ladysprite: (steampunk)
This has been a busy summer - mostly a good one, but definitely a full one, and so I haven't taken much time to talk about my garden yet. But that doesn't mean it's not there, or that I've forgotten it.

If anything, this has been the best year for my garden in a long, long time. We've finally figured out how to grow zucchini in a container, so for the first time since we've moved to the new house I've got actual, edible squash again, instead of just overcrowded stems and a few flowers that succumb to blossom end rot. So there's been zucchini bread, and zucchini-corn panini, and quesadillas, and all sorts of goodness.

Our peas have come and gone, and the first round of green beans is over, but the plants have started flowering again, so soon there will be more. Our peppers are thriving; the trick seems to be starting with slightly older seedlings to compensate for the shorter growing season. The cucumbers, which at the start of the season were so small that I gave up on them, have grown to cover their entire trellis and are producing at almost alarming rates.

After a ridiculously slow start, we just started harvesting broccoli by the pound this week. Eggplants are almost ripe, carrots and potatoes seem to be percolating along happily as far as I can tell from the parts of them that are above ground, and this year's experiments (celery and Brussels sprouts) seem to be keeping up as well.

And the grape vines that we put in last year? The ones that we figured would take a couple of years before anything actually came of them? They've already overgrown the 8-foot-high trellises that [livejournal.com profile] umbran put in for them and are moving on to conquer our back deck, and they're covered in grapes. Still green, but growing and thriving, and hopefully they'll ripen before too too long.

The only (minor) hiccup is in our tomatoes. Between one of our Early Girls failing to thrive and the fact that the one seedling I thought was a plum turning out to be just an overgrown cherry, we now have maybe one or two plants of globe tomatoes and four happy, thriving, overproducing-like-crazy cherry tomato plants. Which is great for snacking and salads, but not so ideal for sandwiches, salsa, or sauce.

So - any ideas of what to do with a crazy preponderance of cherry tomatoes?

Green

May. 29th, 2012 07:00 pm
ladysprite: (MoonSun)
I love my garden so much.

I know that I am a hobby gardener, and I acknowledge that my little backyard garden does not actually save me any time, energy, or money - the amount we spend on putting this ridiculous setup together, and sustaining it, is probably far more than we'd spend on just buying the darn veggies ourselves. But I love the feeling of playing in the dirt, and planting things with my own hands, and seeing them grow. I love looking out into the backyard and seeing the beds full of green tasty things I made, and I love being able to walk out into my own yard and pick what's going to be for dinner that night.

We put in new raised beds this year; the old ones were getting a bit rotten from being out in the elements for so many years, and the soil in them was a mass of weed seeds. The new beds are cedar, too; hopefully that may help deter unwanted visitors. I hope so; between the weeds and the bunnies (and okay, our schedules) last year the garden was more or less a wash.

I just spent the last hour and a half putting seedlings and seeds into the ground. We're growing tomatoes (globes and plums) and green beans and soy beans and wax beans and some cool-looking red Italian Rose beans, just because they looked beautiful. And carrots, and peas, and broccoli, and eggplant, and spinach, and cucumbers, and probably a couple other things I'm forgetting. And tomorrow [livejournal.com profile] umbran will get the smaller beds fixed, and I'll plant zucchini and potatoes.

And then starts the hurry-up-and-wait, where I spend the next month hovering over the beds waiting for tiny green shoots to appear, and then hovering over the shoots waiting for them to turn into food. But in the meantime, there will be blueberries from our bushes, and herbs from the pots on the porch, and soon enough there will be food from my garden.

I love this time of year.
ladysprite: (Default)
So, remember that uninvited yard guest I mentioned a few weeks ago?

Apparently it wasn't exactly Mr. Bunny, but rather Ms. Bunny. And Ms. Bunny was apparently eating for four. Yesterday when I came home from work, I saw at least two, possibly three little fist-sized rabbits playing tag through our backyard. When I pulled my car into the driveway they paused long enough to look up at me, but, like their mother, they didn't seem to actually mind my presence, waiting until I had walked into the grass while shaking my fist and exhorting them to Get Offa My Lawn, Dangit to skedaddle back between our house and the neighbor's.

