Full Potential

I have a small yard. I think our lot square footage is somewhere in the neighborhood of eight thousand square feet. Which is less than a quarter acre.

In that small lot I have a far smaller space with optimum sunshine. I actually don’t have any place with optimum sunshine but it gets close enough so I can do a fair amount of vegetable gardening. And then I have a bunch more places without the possibility of gardening vegetables but that can grow so many other things.

So this year I’m trying to find ways to use my whole space up to its full potential.

Last fall my dad came over to help me clear out some bushes and a small tree on my back fence and then he sowed a bunch of his cover crop turnips to get the soil nice so I could use that space as a garden bed. It’s exciting. I’m stoked but since that space spans the little stretch between my two heavily populated (with squirrels) trees I knew that I’d have to establish protection as soon as I planted anything there. So I put beets, radishes, turnips and carrots and then put this up.

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Forgive the slightly uneven hoops.  It was my first time converting 9 gauge wire into hoops with naught but a wire cutter, my two hands and also two toddler helpers. I bought the frost cloth, or floating row cover from Burpee because they gave me free shipping on my first order. I’m sure you can get it at any supply place.

Beneath the row cover are all my pretty little babies.

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This is my biggest vegetable bed and I get really excited thinking about what I can do with it. Today I planted a row of green beans in there, just hoping no cool weather returns. If it does, at least I have the cover over it!

The rest of my vegetable garden is all baby baby.

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I saved seeds last year from my pac choy, napa cabbage, arugula and planted them a bit ago. They’re coming up nicely! My calendula reseeded! You can maybe see the little sprouting plants if you have a keen eye. It’s exciting because I also saved seeds from that plant ( as well as from my marigolds and nasturtiums) so I was able to use those seeds elsewhere.

This is my entire veggie garden aside from the back covered bed.

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Right now I’m just eating herbs and greens (mostly just lettuce at this point). We have had almost no rain for quite some time so I’ve been using my rain barrel water to keep my seedlings hydrated. It’s still over half full and rain is expected early next week so hopefully that happens!

I had my first harvest last week.

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Since then I’ve harvested a lot more herbs. I’m drying some parsley, sage and thyme at the moment! And also some more greens. I can’t wait for all my baby greens to grow just a bit bigger. I’m guess in a week or two I’ll be able to get daily salads from my garden.

I have some very super adorable and incredibly cute children out with me always.

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This stage of motherhood has been really special. I don’t have an infant. My hardest child, Eli, has developed SO much with special ed preschool and iron (which has him sleeping really well). Avery is a HUGE help all the time. Ida is amazing. She wants to be able to do everything with me.

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She also is generally the happiest thing ever. So sometimes I turn around and just find her happily reading a book on a chair next to the climbing tree or next to a blooming pac choy from last fall, picking away and feeling so proud of herself.

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Last year I couldn’t have imagined how wonderful having this little garden companion would be. She has really been the most unexpected joy I’ve ever experienced.

I’m looking forward to summer break and lots more of this.

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So what’s cooking in your garden!? If you haven’t started yet, don’t worry, there’s still time. Do it. The benefits are uncountable.

Brown, but Teeming

I’ve been in the garden a lot this week. Like, all day, every day. Well, except Tuesday but that was just because it was really rainy.

Sometimes in the early spring it seems like my whole garden is just super brown. The boundaries are brown, the walkways are brown, the soil is brown and even the gosh darn compost pile is brown.

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Excuse the little plastic bags. They’re sort of working to scare off the bunnies while I wait for my row covers to get here.

This year is unique because it is my first year where I’m not pregnant or have a teeny tiny infant. The freedom is amazing and the kids have been loving hanging out while I work.

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Anyway, the exciting thing is, that everything is not brown. In fact some of the most adorable green things are present when the world is still brown.

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This will be my third year of gardening here and last year I made a very concerted effort to get some perennial plants (flowers, berry bushes and even vegetables) in place because there’s something incredibly encouraging about watching things pop up after laying dormant all winter. This bud is on a black raspberry plant I bought from my local hardware store at the end of the season. I got six plants. For six dollars. Couldn’t pass them up. It was a rescue mission. I’m sure every single berry, despite all my efforts, will be consumed by the vermin that thrive in more urban areas. It’s alright, at least I’ll be attracting bees.

Next up is rhubarb.

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It has a large bulb under the ground and the leaves come unraveling through the soil pretty early. I bought this plant a couple years ago from Family Tree and it has given me nothing but awesomeness. Even after I moved it. Twice. In fact, last year I got a half gallon of rhubarb stem from it.

