Thursday, December 10, 2009

First major snowfall of the season

Well, today we had the first major snowfall of the season. I've been completely lazy about taking care of plants and pots and what-not, and will now probably regret it. I did manage to rescue two of the houseplants that were still hanging on, outside in the driveway, and put them in the garage. But I'm sure now I have lost the roses that never made it into the ground last year, nor this year. I may have one or two other houseplants that are now buried.

I'm hoping the new raspberry bushes make it through the winter. The ones that I have planted in pots in previous years have pretty much done okay, but those are nestled along the house. I don't have any more space to do that with the new ones from along the driveway. I'm contemplating moving them near the garage, instead.

We'll see how motivated I feel to work in the frigid cold this weekend. The wind is too strong tonight to even think about it! :-)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Admitting Defeat

This morning when I woke up, the sun was actually shining. I put the dogs out on their lead, and looked over at the decrepit veggie garden. I had to admit defeat and finally clean it out, because I just can't take it anymore.

Most of what was left was grass that had grown in once I gave up trying to grow stuff in it after the raccoons ate everything. There were a couple of little green onions that never amounted to anything, probably having been overwhelmed by everything else. I was hoping they would have grown into proper onions by now. And there were a couple of little wannabe melons. One had definitely been a musk melon (or cantaloupe, depending on where you live). I had unfortunately missed it, so I don't know how it would have tasted, though it was the size of a tennis ball.

I also have a couple of small watermelons, also the size of a tennis ball. One is turning a little yellowish, which means it is past its prime. But a couple more just fell off the vine, so maybe they will have a slightly tasty treat for me? I'll take them to work with me this week.

I also cleaned out the tomato pots. Tomatoes this year were a total joke. It really didn't seem to ever get quite hot enough for them to grow as profusely as they usually do. And I hardly got anything from the ones that I started from seed, vs. the ones I bought as plants from the nurseries.

So, I came to some very important conclusions today during the cleaning process.

Rule #1 -- Better to just start everything from plant that is purchased at a nursery, with the exception of peas (because I've never been able to get the plants to grow as well as the seeds), and beans (because beans are too easy).

Rule #2 -- Melons are probably okay, but need to be started much more in advance. I forget when I finally got around to them, but I know they were on clearance, so maybe it was July?

Rule #3-- MUST research ways to keep those damn raccoons away, because I was so stoked to have corn growing, but those bastards literally ate every one of them.

Rule #4 -- Must also find a way to have enough time and money to spend time working in my own yard, and to not feel the need to stay inside to write my heart out for money when I'm not out working my fingers to the bone for others.

I'm sure there were a few more rules, but I'll think of them later. ;-)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Late raspberries

So, this morning I was on my way to the garage to go to work, when I paused by the trash can to deposit some trash. Next to the trash bin is a pot with one of my many raspberry bushes. And there are actually raspberries on it! Granted, they weren't ripe, but a couple of them looked like they could ripen within the week, if the weather cooperated. The problem is, this is Upstate NY, and we are notorious for crappy weather. Apparently Ithaca got dumped on last night, and the storm barely missed Rochester.

However, it was still nice to see some signs of life as the weather gets colder. I'm also enjoying numerous rose blooms at the moment. Perhaps I may eventually get around to uploading more pictures? :-)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Update on Raccoons

So, tonight when I got home from my escapades and let the dogs out, the infamous "Teacha" called out across to me. He had to tell me his version of his wife's story about the raccoons in my yard.

Quick backstory: He just moved into the house across the street a few months ago. He loves to drink his 40s, then give prophecies and lots of advice, especially if it somehow entails him making money off of my efforts. The beer makes him relatively incoherent, and you have to take the bits and pieces you heard repeated 18 times, then sift them to figure out what he's really talking about.

According to him, there were about 30-50 raccoons in the yard that night. (Quite an impressive range, no? Remember, his wife said only about 20.)

And, I guess anywhere from 8-10 or 15 (depending on which point in the conversation you're at) went around the corner on the one street. And the same number went around the corner on the other street. And the same number when directly through my yard to the adjoining yard. And I got ROBBED, or shafted, or....[insert any other similar adjective], because those stupid creatures stole all of my food.

I kept trying to ask him what Animal Control said, and wasn't really getting anywhere. It pretty much sounds like, the reason the raccoons have set up shop behind his garage is due to the water in the basement that his landlord seems to refuse to do anything about. And Animal Control won't do anything because "someone is feeding them."