Since then, I've seen them at least once or twice every day - hiding behind our trash can, scampering from the flower beds alongside the house to under our deck; tonight [livejournal.com profile] umbran nearly stepped on one that was resting in a clump of grass next to the driver's side door of the car. Going out our back door has become a bizarre Urban Wildlife version of Where's Waldo.

And I'm torn. Because they're so darn cute with their little bunny ears and their cute little hops and their little noses. But I don't want them eating my veggies, and the last thing I need is multiple generations of "wild" rabbits (they're not that wild, their parties almost never keep me up past midnight) taking up residence in our yard, inviting their friends in, and increasing monthly.

Given the shape of our yard and the setup of our raised beds, fencing won't work. (Also, they already just dug under the fence into our neighbor's yard, as [livejournal.com profile] umbran learned when he mowed the lawn.) We picked up some natural icky-anti-bunny spray at the garden store; we'll see how that works. I'm kind of hoping it does the trick, because I'd hate to have to borrow a dog and chase them off, or worse....

Did I mention how flipping adorable they are?

Damn bunnies.
ladysprite: (Default)
So last year, for the first time, our garden failed, for many reasons. Our beds were old; the compost/soil/fertilizer we used seemed to consist entirely of weed seeds; we were too busy dealing with Tristan's illness and the acquisition of Moxie; a whole laundry list of complications.

And the biggest complication of all seemed to be that the neighborhood rabbits found our yard and decided to use it as their favorite lunch venue. I saw them a few times, hopping around and nibbling at the veggies, unafraid of just about anything. But eventually the plants petered out, and they vanished, and I more or less forgot about them.

Until last week, that is, when I drove home from work to find a particular brown fuzzy visitor sitting impatiently in front of one of our beds, staring at it like the people I always find lined up outside Golden Corral on a Sunday afternoon. I honked my horn, he didn't budge. I walked up to them, he glanced up at me with a hopeful and curious expression, as if to say, "Excuse me, waitress, does the buffet line start here?"

So. Problem not solved. I don't suppose anyone here has any humane suggestions for getting wild rabbits out of one's garden?
ladysprite: (Default)
Okay - while I may not be enjoying the nigh-biblical levels of constant rain out here, apparently everything else living around here is. My lilacs are turning into a lush forest along the side of the house, the row of tulips and daffodils I planted last fall just keep putting out new blossoms, and the irises [livejournal.com profile] keshwyn gave us a year and a half ago are flowering for the first time. Even the peas that I managed to plant in the hour or so of sun we got last week are already starting to push up through the dirt.

I planted the rest of our garden yesterday - it wasn't quite the usual joyous wallow in sunshine that it usually is; I was wearing a jacket and watching the sky carefully to make sure I finished before it started to drizzle - but at least I got all of my seeds and seedlings in the ground before the end of the month.

My biggest worry right now is that it seems that our garden has a new fan. When I went out to pick some lilacs last Friday I discovered a very adorable, very sociable, very not-at-all-afraid little bunny rabbit sitting right on the edge of the grass where our property meets our neighbor's. Unfortunately, he would have been much more adorable if, when I shooed him off, he had run into our neighbor's yard instead of ours. I do believe I may have met the culprit who devoured the zucchini plants out of our lower bed last summer, and I need to figure out how to politely yet firmly explain to him that he needs to relocate....
ladysprite: (Default)
I love flowers. I love their colors, and their shapes, and the sheer enthusiasm that they seem to embody, and I love the tiny delicate detail and the texture of the petals, and in a way I love the fact that they're so transitory - the way you have to enjoy them while they're there, because they won't last forever. I have a tendency to try to save and horde things instead of using them, and flowers are a reminder to me that that strategy doesn't always work as the best way to make yourself and the world happy.