 

Yarrow.

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I love seeing yarrow along the road in the summer and so I put one or two in the back of my yard. They’re from my dad’s greenhouse (Sullivan’s Greenhouse, you can check us out on facebook) and though it was a trying year last year, they’re coming back like champs and will likely do quite well this year.

Viburnum buds.

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These were here when we bought the house. It’s a lovely little row. Dad helped me rip out the viburnum bushes in the back because they didn’t get enough sun to bloom and instead grew insanely big. So I’m glad these ones on my east side do well because their blooms are truly lovely.

Perennial herbs are my all time favorite. Because I get to eat them. After a mild winter like we just had, they seem to be pretty giant, pretty early.

Chives. You only plant them once, people. Totally worth it. I have a couple because I’m greedy.

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Parsley. Not a regular perennial but it definitely survived last winter just fine.

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Later today after I took this, I cleaned up the leaves in that bed so just pretend this looks neat and nice.

Oregano…Greek. But also I have a Turkish somewhere. The difference is that Greek has round leaves and kind of stays close to the ground and Turkish has narrower leaves and grows straight up. Both are tasty.

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This doesn’t look like much but give it a month and it’ll be really large. I literally use oregano in everything. It’s one of those herbs that just makes a dish. Like, pizza doesn’t taste like pizza until it has oregano. That’s a fact.

Sage. This one needs to be cut back but the growth is pretty intense.

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I have a few more I didn’t photograph like the garlic chives and the comfrey I’m continuously trying to eradicate just so that my garden isn’t a jungle. I broke my shovel last fall trying to dig up all the comfrey and I felt like it was some sort of sign from above saying “Oh my dear, darling, Diana…you can’t get rid of comfrey. But that was a cute thought.”

Finally, I planted some seeds like pac choy, onions, and arugula and am frantically trying to protect them from the ravenous bunnies.

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They’re sprouting and my row covers are coming but I’m hoping the plastic bag trick works for a couple more nights.

So, everyone is asking what to plant right now and all I have to say is, basically every single spring crop you can think of. Green beans, carrots, beets, radishes, onions, greens of all kinds, sugar snap peas, potatoes, etc. So far this spring has been dry but for the rain we just had and looking at the forecast it will be unseasonably warm with occasional small rains. I’ll be picking up a soaker hose to help me use my rain barrel more efficiently and the row covers will help keep moisture intact.

What is going on in your garden? Have you started?

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

So it’s been a while. I took a break for a few reasons but as the growing season starts again I’ve had an urge to start recording on here again.

I want to write here because a lot of things are happening in my garden but mostly because suburban gardening isn’t well documented in general and because climate change is making gardening both more necessary and also changing the we grow in both positive and negative ways.

I may not write very frequently. I have a very full life. Three children, a husband, a home, a garden and some social life as well. Those are all reasons I took a break in the first place but writing has always felt good to me and recording my life in this format is nice too.

So, here I am.  Just…the usual.

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Backyard Garden Year Two

This is my second year of gardening here as I mentioned a few times before. I learned a lot last year and did a lot of amendments but I was super pregnant and my energies were limited.

This year has been pretty awesome although I can see I still have a lot of improving to do. One of the best parts about gardening is that you never ‘arrive’. You constantly learn, adjust, improve, fail, and grow some more.

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This is the view from the deck but is only about 85% of my garden as I can’t get quite all of it in one shot.

I haven’t weeded in three weeks or more.

Partially because I have this one particular squash plant that I’m not entirely sure what it is (Avery removed labels of a tray of squashes and cucumbers that my dad gave me) but I think it’s some sort of pumpkin, is taking over everything. I had a pathway but…..

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Funny story, I found a full grown Holy Basil plant in this walkway. The plant in the bed must have seeded and I haven’t done any weeding in ages so it just took off under the cover of squash leaves.

Speaking of squash leaves, I found a squash bug the other day on my zucchini. I tried to kill it but it got away from me so I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for the eggs and today, I found them on two leaves.

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One from the mystery squash plant and one from the zucchini. I completely removed the leaves and trashed them (not compost). I’ve also been finding cucumber beetles on my squashes so I’ve been killing those on sight too. The cucumber beetles did find my cucumber vines and spread bacterial wilt but some how, with stringent removal I was able to save a vine and it is still performing. I realize I’m on borrowed time with it. The vines were doing great and I’ve had over 11lbs of cucumbers off it so I really hate losing it just when it was really getting going.

Pests are an issue. Chipmunks will take a bite of anything. Even winter squashes, despite the fact that they can’t really eat them.