Yeah, I purposely planted all of that food in my yard because I wanted to feed the wild animals in the city. I wasn't really trying to have some fresh, healthy, organic produce and to save myself a significant chunk of money during my unpaid summer in this crappy economy.

So, Teacha recommends that I start complaining to the city. Of course, he has grandiose dreams of me filing suit against the city (it started with me losing $1000 -- which is an overstatement, though perhaps not by too much -- and ended with $30,000). And of course he'll have my back, so that he can share in my earnings. And he thinks I'll end up on CNN.

(More backstory: He constantly has some scheme in mind where I do all the work and earn all the money, but because it's his idea and he can supposedly help me with the paperwork, he should be a 50-50 partner in reaping the financial rewards.)

So, basically, I guess it needs to start with me calling Animal Control myself, and starting from there. Do I really feel like spending all this time with it? Not really. But it is a serious problem, and it's affecting the entire neighborhood, so.........

I'll keep y'all posted.....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stupid Raccoons

The other afternoon, as I was preparing to head for a day at the lake, my neighbor across the street from my driveway hollered over to me.

"Hey! I tried bangin' on your door last night 'cuz you had TWENTY raccoons in your yard!"


She went on to tell me that she had come home from church, and as she was getting out of the car, her husband yelled at her to get back in. She asked him why, and he told her there were raccoons. She thought he'd had too much to drink (as is his custom in the evenings, while he sits on the porch watching everyone) and started to get out again. But the neighbor in the house next to them also hollered over for her to stay put. And sure enough, there were two sitting in front of the car.

Her friend started flipping the headlights, but the raccoons didn't move.

Now, this is the part where a couple of details start to get a little fuzzy, because I frequently have difficulty following her train of thought, and as a result sometimes end up with misinformation.

Supposedly, as the evening wore on, the various neighbors all around me noticed numerous raccoons in the yard. Was it really 20? I honestly have no idea, because 20 to her could be five or thirty.

Eventually, she called Animal Control, who came out because she was the fourth phone call of the night. The way she describes it, he just kinda sat there scratching his head as numerous raccoons were running around stealing my corn and other food, hiding behind my neighbor's bushes, and into the garage on the other side of mine. And then he said something along the lines of they wouldn't do anything unless we wanted to pay to rent cages and then they would come and pick them up.

I'm a little miffed about that whole bit.

Apparently, there is a whole family of raccoons that is living behind the garage of the house across the street, because her landlord has been dumping wood back there, thus creating a haven. Having a ready-made food source across the street (i.e. my garden) hasn't been helping matters. And, apparently, I am not the only one who has been suffering losses.

I've been wary coming home at night, now, because I don't want to run into any raccoons. And if I let the dogs out at night, I am now sitting right out there with them, because I don't want them to tangle with a raccoon, either.

This morning, I got up to let the boys out, and the neighbor started hollering at me again. This time she was mad because they had been dragging the corn stalks around and left a couple of pieces in her yard. She started telling me that I needed to put up a fence.

Ok, 1 -- I don't have the money, the time, nor the ability to do such a thing.

2 -- At this late point in the season, I almost don't care anymore.

3 -- They know how to climb -- they climb trees -- and I don't think the kind of fence that I can get away with putting up (without going through the hell of trying to order permits and having one built for me, which is ridiculous on such a small plot as the garden is) is really going to deter the little beasts.

So, lesson learned is that I will have to look into trying to put up some kind of a fence next year. Or, I just can't grow corn, after all, in my neighborhood. I'm highly disappointed, because I have been waiting all summer to sink my teeth into some fresh corn on the cob. And I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, so it's making me just a little bit crankier than usual. :-)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I battled the poison ivy....and I won

Ok, so I didn't actually pull it out.....but I don't have a rash today, so that is mega-points for me!

For my one major remaining gardening job of the summer, my last big project is to clean out this bed on the side of the backyard. When I was edging it to make space for the mulch last week, I noticed several giant patches of poison ivy lurking within. I showed it to the lady, who has never noticed it before. I also noticed there are other patches of ivy that look similar, but don't have the telltale irregular notched edges.

They were going to try to remove the poison ivy for me, but didn't have a chance, yet. They wanted to spray, but I warned them against doing so, because all the literature says that just spreads the urushiol oil around.