I've never taken on the challenge of flower gardening, though. It's always struck me as an aesthetic challenge that I wasn't sure I was up to - all of the books and guides I've read show these complicated beds laid out with the most exact, particular plants in the most exact, particular places, to make sure they grow properly together to look right and be healthy, and I could never find just what they recommended. So rather than do it wrong and have an aesthetically unpleasant garden, I just kept myself to safe, simple vegetables.

Except... they're flowers. How hard can they be? So over time I gradually dipped my toe in the scary world of ornamental gardens, mostly with help and cuttings from friends, and a handful of non-intimidating bulbs.

Today I have a vase full of daffodils and yellow tulips over my fireplace, cut from my own garden. I feel bad having cut them, but the reminder that I grew these, that I put something bright and joyous in the world, is worth more to me right now than having a perfect row in front of the house. I know it's not a huge accomplishment, but it's pretty spiffy to me. And my lilacs are blooming for the first time, and the lilies of the valley are slowly starting to emerge - I had worried that they wouldn't come back, but apparently they're just late this year.

I can see how this could become seriously habit-forming. I'm already imagining doubling the amount of bulbs in front of the house, and hunting down a few more lilacs, and wondering where I could put more color around the house....
ladysprite: (momongo)
Spring is slowly starting to tease me with its proximity, in a cruel and vicious fashion - looking out the window, the sky is bright and blue and sunny, and there are tulips and daffodils poking up in our garden; twice in the past few weeks the weather has been glorious and warm.... but it's not *quite* actually spring yet.

Right around now is when I start craving my garden in a serious way. The days are longer, the air smells more like life, and the wet and ick is the wet and ick of life instead of the wet and ick of bleak darkness. But it's futile to even think of planting anything until late May around here, and so it's too early now to even start planning. I treat garden planning like an advent calender - a way to slowly dole out the joy and anticipation and fun leading up to actual planting, and if I start too early it'll run out before actual gardening can start, just making me more impatient and frustrated.

But it's never too early to grow things indoors. And I have a grow light. So last weekend [livejournal.com profile] umbran and I headed out to our local garden center to get some herb seedlings, figuring that if we started growing our herbs now, instead of in the end of May, it'd give us tasty food, lovely growing things, and a headstart on putting together a setup that we could use all year round.

Alas and alack, much to my surprise and disappointment, the garden store did not have any herb seedlings. However, they did have the best impulse-buy trap that it has ever been my delight to fall headfirst into. Even knowing that I was being targeted, caught, and manipulated, I was powerless to resist.

Right by the doors, where you couldn't enter or leave without walking through the display, they had set up their newest gimmick: Fairy Gardens. Stone bowls or distressed-wood boxes of varying sizes to hold a little indoor garden. Tiny dollhouse-sized wrought-iron benches and gazebos and birdbaths and statues. And, to grow in it, eensy-weensy three-inch-high flowers. Perfect little rosebushes smaller than the palm of your hand, tiny orchids and daisies and little yellow and white flowers that I don't even know what they are.

I'm usually not susceptible to impulse buys. I don't spend a lot of money on myself, and on the rare occasions that I do, I usually agonize over the decision for weeks before going ahead and splurging. Within ten minutes of stumbling across this setup I had spent.... okay, not a lot, it's just flowers and dirt, but more than I've spent on non-essential items for myself at one shot in a long, long time.

And now I have green, growing things in my house, to remind me that things are getting warmer and brighter every day. Tiny, adorable green growing things. And an overwhelming urge to go back and buy a bigger container, and maybe some daisies....

Pictures, hidden, for those who might want to see.... )
ladysprite: (Default)
Summer, like it or not, is almost over, and with it most of my beloved gardening. There are still eggplant and tomatoes growing, but everything else has started to fade and die. The lilacs and lilies of the valley are long gone, and the potted snapdragons and pansies are fighting to survive, but clearly starting to lose that battle.

But there's one thing that I can do, that will keep me looking forward and let me indulge in my love of green growing things and playing in the dirt for at least a little longer.

