Here it is, spring of 2009 and my 50th gardening season. I remember my first garden. It was the spring of 1960, I was a young widow with a baby and a toddler, and I was living in a duplex with a weedy patch behind the garage. It was the perfect spot for planting tomatoes, and plant tomatoes I did. I knew nothing of supports or trellises, so I just pulled the weeds, dug in a few plants and let them sprawl on the ground, watering them when they were dry. No fertilizer, no TLC, I just let them grow. And they grew, and grew, until they filled the entire garden. I learned to can tomatoes that year. In all these years since, I've never had such a productive tomato garden. I guess it was beginners luck, but I got the gardening bug and it never left me. This, my fiftieth season of gardening, is just as exciting and satisfying as that first tomato patch.
My 10-year-old grandson came to visit yesterday, and we went on a tour of the garden. He's been good to help rake up leaves, shovel compost into the beds and do some of the heavier work that I find to be harder on my old body each year. He's watched me plant, and he's wide eyed with wonder as he sees the garden come to life. I think I've instilled this love of the earth in him, that he has inherited the gardening genes of my grandmother, my mother and myself. We walked through the garden together, searching for new raspberry shoots, noticing the carrots were getting their frilly leaves, rejoicing over the strawberry blossoms. We paused long enough to find two small radishes for him to taste. He picked up an impulse sprinkler I had brought out to the garden and studied it, figuring out how the pressure of the water made it turn and how it changed directions.....he's curious that way, he has to know how everything works.
I hope he continues to find gardening exciting and satisfying for the next fifty years, just like his proud grandmother.
This week in the garden:
Thursday I worked on the small garden on the west side of the yard. It is twelve feet long and four feet deep, and abuts the neighbor's eye-sore of a fence. I usually put pots of cucumbers and cherry tomatoes here to hide the crooked boards, so I thought it would be a good spot to set out all my new self watering containers this year. It does get some afternoon shade from the fence, but that has proved to be an asset during our hot summers when the tomatoes sometimes suffer from blossom drop from the intense heat.
I made one more self watering container (SWC) bucket, my second one so far, and bought some tomato cages for them at Wal-Mart. They certainly are larger and sturdier than my old (very old) cages, so I guess it's time to buy more and replace all of the old ones. I wish I had used a larger one in the first SWC, but it's too late to replace it now. When the SWC was finished, I set it in place and transplanted a Rutgers tomato into it. It looks as though I'll only be able to put four SWCs in this garden. Any more, and there won't be room to get in there to pick the tomatoes.
After I finished planting the SWC, I seeded three clumps of Pacific Beauty Mix calendula in that garden, as well as two cabbage, one broccoli and one cauliflower transplant, and the remaining three basil plants. I then sprinkled seeds of Petite Yellow marigolds all along the front edge as a border and put a small wire fence around it all to hopefully keep dogs out. There is still room for the Crackerjack marigold seedlings when they are ready to set out.
We had a freeze warning for that night, it was expected to get down to 27F, so I covered the green beans and the "fairy wing flowers" (morning glories) with a sheet, and threw a blanket over the potatoes. All the seedlings were brought inside from the patio and given a good watering at the sink, then put in the laundry room for the night. I'm sure the peppers and tomatoes were much happier and a lot warmer there! It got down to 30F that evening, but everything looked just fine in the garden in the morning.
Yesterday (Friday) Annie discovered she can jump the small wire fence I had put around the new west garden, and she uprooted a cabbage plant. I found it in time and replanted it, but I'll have to find something more secure to fence in that area, because Annie jumps high for a fat girl!
In the north garden, I planted sunflowers (seeds) behind the squash patch and moved some of the compost from that mound over to the east garden, where I made a "hill" for a future zucchini. I'm afraid the one hill I planted earlier won't be enough for me and the neighbor, so a second hill will be planted in May.
I made seed tapes of Imperator carrots (102 seeds), Buttercrunch (12 seeds) and Yugoslavian Red lettuce (12 seeds), and planted them on the east side of the indeterminate tomato bed. There is a foot of space between the edges of the bed and where the tomatoes will be planted, and I can't seem to let an inch of space go unplanted! I still have several wimpy little cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower seedlings, so I think I'll put them on the other side of the tomato bed today, and plant a few nasturtium seeds in between them.