So, I went out in my "Poison Ivy Haz-Mat" gear to work in the yard today. I wore my gardening shoes with socks pulled all the way up, jeans over my capris, and a long-sleeved button-down shirt over my t-shirt. I pulled my hair back tightly at the crown so that none would fall out, and used Wegmans bags over my gloves. And I did my best to work around it as long as I could stand it.

Why am I freaking out about it? Well, the last two summers, I ended up with cellulitis from poison ivy rashes. I published my perils just about a year ago:

My Poison Ivy Rash Turned Into Cellulitis

But worse than that was the fact that it indirectly also caused me to become anemic, and it took me over six months to recover from that.

So why do I keep gardening? People keep telling me that I shouldn't work in the gardens if I am so sensitive to it. But I love to work outdoors. There isn't a better way to make money in the summers! And since I know what it looks like, I can try to avoid it. I also tell people up front that I will not touch it, and why I won't touch it.

I also always carry poison ivy soap with me, so that if I accidentally come across it, I can immediately wash myself. Laundry detergent also works. And remember to not wash in hot water, as that opens the pores.

If you do get yourself into a nasty patch of poison ivy......

How to Get Doctor's Care for Poison Ivy

Monday, August 3, 2009

More corn missing, but there's a cucumber!

I took the post-rain day walk around the yard this morning, to assess any damage or immediate needs. I noticed that more of the corn stalks have been chewed down (I still say it's the damn squirrels!!) even though they have no cobs on them. grrrr

I also noticed that in one of the pots of cucumbers that is somewhat protected by other pots, there is finally a cucumber growing! So, I may actually get something else this year!

I remember reading somewhere that you should put marigolds around your garden to deter small critters. I doubt there are any left, but I may just have to look for some on clearance or something. Or else, just count my losses and remember to do it next year.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The mystery of the squished green onions solved!

In addition to all of my other produce issues, I have been perplexed by the pot of green onions that have been looking squished. It's the only pot of them that has been tamped down, and I couldn't come up with any good explanations as to why.

Finally, I figured it out.

I was sitting on the back porch steps as the dogs were wandering the yard on their lead. Jeffey (my sister's dog) apparently was thirsty and started drinking the water from the ground that had puddled after the rain. There wasn't much left.

I turned to the side, and when I looked back, Jeffey was stepping in the pot of green onions, attempting to reach a different pot whose drainage holes long ago plugged up, thus causing the pot to fill with inches of water after every rainfall. When I yelled his name for him to get out, he instead lay down in the pot. (It is rectangular, and he perfectly fit inside it.)

It was actually rather adorable, even though I was annoyed that he was squishing my green onions. And I unfortunately did not have a camera or my camera phone on me. You know that had I tried to move to grab it, he would have jumped out and the opportunity would be lost.

I also noticed that ll of the rain has been encouraging the strawberries to grow more and they are shooting runners out of the pots this year. I'll have to rearrange the berry corner to accommodate them!

Lots of rain again today. I will have to scope out the yard tomorrow to see what other fun things are happening.....

Thursday, July 30, 2009

No corn for me

I've been watching the original six corn plants grow. Slowly, they started to tassel out at the top. Then the little pink hairs started to form where the corn cobs were going to grow. And lo and behold, there were corn cobs starting.

I've watched them get fatter and fatter. They were getting so close to being ready. And then the rains came.

After a couple of days of heavy rain, I noticed that a couple of stalks had fallen over after each one. Cursing the storms, I just looked longingly at the other cobs growing.

Then, in the middle of a rare 2-3 day stretch with no rain, I noticed that another stalk had gone down. Upon closer examination, I realized that some little bugger had nibbled down the stalk and swiped the corn.

There was one stalk left with two cobs growing. The little pink hairs were almost brown, but not quite. The cobs were firm, yet not quite firm enough. I was waiting with baited breath.

And today, they are both gone.

I don't know whether to laugh, cry, scream, swear or what.

I've been trying to figure out what has been eating them. At first I thought perhaps the deer that randomly showed up in the city and ate my tulips this spring had returned. But I've not heard of nor seen it around lately.

Now, I'm blaming it on the squirrels. As entertaining as they are to watch scurrying around in the tree, they are slowly but surely making my crops disappear. I've watched them playing with my tomatoes. And I noticed that the stalks have been dragged down the sidewalk a bit in the direction of the tree. It's gotta be them. And it would make sense, being corn and all.