Bulbs. Since we bought this house, I've been talking about planting bulbs in the fall, so that when spring comes I'll have bright explosions of flowers and color all around me, but it's never quite worked out. I tried to set up a raised bed on one side of the house, but the shade from above and tree roots from below led to utter failure. There are the lilies of the valley I mentioned, transplanted lovingly from a friend's garden, and the lilacs, but other than that... nothing.

I've never been very good with flowers - I feel completely lost working with them. Vegetables are easy; there are no real aesthetic concerns. Put them in the dirt, come back and get food later. Flowers are strange and mysterious and serve no practical purpose, and I'm always slightly afraid I'll do something wrong and they'll.... I don't know. Look funny, or wrong.

But I want to try. There are some places I can try to brighten up; I just need to figure out what to put there. Small areas, a row here or there, nothing huge, but it'd be nice as anything to have color peeking out at me come April.

So, my wiser and more experienced friends.... any hints or suggestions as to what I should try to play with, or how to make sure they grow right?
ladysprite: (momongo)
There are times when putting all the work and energy into my garden is frustrating as heck, and I wonder if it's worth it. When I've planted all the seeds and nothing has come up yet, or when I'm just staring out at a maze of vines and stems and it seems like nothing is ever going to come up ripe. When I realize that, no matter how hard I try, I will never get bell peppers to grow in my yard, or that I planted the spinach in exactly the wrong place and the broccoli shaded it so thoroughly that it died before it ever reached the edible point, or that something ate my zucchini plants.

Every year I try something new, and every year something fails. Not always the same thing, and I always wind up learning from my experiments, but still, when I'm in the heart of failure, it's hard to remember that I have my victories, too.

It's days like today, though, that make it all worthwhile. Days when I come home from work, wander out into my backyard, and find a rainbow of fruits and vegetables waiting for me....

I seem to be using a lot of cut-tags lately. Still, pictures hidden for your convenience.... )

Bliss

Jul. 17th, 2010 03:20 pm
ladysprite: (momongo)
Is there anything in the world that tastes better than the first garden tomato of the season, that you picked yourself, still warm from the sun?

So bright red-orange that it almost glows by itself, smelling like the vine and the earth instead of like the sprays they spritz on them at the grocery store, and so full of seeds and juice that it drips as you bite into it.

The pop of the skin, the sweetness and the acidy tang of the flesh, the slipperiness of the seeds and the juice, and the sheer, eye-rolling bliss as you realize just how GOOD this is, and how mediocre the pale, pathetic things the supermarket has been selling you for the last nine months truly are....

Later on this summer there will be tomato salad, and sauce, and oven-dried tomatoes, and giving tomatoes away to friends. But today, there's just this - picked, sliced, and eaten within five minutes in the ritual of celebration of summer.

No matter what else is going on at work, in the world, in my life..... this is good.

Whoa

Jul. 6th, 2010 08:20 pm
ladysprite: (Default)
All righty, then. While I may not be loving this heat, my garden certainly is.

Until now, I've been harvesting maybe a half-dozen blueberries and a couple of peapods per day - mostly eaten out of hand, occasionally tossing a few berries into my yogurt or my husband's cereal. I knew that things were starting to come ripe, but I had no idea just how far into hyperdrive we were about to go.

This morning yielded a double-handful of blueberries, and the same for peas. And this evening I just picked a half-pound of green beans, an absolutely gorgeous zucchini, and a yellow squash almost the size of my forearm. I could have picked two more yellow squash, but they're small enough that they'll last better on the vine than they will in the fridge. Ditto for two heads of broccoli - we've still got a little left over from the farmer's market, and I want to use that first. The corn is shoulder-high on me, the tomatoes are starting to turn red, and I don't even want to think about how many more green beans we'll have ready by the end of the week.

Veggie fried rice for dinner tomorrow if it's even vaguely cool enough to think about hot food, and zucchini quesadillas after that. Dilly beans this weekend, and time to start searching for more recipes that use green beans - I think I may have slightly overplanted.