Last night I pushed a thermometer 6" into the compost pile in the big black bin, and it registered 130F. The compost pile in the fencing was only 80F, so I'll turn and combine the two piles in another week or two, or maybe invite the grandson to dinner and let him do it for me. I think I'm finally going to cook up some decent compost!
A Pictorial Tour of the Garden
*click photo to enlarge*
East bed #1, front to back; carrots (four varieties), green onions from the grocery store and radishes, Chioggia beets from Cheryl
, more radishes and Detroit supreme beets. When the back row of radishes are pulled, there will be a 1-foot space in the center of this bed for four pepper plants to be planted.
East bed #2; Four cabbages, one square of dill from Dan
, one square of dill from Daphne
and two squares of nasturtiums.
East bed #3, front to back; Still babies so hard to see in the photo, but there are Royal Burgundy bush beans (not yet up), parsnips and Contender bush beans that are just beginning to show.
East bed #4; Four broccoli plants from EG
, two squares of yellow onions and two squares of nasturtiums.
East bed #5; This one is really hard to see, but there are three squares of 3 varieties of lettuce and one square of nasturtiums on each side of the bed, with three rows of spinach (rows planted 1-foot apart). The spinach defines the 1-foot squares for 8 pepper plants that will go in this bed when it warms up.
East bed #6; Four cauliflower plants, two squares of parsley and two squares of nasturtiums. You can really see where I put unenriched soil in the corners for the nasturtiums!
East bed #7; Four squares of carrots (4 varieties) on the left and four squares of beets (two varieties) on the right, with room in the center for eight pepper plants.
East bed #8; Potatoes. The Yukon gold haven't broken through yet.
East bed, south fence; Super Sugar Snap peas with Black Seeded Simpson lettuce just emerging.
East fence bed #1; Shallots from last fall's planting. I was going to put a pot of cucumbers behind them, but the post of neighbor's new gate falls right in the center of this bed, so as soon as the shallots are pulled, I'll remove the bed completely and put in some stepping stones or pavers.
East fence bed #2; Nothing here but 5 brassicas (lost the labels, so whatever grows will be a surprise). This is where 3 or 4 determinate tomatoes will be planted, along with a few marigolds.
East fence bed #3; The garlic is looking MUCH better since I sprayed it with cornmeal tea! The rosemary is definitely dead and will have to be replaced.
East fence bed #4; Nothing but 4 brassicas of unknown varieties, and four basil plants in this future tomato bed.
East fence bed #5; A new blue pot will hold lemon cucumbers from Cheryl
. In front of it are my chives, which are beginning to blossom, and the entire bed is surrounded with mixed sizes of marigolds. The pretty tulips are on the other side of the fence, and belong to my neighbor.
In the "dog kennel garden" bed #1, Alderman peas and mesclun.
Dog kennel garden bed #2; Three varieties of lettuce, now protected with netting so the quail don't eat it all.
The first of three barrels in the north garden holds the leftovers from the brassica seedlings. I'll tuck these plants into the tomato bed today, then this planter will be the home to two varieties of melons from Dan.
North garden barrel #2 holds one of the two new bluberry bushes, a leftover strawberry plant and some large variety nasturtiums.
North garden barrel #3 contains the second (rather sickly) blueberry and nasturtiums.
North garden bed #1: borage from Cheryl
, godetia and Kentucky Blue pole beans (not yet showing)
North garden bed #2: Strawberries, sweet onions and yellow onions.
North garden bed #3: Bush beans from the dollar store (45-cents worth!), raspberries and spinach. One of the raspberries has sent up a new cane! I MUST thin the spinach soon. Some of the beans have really yellow leaves, but I found that is quite normal in this cold weather. Once it warms up again, they should green right up.
I won't show North garden bed #4 (the indeterminate tomato bed) and bed #5 (the squash bed) as nothing is showing there yet.
This is the west garden, the one that is "under construction" this weekend. Although they don't show well in this photo, there are two nice tomato plants in those SWCs. I have planted 5 brassicas, 4 basil plants and a lot of calendula and marigolds in this garden, as well as bush cucumbers in the pot in the center of the photo. Two more SWCs will be placed to the right side of the garden.
The Blue Pot
Hardening off the last of the plants before they go into the garden.****And finally, two views of the garden****
The next complete pictorial tour of the garden is scheduled for the last Saturday in May.