In the 7 years that we’ve lived here we’ve tried so many gardens. Every one has had issues. My yard is too shady except in the middle. I have rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and deer. They are stone-cold garden predators. They even managed to eat my tomatoes in pots on my second story deck.
Finally, enough was enough. The husband decided to give up a section in the middle of his beloved grass for raised beds. I decided to use all my hard-won horse-fencing knowledge to keep the critters out. (For a while I toyed with electrifying the fence.)
We started small with just a 4′ by 8′ bed and a 4′ x 4′ bed. If the plants survive the year we may go bigger and put in permanent and more attractive fencing.
The last time I did new raised beds I had piles of aged horse manure. We did not this time. Our compost piles have not broken down well so we had to buy dirt and compost. I put in a soaker hose system in case we ever need to water. Hopefully, it will keep raining here and we won’t need it. Then I topped it all with straw for mulch.
I started out adhering to Square Foot Gardening guidelines. I even had my 12 inch square quilt ruler out for measuring. The back row of the garden is pristine like that. As you get closer to the front it gets more freestyle until chaos reigns in the small bed.
I planted so much stuff that I had to make diagrams. There is a combination of plants and seeds out there. Just yesterday I noticed that some of the peas are sprouting. I’m so proud.
I’ve also started trying to make a food forest in the back. I keep adding berry bushes along the fence line. Some vermin keeps pulling out the strawberry plants. I planted a few varieties of potatoes in piles of straw too. We’ll see how that goes. They are also outside the fence so I don’t know if they will survive.
Updates to come throughout the growing season hopefully!
That was what the back of my yard looked like. (I took this picture from a second story deck. There aren’t power lines near the ground.) It is horrible for gardening. There is English ivy coming from a neighbor’s yard that climbs everything. We’ve made progress in getting it off the big oak trees. It is part shade. I tried to plant a garden in the sunniest part and everything got eaten by varmints.
I decided to tackle it this year. I cleared out all the little scrub volunteer trees. I want to make this food producing so I took some inspiration from Paradise Lot and ordered some paw paw trees.
Paw Paws are native fruit trees that make a fruit that supposedly tastes like bananas and mangos. I ordered bare root, grafted trees.
They look dead.
They are about 5 feet tall so hopefully they will survive and give fruit in a few years.
I also got some roses this year. I love them and I found two sunny places in the front yard that should work for them.
The existing plants have really taken off this week even though it has been cold enough to see some snow flakes.
The hostas are insane and need divided.
I wasn’t even sure if the astilbes were still alive last week and now they look like this.
I’ve given up trying to plant other food in the back yard. I’m doing containers this year on the back deck because there is sun and it is safe.
The container on the left has kale and lettuce. The one on the right has strawberries. I left the strawberry one at the base of the stairs to the deck for one night and some nasty rodent pulled out two of the plants. I replanted and they are doing well now.
This is basil, lavender, and some cute decorative plants.
Eric Toensmeier was writing and teaching about making edible forests but he was living in an apartment with a few plants in pots on the patio. He enlisted a student to work with him and they worked on some larger farms but decided to finally buy a place that they could make their own. They bought a duplex in Holyoke Massachusetts with a barren 1/10 acre lot and set out to make a edible landscape in a very cold part of the country.
The plan was pretty ambitious. They bought a duplex so they could live in one side and rent the other to raise money. Eventually they hoped to each meet women who wanted to be with them and then they could each have a side of the duplex. The lot was small and in horrible shape but in eight years they managed to get it to support over 200 varieties of edible plants.
This book is more inspirational than a straight how to. There are some pictures and some diagrams of the layout. I hadn’t heard of a lot of the plants that they have. They concentrate mostly on native plants that can survive a New England winter. They have a small greenhouse which they use mostly for salad greens in the winter.
This is something the husband and I would love to do. Our dream house is a dome with solar power and geothermal heat surrounded by food. We had a good start at our last house with the massive raised bed that was kindly filled by compost made from my horses’ manure. We could grow anything in that bed.