Now all I need to be truly, blissfully happy is for the tomatoes to ripen.....
ladysprite: (MoonSun)
Okay. I slept miserably last night, and I am tired and terrified and generally unable to slow down enough to figure out which direction I'm running in. But even with that, there are a few things that can make me feel like the world is a good place. My husband is one of them, and my garden is another.

I've been slowly assembling seedlings and seeds, as he put together beds and toted bags of soil and fertilizer, and today was the day we had set aside to actually get stuff into the dirt. Luckily, the universe obliged for once, gifting us with a clear, sunny, warm, breezy day that was perfect for working outdoors. The garden store had the last few pieces we needed (they had been out of broccoli seedlings last time we stopped by), and our budget gave us enough wiggle room to pick up a few extras - mint to grow in a pot on the porch, marigolds to add color and keep bugs away, wildflower seeds for the empty beds I never got around to putting flowers in.

I have spent the last three hours, give or take, working with my hands in the dirt. Breaking up soil and pulling the last few weeds, hollowing out niches for the potatoes, unmolding and replanting seedlings, poking holes and tucking seeds into the earth. Our garden keeps getting bigger every year, mostly because each year we try one or two new things and wind up deciding that they're awesome and we need more of them. At this point our backyard is a yard in name only, more resembling a checkerboard grid of square foot beds than anything else, but that's fine by me. I love watching things grow, I love being able to pick dinner from my yard, and I love sharing what we grow with our friends.

This year, for those who care, we've planted:
hidden, for those who don't care )

We probably don't need all of this, but it's fun, and it makes me happy, and we do use it. And what we don't use gets handed off to friends, neighbors, and occasionally slow passers-by.

Right now my jeans are muddy and there's dirt under my fingernails, and there are three beds plus three more mini-beds happily soaking up their first watering outside. And while I'm not dancing about elated and miraculously cured, my headache is fading and I feel like I can at least face the world. If I'm lucky we'll find an excuse to go for a walk later this afternoon, and that will give me enough spare cope to make it through the night without nightmares or panic attacks.

One day at a time. And now there are green things growing in my yard, to watch and care for and harvest, every day.
ladysprite: (Default)
I was supposed to go to Middle Eastern Dance class last night. I really was. I just didn't have the energy or the emotional fortitude to make it - class is challenging for me, and it doesn't always match my learning style, so since I was already worn out and upset from a long and arduous work week, I decided not to push it, and came straight home instead. Thank goodness I did.

I got home early enough that it wasn't quite sunset yet, and while it was still raining halfheartedly, I still took a minute to pause outside and look at my garden. It's really taking off now, and it felt good to take it all in and appreciate what I had made. I glanced over the tangled vines of cucumbers and tomatoes and peas, and the row of zucchini and squash (at least half devoured by rabbits, alas, but such is life), then paused as I checked out the blueberry bushes. My husband had just set up nets around them to keep the birds away, and I thought I saw a leaf fluttering at the bottom of the net. I went to pick up my bag and head into the house, then I saw it again. And none of the other leaves were moving.....

I hustled into my house, informed my better half to grab a pair of scissors while I found my climbing gloves, then ran back out into the yard. Sure enough, a rather angry and bedraggled robin had managed to get caught in the netting. By the sheer mass of plastic strands that he had managed to tangle around himself, he had been thrashing around there for quite some time, and was stressed, soaked from the rain, and running out of fight. I had figured on cutting a strand or two and setting him free, but the mesh was snarled around his neck, wings, legs, and body in a hideous mess that I couldn't even begin to figure out. I cupped him in my hands while my better half just cut an entire window of the netting out, then hustled bird, husband, and the spare bandage scissors from my doctor bag into our downstairs bathroom.