I also have been noticing that not a single squash has grown. I had purchased a plant with numerous flowers on it, thinking it looked like a prolific producer. Every time it looks like the flower is about to turn into a vegetable, something eats it. Same thing on my other pot.

I also have a huge strawberry that was starting to ripen. When I went looking for it today, it was also gone.

I'm so sad.

And I'm holding out hope for the other corn plants, but not holding my breath. Now to figure out what to do differently for next year.......

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bugs are not my friends

I know that bugs are essential to the well-being of the planet, and are good for the garden, and all that jazz. But this week they definitely are NOT my friends!

Let's start with a spider bite. On my face. Ok, so that happened a few weeks ago, but there is still a mark.

Then the other day, I was digging in a flower bed, doing a clean-out job for someone. Suddenly I come across a ground bee nest. I beat the honeycomb with the larvae in it and move away quickly because the Queen Mama isn't happy. The lady of the house nicely sprays the area, where there were only a few bees actually buzzing around. I count my blessings, as I've never been stung before, and keep on working.

Karma catches up the following day.

I'm working at the job where I am pulling out a ginormous amount of pachysandra. Suddenly I feel something pinch my leg. I look down, and there is one damn ground bee. No other ones are around, which tells me that I hadn't actually disturbed a next. I feel nothing for a little while, but then when dirt gets into the sting, it starts to hurt. A lot.

By the time I am home a half hour later, the area surrounding the sting is bright red, and about 2.5 inches in diameter, and is black and blue on the top edge. I clean it out, remove the stinger, ice it, and apply benadryl cream and antibacterial ointment.

A couple of days later, it is hot and bright red, but now is doing somewhat better. I can't believe it took me almost 32 years to finally get stung by a bee.

Then I'm at home walking around looking at my lilies. These damned orange beetles are absolutely DECIMATING my beautiful flowers! I hurry and run around with my Neem #12 spray that was given to me from the greenhouse, but to no avail. It holds off the little bastards for about a day or two. I finally had to pick up the heavy-duty stuff that is bad for kids and animals. But I've invested way too much in those lilies to let them be massacred.

That brings me to today's fun. I'm working at another clean-out job for a family who is getting ready to move. Toward the end of the shift, I sit down because I am tired, and I am on a hill, so I want to maintain my balance. I feel something bite me, and I figure it's another darn mosquito flying down the back of my jeans. The lady comes out to talk to me, and I realize that I have been sitting on top of an ant hill.

When I was a kid in Ohio, I used to have those little black ants crawling all over me, and had no problem. But these bastards in NY are nasty! They bite! So here I am, literally with a bunch of ants in my pants.

The lady was kind enough to let me come in, shake out my clothing, and wash up. I literally shook out two dozen ants, that I wiped up with a tissue and flushed down the toilet. It brings about new meaning to gardening being a pain in the a$$.

And because my darling psychotic Siamese ripped holes in my screens, and I refuse to use AC, I have flies in the house and can't get rid of them.

At least it's not poison ivy like I had the last two years! (Click here for that horrific tale.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fresh from the garden dinner!

The Rochester weather has been crappy and rainy lately, living little to no time for paying in the dirt. When it has been sunny, I'm usually engaged elsewhere.

Finally, yesterday, after spending numerous hours working for others in their yards, I came home and started wandering around my own. My produce has been taunting me, growing bigger and bigger, but not yielding anything. And finally last night, I hit the jackpot! Sort of.

My red raspberry bushes finally had a bunch of ripened berries on them. There is nothing better than a raspberry eaten straight off of the bush! The ones that you get in the stores are simply picked too early and don't have that same ripe, sweet taste.

The original pea plants, which I had thought were finished yielding pods, are starting to flower again. There were two actual pods that were ready. The green bean plants also had a ton of beans that were over 6 inches long! So, I ended up with a nice bowl full of beans, peas, and berries to eat for dinner.

I steamed the peas and beans. I don't think I have ever had peas that were so sweet! And the beans were so tasty and sweet as well! I wish I had better adjectives, but I don't!

I have newer peas and beans starting to flower, and even more that I had planted later, so I should be getting crops all season long. I can't wait! The handful tonight was a little small, but I should have enough for tomorrow's dinner.