At this house we have the space but it is very shady and there are lots of deer that demolished our first attempt. Then we got lazy. We may be moving again soon and if it looks like we might stay put at a new house for a while I’d really like to use most of the lawn space for a combination of small fruit trees and berries combined with vegetables. I’m not sure I’m up for some of the more obscure plants they have but they have gotten me interested in paw paws.
I love peonies for the brief season that they are blooming. I have a row of them at the new house that I’m eagerly waiting to bloom. The other day I realized that I have another one. It is behind the shrubs in the front of the house. It is invisible unless you are in the bed spreading mulch. Of course it is blooming like crazy.
I’m bringing some of those blooms inside to enjoy them. So far I haven’t found any ants.
It just happens to be a compost tumbler just like I wanted. It also happens to be identical to one that went on sale online and had free overnight shipping. What a coincidence!
The SO has fought having a compost tumbler for years. Of course, he fought compost piles at first too until he discovered the joys of fresh dirt. Now he has started a compost pile at the new house. I’m sure he’ll learn to love this fancy device that speeds up composting since we have lots of beds to reclaim and we are in a shady yard that makes getting a pile up to composting heat difficult. When the first compost comes out of this handy gadget in a month instead of six months I’m sure he’ll forgive whoever dumped this ugly thing in his yard. At least now it is hidden from sight behind a shed instead of out in the open like it would have been at the other house.
It is a sad day when passing ruffians can just drop off handy gardening tools in the backyard against the will of the homeowner.
This year is going to be a surprise. We have a heavily landscaped yard with no idea what if anything is going to appear since it hasn’t been tended in several years. With this week of crazy warm temperatures plants are starting to come out of hibernation. I hope it doesn’t snow again. We aren’t officially frost free here until May 15.
Look what showed up in the last few days.
This is a weeping cherry, I believe.
Unknown something-or-others that look really familiar like I had them at my last house and I’m going to feel stupid when I finally realize what they are. They are in several spots.
Sedum!! I’m so excited. This is one of my favorite plants and it is coming up all over. If it wasn’t here I’d have to plant it.
Daffodils of course.
Mountain Fire Pieris. How do I know that? Is it my innate knowledge of all things horticultural? Nope, this one still has the Lowe’s tag on it. I’ve done that too and turns out to be super helpful for the new owners of your house. Thank you.
Privet. Another Lowe’s tag. The only thing I know about privet is that it is the name of the road Harry Potter lived on.
The SO is so very proud of his new grass. There are huge bare spots in the lawn and he’s one of those guys who feels a bit inadequate if his lawn isn’t robust. He spread a lot of seed and the birds were making off with it but now it is sprouting and he is so happy.
I think there might be something to this whole nutrition thing after all. I’ve been paying attention to what I’ve been eating this summer. (Except for last week, that was bad, we won’t talk about it anymore.) I’ve been walking fairly regularly but I haven’t been running like I was last year. In fact until yesterday I hadn’t run a step this year.
Last night I was walking and decided to run to the turn around point. That was only about 200 yards away. I figured after 8 months off of running that might be an ambitious goal. I wasn’t very good at running when I was doing it a lot. So I jogged easy to the turn around. It was super easy. Way too easy.
Today I went out on the trails that I jogged on last year. I walked a bit to warm up and then decided to jog little bits at a time. I did that for a bit and then decided to walk out to the end of one trail and see if I could jog back since I was feeling good. It is about a half mile back. I’ve never been able to run that whole trail. There is a steep hill in the middle that kills me. I didn’t expect much.
I ran the whole way back including the hill and felt fine.
I could have easily kept going but decided not to press my luck. Eight months off and I run a slow half mile in better condition than when I was running? The only thing that has changed is what I’m eating.
Today I roasted. I roasted eggplants from the garden and sweet potatoes and a butternut squash. The squash was made into a soup for lunch tomorrow. The eggplants were pureed with salsa and mixed with black beans and cheese for dinner tonight. The sweet potatoes are finger food and Freckles liked her herbs mixed with them too. I’m going to mix them with some ground turkey to start getting some fresh food into her diet to see if it helps her allergies.
I also pureed and froze the first batch of garden tomatoes. The house smells great.