The next half hour was a slow, gradual puzzle of figuring out how to hold an angry, struggling bird in one hand and cut tiny strands of plastic with the other. Husband helped mightily, slowly pulling away the netting one strand at a time, and I did my best to avoid either cutting his feathers with the scissors or sawing across his skin with the taut netting. At one point, once I had managed to free his wings, the robin did manage to get away from me, leading to the glamorous scene of me standing with one foot on the radiator and the other on the commode, trying to coax him off the curtain rod so we could finish freeing his neck, but eventually we managed to free him completely. And, much to our amazement, he was otherwise unharmed. He made it through our less-than-tender ministrations without having a heart attack, and somehow the netting had failed to cut or scrape him at all. Other than some bent and soggy tail feathers, he was.... fine.

I carried him out to the porch and tried to set him down on the railing to rest, but before I could let go all the way he took one last halfhearted peck at my thumb and took to the air, flying across the street to my neighbor's lawn. Alas, I've already seen him back in our yard, eyeing the berries again, but at least he's alive to try that stupidity again.

Needless to say, the current garden project for the very next non-miserable day is 'figure out how to anchor netting so that stupid robins can't try to sneak under it.' I feel like a heel for having such a horrid bird trap in my yard. Even so, as sad as it was to come home to find a live bird trapped in our berry bush, it would have been so much worse to find him the next morning.....
ladysprite: (Default)
Why didn't anyone ever tell me peas are delicious?

I spent most of my life thinking I hated peas. Apparently I was wrong; I hate nasty canned peas. We planted sugar snaps in our garden this year, mostly because we had the extra space, [livejournal.com profile] umbran likes them, and I figured if nothing else I can douse them in sauce and hide them in stir fries.

The plants are beautiful, and it was fun to watch them climb up the trellis we built for them and the cucumbers, and all of a sudden last week they went from having a few tiny white flowers to covered in bright green pods. And I haven't been able to stop eating them since. I haven't actually managed to cook any of them yet; they just taste so good right off the vine. Tiny fat little pods eaten whole, bigger ones split open with my thumbnail to pick out the little sugary peas - they're like candy. I've got a whole bunch that I picked this weekend and today that are destined to go into a batch of fried rice, if I can just avoid snacking them to death until then, and I can't wait to find more ways to use the rest that show up over the next few weeks. I think I may have a new favorite veggie, at least until the yellow squash are ripe.

I'm sorry, peas. I never gave you the credit you deserved. And I think the Canned Pea Manufacturers of America owe me an apology for making me think that you were disgusting - that's thirtymumble years I was deprived of your deliciousness. I have to make up for lost time.....
ladysprite: (Default)
I've reached the hurry-up-and-wait stage of gardening.

In the early spring, I'm busy and filling my time with planning and prepping - drawing out half a dozen possible layouts on graph paper, reading up on what might grow well in our area, calculating and figuring what will grow best in which beds next to what other plants. Even though there's no physical garden yet, there's progress in my mind and in my ideas.

Later on, near the end of spring, comes the actual dirty work. I love that part - weeding the beds from last year, wandering around the garden stores picking out seeds and seedlings, kneeling in the yard in the sunshine digging out spaces for transplanting. Dirt under my fingernails and the smell of fresh growing things everywhere and feeling like I'm accomplishing something. And for a week or two, every day something new happens. Roots spread, seedlings grow, seeds start to poke their heads out from underground and creep up taller and bigger every day.

And then we hit the slowdown. In a month or so, we'll be overrun by cucumbers and green beans and peas and tomatoes and zucchini and half a dozen other fresh vegetables, and I'll be swamped trying to harvest everything and find ways to eat what we can and put up what we can't. But at the moment, there's nothing left to do.

The raised beds mean little to no weeding, which is wonderful, but also means that I don't have any reason to interact with my veggies on a daily basis. The plants are growing, slowly, but day-to-day there's no perceptible change. And while I love to go out and look at them and make sure everything is fine, there's a serious feeling that as long as I'm watching, nothing's going to happen.

The herb bed is doing fine, and I can use that to my heart's content. The blueberries are *almost* blue. One of our tomato plants has a teeny, fingernail-sized tomato starting to develop, in spite of the general lack of sunlight that feels like it's stunting all of the plants. Soon, I'll have work to do in my garden again.

Soon. Just... not now.

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