The other fun bit was, as I was harvesting the peas and beans, I checked out the corn. And the first set of corn stalks that I had planted are now almost as tall as I am and have corn silk!

So far there are four sporting silk on four of the plants. One is still a little dwarfed by the pea plants, and the sixth one looks like it is getting ready to sprout some silk. You can actually see the little cobs starting to form! I'm so excited!!

The other 24 corn plants I had purchased are slowly but surely growing, as well.

My smaller tomatoes are growing better than the larger varieties. I'm hoping to have some ripened cherry, grape, and pear varieties later this week!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Busting My Butt & The Bounty Begins

I have been talking about two of my gardening jobs lately, and today I hit them both. I had a hard time getting moving this morning because I was way too tired and didn't get enough sleep last night. But, I finally made it to the first job which is that pulling of the pachysandra.

Unfortunately, it rained a ton last night, so the grass, pachysandra, and dirt were all totally soaked. Normally that means that plants come up easier out of the dirt. Not so much with pachysandra. Those stupid roots were totally glued together in the mud, meaning I only could pull the plants. Finally after the sun dried the dirt out a bit, I was able to get the roots. I still filled two bins in two hours, so I guess it wasn't that bad after all.

Then, I moved on to the giant mulching job. I spent four hours trimming back more bushes, edging the beds, and hauling the mulch. I quit after four hours because I couldn't move anymore. Here is what the pile looks like now:

The rock in the bottom right shows you where the tarp was when I got there. You can see the stain on the ground from where the wet mulch was sitting. I'm only about a quarter of the way around the perimeter of the yard, not counting the two big beds.....I'm soooooo stiff right now!

When I came home, I decided to check out the garden. And there were finally some goodies for me to enjoy! I started with some peas, which I think I may want to freeze?

These came from the original plants that are between the original corn. More are coming, and the newer plants are starting to flower! I noticed that the beans are also starting to grow! Yay!

I also had two more black raspberries from that bush, and just one strawberry.

More strawberries are flowering and there's a ton of red raspberries starting to turn!

And, finally there are a bunch of tomatoes starting to show on the plants!

I have at least a dozen varieties that are in pots, and I'm trying to grow at least a dozen other varieties from seed. Only a few plants from the original wave of seeds are actually growing. I need to transplant the few that have started into a pot. I keep forgetting to use my writing friend Jaipi Sixbear's suggestion to put a raw egg in the container as a natural her suggestion here.

I get to take the next few days off, because of my tutoring schedule. Yay! My body is going to need to recup! Then again, I may feel more uncomfortable by not using those muscles......

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Patch of pachysandra and 10 yards

I have two giant gardening jobs that are going to keep me occupied all summer long. The first one that I keep talking about is moving 10 yards of mulch. Have you ever seen 10 yards of mulch? It's ridiculously HUGE!

But before I can spread it I have to weed and shape and trim and edge and transplant. I'm actually enjoying it. I just pick one small section and completely finish it, then move on to the next part. It's fun to see the progress and the contrast of completed and untouched side-by-side.

My other job is clearing a patch of pachysandra in an area that is approximately 60 square feet, at least?

Under normal circumstances, one might just Round-Up the whole section. But the part that is being removed is only a small portion of the entire bed. It has obviously been in existence for several years, as it is packed tightly together. And it is surrounding some rhododendron bushes that are getting choked out by the pachysandra.

Have you ever pulled pachysandra? It actually can kind of pull out easily, at least around the edges of the bed. But that stuff is a royal pain! One plant shoots out a root that can travel upwards of two feet for the next plant to sprout up! And if it has been growing for a while, all of those roots get tangled up like crazy.

Again, I'm actually enjoying it, because it is totally mindless. I get absolutely filthy as I yank out the roots, then dig through the soil to make sure I got them all. It's a little painful to see the destruction of a beautiful bed, but I know that the future plans for it will make it look beautiful again. It just has to look worse before it will look better.

So, pardon me while I groan a bit about my work. I don't really mean it. :-)

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I came home from working on a long, hard gardening job. (Have you ever tried to move TEN YARDS of mulch? It ain't easy!) I checked on the garden goodies and found that I had a whopping 3 black raspberries! WOOHOO!!

I just bought two black raspberry bushes a couple of weeks ago from Bauman's. Only one is going to produce berries this year. I also got two purple raspberry bushes, but they won't produce until next year. Alas, I have nowhere to plant them in my yard, so I have to keep them in pots. One would think that I wouldn't get a lot of berries that way, but the red raspberry bush that I bought and potted a few years ago is bursting all over the place with berries!