Everything is starting to rebloom in my garden. It has been a really weird year here. I don’t remember all of the roses reblooming before but it is nice.
I planted three packets of sunflower seeds. I got one plant. But at least it is a plant with multiple flowers!
My tomatoes have gone insane. I didn’t use all the ones I froze last year so I only planted three plants this year instead of six. I also didn’t plant any cherry tomatoes since they were annoying last year.
This year the tomatoes I planted aren’t doing very well. But, I am overrun with volunteer plants. I’ve probably pulled up at least 50 plants. I was pulling up more today. They just keep appearing and crowding out the other stuff I’ve planted. They are producing lots of tomatoes too! Much better than the planted ones. I also am overrun yet again with cherry tomatoes from the volunteer plants.
Look at these.
These are from a volunteer plant in an area where tomatoes haven’t been planted in 4 years. There have been no volunteers in that bed since then until this year. Where did it come from?
I was sitting here today when the SO came in and said, “I thought you’d be out hoeing?”
I answered, “What are you, my pimp now?”
Apparently he meant that I should have been out planting the flowers I bought this week. Fine.
I already have the veggies in – three tomatoes, two peppers, two eggplants (I only meant to have one), a cantaloupe, bush cucumber, and green beans. I added some lettuce today.
All the perennials are doing well and coming back on schedule but I needed to fill some spaces with annuals. When I started gardening I didn’t understand the point of annuals? Why work to plant something that won’t come back next year? Now I know it is to be able to check out the plant stores in the spring when you are full up of perennials and your boyfriend hasn’t given in on those new beds that you want to put in.
I like daisy-type flowers so I added several. The back bed is done in several orange ones and some white Shasta daisies. Orange and white – University of Tennessee colors. Just adding a plug for SEC schools in this Big 10 stronghold.
I also added some pink ones to the front border now that all the bulbs and phlox are done out there.
The flower border on the front porch is finally starting to look like I envisioned it. This is the first year that everything is actually big enough to bloom on schedule.
We can play the “One of these things is not like the others…” song since one of these phlox is obviously purple instead of candytuft. Oh, well.
There were frost warnings last night so I moved the houseplants from their summer home outside back into the house. They are hanging out by the back door waiting to go back out. It makes the place look like a jungle.
If you are quiet and stealthy you can catch glimpses of the elusive Canus frecklus subspecies couchpotatous lurking.
This is a blurry picture because my camera can’t believe what it was seeing either.
Three of my five tomato plants already have tomatoes. This is absurdly early. I looked up my posts about tomatoes from last year (How do non-bloggers know what happened in their past?) and on May 28, 2009 I said that the tomato plants were starting to flower. Whoever started these plants must have done it really early for them to already have fruit.
According to that post I had foot tall sunflower plants last year at this time. I planted three packets of seeds a bit late this year. I’m at the “Is that a sunflower seedling or a weed?” stage right now. I think I have a glut of dwarf sunflowers and not much activity out of the two packets of big sunflowers. I hope they catch up.
I planted 5 tomato plants of different varieties and 5 pepper plants. I learned from last year and put the tomato cages on the plants now instead of waiting and having to wrestle monstrous plants into them later. I started several rows of lettuce and spinach. There are also cucumbers and green beans.
The bed behind the vegetable bed is mostly in the shade. I took the pictures this morning at the only time it gets any sun all day.
This year I added a few ferns. There is a Japanese Painted Fern (not pictured) for color and an Ostrich Fern against the back fence that is supposed to get tall. The hydrangea in the back was planted last year. It bloomed pink and didn’t get very big but it seems to be growing well this year. I planted a white astilbe in the fall of 2008. It didn’t do much last year but it is huge already this year. Originally I wanted three astilbe but I made a mistake when ordering and only got one. Since it is doing so well this year I added two of the same size near it. I’m going for a jungle look in this corner.
This is called a Persian Shield. I don’t know anything about them except that it is a tropical foliage plant that is supposed to get four feet tall. I planted two of these just to see what they end up like.
