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!