’t turn down the energy of kids helping kids–that would be plain crazy-talk! 

Not only do they out-energy us, but kids have such a ball planting when they can do so with their friends.  I mean, isn’t everything more fun when your friends are around?  Of course it is!

Speaking of dirt, I would like to make a note here regarding the best types to use while starting your sprouts.  Since her husband only bought top soil for her new planter, Julie was eager-as-a-squirrel-on-the-hunt (with the hawk circling overhead) to get some composted cow manure to add to her planters, believing it would provide the extra *umph* she needed to get her seeds started off on the right root.   However–

CAUTION on the liberal use of cow manure with your new sprouts. 

While they do like to remain moist as they work through the germination process–and cow manure does hold its moisture well–they prefer a light, easily drained potting mix to begin their stretch for the sunshine.  Once they mature and begin to grow like weeds (we’ll talk real weeds in a minute), then you can amend their bed with manure.   Patience, my dear.  Patience.

Ashley’s garden is growing beautifully.  Her sprouts are becoming young plants and her potatoes are becoming quite tall–which means it’s time for “hilling.”  Once potato plants reach about 8-12 inches, draw more dirt and/or mulch up and around their base so that only a few inches of the plant is exposed. 

This will increase production by giving the potatoes more dirt within which to grow, and it will prevent green potatoes.  Exposing potatoes to sunlight will turn them green, and eating green potatoes WILL make you sick.  So hill your taters once or twice during their growing season.

As you can see, Ashley is loving her new garden and has added some herbs to her list of home-grown delectables.  She’s chosen to keep them in separate containers, but most herbs are compatible with other plants.  Something to consider though, is using them in a practical fashion, such as weed prevention.  I noticed the oregano in my herb garden grows like a blanket. 

Wonderful!  And since it make a great companion to tomato plants, I thought…

Why not plant oregano around the base of my tomato plants as weed prevention?  Sounds like a good idea to me!  In fact, rather than limit this beauty to my herb garden, I intend to incorporate it into my vegetable garden!

“Making Compost out of Debris”

Yes, “making lemonade out of lemons” sounds better, but I have no lemons — they froze! — along with half my garden.  I’ve lost everything remotely tropical and I’m none too happy about it. 

I mean, I can’t cover the entire yard.  Not the orange trees or the grapefruit.  Not the Lantana (pretty weed flowers) or the palm trees.  And the garden?

At least I tried.  I tried to protect my limas, I did.  I also tried to protect my sweet peas.  But that dastardly Jack Frost nipped them clear to their buds!  But what did I expect? 

He is a villain after all.  I think.  I must admit, I’m not well-versed in my winter fables, but as a Floridian, I haven’t found it a necessary dimension to add to my repertoire — until it froze in Florida.

Four times before Christmas!  And destroyed my lima bean plants.

And my sweets, although this was expected.  Good news here:  I can still salvage any underground treasures that may be hiding beneath the surface.

I did manage to cover my Poinsettia.  Located on the back patio, this was a much easier task.  Aren’t they brilliant?

There is a bright side to this cold weather.  While it won’t be a white Christmas, it feels like Christmas.  I don’t know about you, but something just doesn’t seem right about perspiring while Christmas shopping.  Unless of course, you’re that last-minute shopper darting through the mall, shoving people out of your way because you can’t find that little doo-dad Billy asked for two days before Christmas (forgot to include it on his list to Santa and now it’s YOUR job to see that he gets it!). 

Yes, well, kids need to learn “in every life a little rain must fall” and that the real meaning behind the season is about giving, not receiving;  giving love, sharing blessings and basking in the joy of spirit (good luck with that).  Some adults could stand a refresher course on this lesson.

But back to that bright side — just look at these carrots!  Glorious and green, they’re thriving in this weather!

And my cabbage — they’re cool and comfortable.  (Remind me next year to only attempt these plants in my fall garden.  Easy, reliable — and I don’t have to freeze my little cotton tail covering them!)

But alas, need another reason to be merry and bright despite the loss of green?  Get creative!  I grew tired of dashing off to the compost pile during this cold snap, and decided I needed a kitchen composter.  So I made one!

Okay, I didn’t actually make it.  I painted it at my local “clay, glaze and fire” place and they baked it into perpetuity for me.  After scouring the internet for one and finding none that matched my kitchen (I DO like to coordinate my colors), I decided I should create my own!  And what a great idea.  Using a standard carbon filter for the lid, I now have a place to deposit my kitchen scraps (and hold them indoors for days without stinking up the entire house!).  Isn’t it grand?

No more dashing outside and freezing my pumpkins–no, no!  We’re talking solutions, here, and cute ones at that.  And to think I was distraught over my garden.  Not me.  Hope springs eternal (so long as we allow it!).