I’m so proud of my front flower bed. I bought some creeping phlox last fall on sale and planted it. It is Candytuft, a pink and white striped variety. They were just itty bitty little plants all winter but in the last week they exploded! They have more than doubled in size and put out all kinds of flowers.
However, one of the phlox not in the picture is not the same color. It is a dark pink. It makes me start to sing the Sesame Street song, “One of These Things is Not Like the Others” whenever I see it. The irises are transplants from my mother’s house. I’m proud of them for surviving too.
The view in my hallway now.
Our worker guy needed a day off today. I think scraping layers of wallpaper off plaster is going to be the death of him.
I’m at the point of the gardening cycle where “Let’s plant this variety and this variety and this variety…” has morphed into “What am I going to do with all these tomatoes?”
Today I’m oven drying two cookie sheets full and I processed six freezer bags worth of diced tomatoes. I realize that isn’t a huge harvest but that is just the amount of tomatoes I’ve picked in the last few days.
I did try the technique of boiling the tomatoes for a few seconds and then submerging them in ice water to slip the skins off. I hadn’t done it before and I was super happy when it actually worked like it was supposed to. I don’t know why that made it me so happy. I guess I’m easily amused today.
The bees are out in force this weekend. I went to sniff a sunflower (I know they don’t smell but I try anyway) and almost inhaled a bee. I kept trying to get pictures of them working like crazy in the garden but they were moving too fast to focus on. This is their favorite plant.
Can you tell what it is? Broccoli that has gone to flower. The SO wanted four broccoli plants but he’s seemed to have lost interest. I don’t eat broccoli since I’m convinced that it is poisonous. Anything that tastes that bad has to be. So, the bees have a playground.
This is what I got out of the garden today. There are three types of tomatoes (grape, early girl, and the first beefsteak) and the very first pepper of the season. It is a bite-sized type that I hadn’t seen before.
Now I’m being a good girl and not eating the pepper. I’m waiting until the SO comes home in order to cut it in half and share since there is only one. After the first harvest of any species though it is first come first served!
The tomatoes have been coming in drips and drabs. Not enough to make buying canning stuff worthwhile. I think I did too good of a job of making sure I bought varieties that would last all season long. So I’m thinking of making some purees and sauces to freeze. I don’t have much freezer space but I’ll cram it in there somehow.
Check out the new theme! I know most people are probably reading this in a RSS feed but come on over and see the new summery design. If you are on a feed aggregator here’s a summery shot to tide you over.
Guess what this is.
192 identical 4.5 inch half-square triangles. I can’t believe it did it. I’m a scrap quilter. I don’t make identical anything. But this quilt needs it to be identical. Stay tuned to see what they turn out to be…
(That was the planned end of this post. But as I was outside taking a picture of 192 quilt blocks on the pathway, the neighbor showed up to do some work the SO hired him to do. I’ve only met this guy once. He seemed to find it strange that I was taking pictures of weird things in the yard. Oh well, how else am I going to earn the strange neighbor title? In this neighbor I’m afraid that I’m going to have to do something much weirder.)
My first sunflower finally opened. Across the street there are lots of sunflowers and I was having sunflower envy. Now I feel better!
I’ve done all three of my running sessions for week one of the Couch to 5K program. The good news is that I’m not having shin splint problems at all! I’ve been doing the run for 60 seconds and then walk for 90 seconds until you’ve done that 8 times. Now I move onto run 90 seconds and walk 60 seconds. I’ve been feeling really good when I’m running so upping the intensity sort of scares me. I keep thinking that I’m going to be huffing and puffing and miserable! I’ve been forcing myself not to go out and run extra but to stay on the program. Now, really, when have I ever wanted to do extra cardio? That’s got to be a good sign!
We’ve started a new renovation project. We are going to be adding a low stone wall around the porch. Of course since there is a male, non-blogger, non-scrapbooker involved he started the project without doing the most important part of the prep work – the before photo. He said that the before was ugly so he didn’t want a picture. *shaking head*
Here’s as before as it gets:
The garden is going crazy this week.
I have to either go get more stakes or try to cram my runaway tomato plants into cages before they eat the eggplant.