The key is putting them into huge pots so that they have room to grow new shoots. New shoots this year will produce berries next year. When the berry-producing branches have finished this year, cut them back to make room for the new. Once they produce berries, they are finished for good.

I almost didn't get these three black raspberries, though. I have this neighbor across the street. Her daughter is four, and is obsessed with Julio (my Shih-tzu). They asked if they could walk over and see the dog, and as I was sitting there, anyway, working on pots and seeds, I said yes.

I don't think the poor woman has any experience with plants, whatsoever. She starts asking me a hundred questions about everything I am planting. When I tell her that the one pot is black raspberries, she reaches out and squeezes one to see if I'm telling the truth! AAARRRGHH!!!

At least she didn't eat it this time! Last year, I had a bunch of tomato plants in pots, that weren't doing quite as well as they are doing this year. In the one pot were yellow pear tomatoes. The darn plant only produced one tomato last year. They literally look like little yellow pears, but are the size of grape tomatoes. She asked me what it was, I told her, she picked it off, popped it in her mouth, then proceeded to talk about how horrible it was and how much she hates tomatoes. SERIOUSLY?!?!?!?!

I have so many more stories about this neighbor, but I won't put them here.......

Anyway, now I'm just trying to remember to check the berries daily. I also have four pots of strawberries, and I realized that I've missed several by not checking, so they've rotted. At least they are everbearing and will continue to produce throughout the summer!

Broccoli....the bane of my existence

Ok, broccoli isn't really the bane of my existance, but I give up on it! Two years ago, when I was home and contemplating starting a veggie garden, my trusted gardening experts in BG told me that I could grow broccoli in a pot. So, I bought a six-pack, put each one in its own large pot, and hoped for the best.

I got one floret.

And it very quickly turned into flowers.

So, I tried one plant again last year, and this time put it in a bigger pot. Same thing.

And the same story again this year. I finally put the stupid plant into the pot about two weeks ago, and already it's on the verge of flowering after barely having a floret.

Because I am a glutton for punishment, I picked up another six-pack on clearance when I went to Bauman's the other day. So, I put them in the ground on the newly dug-up portion of the veggie bed, well-spaced out, and am hoping for the best.

But I'll tell ya, if they don't work this time around, I'M DONE!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rain, Rain Go Away!!

It is almost 4 pm and it has been consistently raining since I woke up today at 6:15. Sometimes it has let up, but most of the day it has been coming down at quite a clip. Normally the rain is a good thing for those flowers and produce that I have growing in the yard, but there is such a thing as TOO MUCH of a good thing. Since Wednesday afternoon, it has only really stopped raining for approximately twelve hours, and that was yesterday.

I briefly checked things out yesterday during the brief sunshine, and I noticed that the flowers are indeed looking good. It's too bad I haven't had a chance to plant all of those flats, yet!

But some of the produce isn't so lush. I had planted a bunch of tomato seeds in six-packs, just like I did last year. I don't know if they were washed out a while ago, or if there was a problem with the seeds. And then I had tried planting some directly into pots, just to compare the two methods. The rain has shifted a couple of the seedlings in the big pot. Another one isn't draining for some reason, and it has totally flooded.

But the berries at least are looking plump and tasty! The rain is supposed to be gone by tomorrow afternoon, so I guess I will assess the damage then.

And then I'll be begging for rain by this time next week. I checked and there is just sun throughout the entire ten-day forecast. Too bad I can't bottle some of this rain to save for then!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Corn, Peas, and Beans

I have been experimenting with growing my own produce in my yard. Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of space, as I live in the city, and most of the backyard is reserved for my dog. I tend to do a lot of container gardening, instead. But last year I started putting in a small strip on the far side of my driveway, next to my neighbor's yard.

Last year I tried peas, and didn't have enough time to take care of them. But the beans did really well. So, I wanted to try them again this year. I purchased a few plants, as well as lots of seeds. I figured that way I could have some early produce, then as I plant the seeds every few weeks, I can end up with a longer growing season.