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Notice the bite mark scarring on the top? Yeah.

They will steal cucumbers, tomatoes, even nibble jalapenos before they realize they’re spicy. I net anything I can. Netting squashes is really hard but I manage with the cucumbers. I re-net them any time they grow out of it. Squirrels like cucumbers and tomatoes too but leave most other things alone unless it’s freshly planted seeds, they’re all about digging those up. Again though, there are ways to avoid that. I protect my seeds and sprouted seedlings using coverings and unless it’s something SUPER tasty like beets, the bunnies won’t even mess with the sprouts.

Bunnies do mess with peppers and okra. They nibble all the leaves they can reach but leave the peppers alone. Okra grows really tall and so I haven’t had an issue with them eating the actual fruit.

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I wish I had planted more than two okra plants. I will definitely be giving them more space next year. The burgandy okra is incredibly beautiful.

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I’ve almost harvested all my onions. They’ve been a lovely addition and again, I’ll be investing in more space for them next year. My cover crops have gotten huge but are starting to die back and I’ll be able to plant fall crops in that space without an issue. I’m grateful for knowing about cover crops like radishes and turnips. My soil and garden aesthetic benefit quite a bit.

Volunteer crops from my spring greens are in full swing right now. This napa cabbage managed to volunteer in the actual garden bed unlike the field of arugula in a pathway.

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The greens this year have been so fantastic. I eat a salad every day from whatever I have. Right now, that’s a lot of kale.

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As you can see, I’ve been harvesting leaves off this. I take a leaf or two from each plant and that way I never run out of them. I have two kinds of kale and then a lot of collards I’m saving for fall (they’re best after a frost), swiss chard and herbs which I use in my salads as well.

I have too much to talk about when it comes to gardening. This post could go on forever….I’m growing sweet potatoes for the first time. Will they be successful? I don’t know.

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I have this volunteer vine that looks kinda like a melon? I don’t know what it is. I’m letting it happen.

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I am trying to incorporate more flowers.

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I haven’t had to buy a drop of water for my garden. My rain barrel has been more than sufficient.

IMG_20150728_092934971Also, I have gold fish in there. Don’t think I ever talked about that.

IMG_20150603_184639They take care of the mosquito larvae. It’s pretty amazing.

I’m kinda starved for garden conversation. Can you tell? I need more garden in my life. If you have a garden, can we work in it together? I will help you weed. Or haul mulch or whatever. People think that work sucks but I love it.

Two posts in two days people. Is it really obvious Avery is away at day camp during Ida’s nap time? No? Yes? Okay, yes, probably.

 

 

 

Stablizing

After 9 months and two weeks I can say that a lot has changed since I became a mother of three children. The first two months were alright but as things went on I found myself getting overwhelmed, spread thin and lacking  in both alone time and space, and also in getting opportunity to creatively express myself.

The more kids that you have, the more you learn about yourself. I didn’t realize that I had needed creative outlet so badly because I always managed to have one, but now I know that it’s very important for my sanity. As an extrovert, making time to be alone was never apparent. Even as extroverted as I am, having little people on me or needing me 24/7 has shown me that I do value and need time completely by myself. Mostly, just for clarity of thought without distractions.

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As spring progressed, I found cultured foods helped my darker feelings, and then the warm weather hit and I was able to garden (my personal favorite creative outlet) which improved things even more.

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Ida learned to crawl and Eli started an iron supplement to help his sleep issues.

Before I knew it, despite some situational trials and very little sleep, I was feeling pretty normal and used to having three kids.  I mean, they even all play independently together.

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I’m not saying there aren’t super hard days and times when I’m nursing Ida back to sleep at night and right as she doses off in my arms Eli cries super loud and wakes her and he’s awake and she’s awake and there’s only one of me and I’m trying to wrangle them both in the pitch black dark of night and suddenly Avery needs to pee but is too sleepy to wake up all the way and get down from the bunk bed and is sitting, wriggling with his eyes closed. You know I have to get him to the bathroom quick and then comfort Eli back to sleep and then run into Ida’s room to start nursing her again til she calms down and falls asleep again.

But in general, I’ve got the logistics of taking three kids places, dealing with the destruction zone that is my home, always, and making sure they’re fed three tons of food per day.

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So basically I got this. I’m no longer freaking out all the time. I’m no longer 100% overwhelmed all.the.time. Now, this might all change in a couple weeks when Eli starts preschool and I have to get everybody up to get out the door.

Until then, I will pretend I have a grip.

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