This year, I also decided to try some sweet corn, just for the heck of it. A--I love sweet corn and B--How funny would it be to have sweet corn growing in the middle of the city? So, I bought a six-pack at Baumans and planted them:

Because I have limited space, and it takes corn so long to grow big, I decided to plant some peas and beans around the corn. I used the plants that I also purchased at Baumans, because I figured they would be done by the time the corn got too tall. They had been growing nicely:

I've added a few more peas and beans and onions along the row. The recent rain has been very good for the produce. Everything seems to be growing nicely, and the peas and beans are now getting flowers on them! But yesterday, I noticed that the peas are flippin' out of control! I always buy the bush peas that do not require being staked. I thought the pea plants I had purchased were that kind! Alas, they are not, and they are taking over the corn!

I am hoping that the one corn that is getting bent will end up okay. I keep trying to move the peas, but I don't want to break them since they are so close to producing pods.

I'm also considering buying some more corn plants, because I believe Baumans still has some more, and adding a few? For 2 bucks, what have I got to lose, right?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gardening with Kids

Today I was out working on a couple of my gardening jobs. At the first one, I was strictly weeding and mulching, trying to finish up this yard. The family came home early, as their middle child had just graduated from kindergarten. She's a sweet kid who used to attend my school. I'll call her "Beth".

Beth and I always got along quite well when she was at our school. Every year when I come to work in her yard, she is always trying to help me. She is very good at following directions, so I can usually set her up with a simple task while I do what I need to do. But every time, as soon as she says, "I'll help!" her mom freaks out and tells her to play somewhere else or just stay out of my way.

Maybe I am just used to little kids helping me out because I teach young children. Maybe I am just flashing back to when I was a kid and how badly I always wanted to help my father out in the yard. And I remember how crushed I was when he would tell me that I couldn't help with a particular project. (Though I was/am stubborn and persisted until he found some kind of task for me.) But usually I can find some sort of task for a young child to do, that keeps her out of my way yet is helpful in some sense. And believe me, Beth is much less of a pain to handle than some other children I've had to deal with!

So, anyway, as I was going around mulching the remaining little areas, I set Beth up way ahead of me, showing her which weeds or grass to pull, and allowed her to use my little trowel. She was content to be working alongside me and was proud of the contribution she was making. And she did get a lot of those weeds dug up! She wasn't a problem in the slightest.

Even on Sunday, her barely-turned-three-year-old brother was out digging away trying to help. I just set him up in a corner that he couldn't hurt, gave him my little trowel, and let him go!

Last year, another little girl named "Erica" wanted to help me plant flowers. I showed her how to push the impatiens up from the bottom of the six-pack and let her start laying them out. After her mom freaked, I simply popped them out for her, laid them out, dug the holes, then let her put them in and fill in the hole. I adjusted any that needed help after she went in to eat her dinner.

So, there are lots of ways that your children can learn by helping you out in the yard. Take advantage of these teaching moments, because they are receptive to listening to what you have to share. Consider how much they will absorb simply by observing you in action. I think I learned more by watching my dad than any reading or research I have done on my own, just as he learned from his grandmother.

For some other tips on gardening with kids, read some of these articles:

Simple Ways to Include Your Young Child in Gardening Activities

Grow a Salad Garden with Your Children

How to Include Your Young Child in Gardening Activities

How to Grow a Salad Garden with Your Children

Monday, June 15, 2009

About Me

Growing up, I always felt like I was in a gardening wonderland. My father had created this tiered area in the side yard with stone steps and paths. I remember the dogwood tree and lots of ferns in the back. Apparently, I used to call this area my "basement" (because we didn't have a basement when I was a kid, so I created my own?). I remember walking up and down the path, touching all of the plants. There are pictures of me sitting with my "bankie" on the steps, happy as a lark.

I also remember watching Daddy planting flower in the front beds in front of our store. He is very particular about what goes where and I used to have to beg to help, but he would let me plant what he had placed. I formed strong opinions then about what I liked and what I didn't like.

My mother, on the other hand, was raised on a farm. Her expertise was in growing produce. I also used to help her out in the garden. Again, she would place, and I could plant. We grew all kinds of fresh vegetables in the yard, and I would watch her can the yearly bounty.

As an adult, I have used their wisdom to help me learn how to do my own style of gardening. I even help others do it throughout the planting season, and yeah, can make a little money doing it.

And I am honored that my father told me the other day that he thinks I have more talent than he did. That meant a lot to me!

So, keep coming back here for stories of trial and error, links to worthy advice I have found, and to share some of your own wisdom!