Friday, May 17, 2013

More Tomato Advice

I was given some advice about starting tomatoes by a friend a month or so ago.  Mainly the advice was that I started my tomatoes too late, and he recommended I buy my plants so I could put them in already much bigger.  His reasoning was that my plants wouldn't have time to grow mature fruit before the first frost, since I live at a colder elevation.  After a small freak-out, I sought more advice and some people agreed with him, but thought I should give my starts a try anyway, and just cover them when it got cold in the fall.  I decided to do both, and bought three cherry tomato plants.  Recently, my cherry tomatoes started to blossom, and I got excited at this sign of life. 

We had some friends over this afternoon, one of whom is also a gardener, and has a lot of experience with tomatoes.  I was showing him my starts, and he recommended plucking all the blossoms, maybe even a couple more times, to get the plant to focus on growing bigger, and eventually producing more.  My motto with my garden has been learn as much as you can from whomever wants to teach you, so I took his advice and plucked off all the blossoms.  I must admit that this was a little terrifying, but it makes sense.  We'll just have to wait and see... Anyone do this with your tomatoes?  I'll keep you posted, and hopefully I'll have plenty of tomatoes to show for it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day in the Garden

I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do more for Mother's Day than work in my garden with my children, so that's exactly what I did.  Tes and i got started when I put Christian down for his nap.  I really wanted to get two more beds ready, and get some more cold-hearty seeds in the ground.  The two beds were built, but I still had to line them with hard ware cloth, and mix the soil.  I had picked up some more top soil and composted manure the day before, and it was all waiting for me.  Tes danced around the garden while I stapled the hard ware cloth in place, when I wasn't looking she got my phone and started snapping pictures of my progress, so I owe her a photo credit for today's post. Once I had the boxes finished, I started carrying over the bags of soil to mix, and Tessie couldn't wait to get her hands dirty.

 We mixed the top soil and composted manure in the wheel barrow first.  The process was a bit slowed down due to Tessie's methods, but she was having such a good time that I couldn't rush her. 
Tes helped me dump the wheelbarrow full of dirt into the bed, and we mixed it once more.  I used my hoe, and she used her hands.  We were a great team. 

 I took a break to check on the snoozing boy, and sure enough, he was awake.  Christian joined us in the garden, and watched from his stroller as we planted the first bed.  We planted cabbage, cauliflower, and swiss chard.  We left room at one end of the bed for our broccoli starts, which we will wait another week to transplant.  Tessie provided Christian with a lap-full of rocks to play with until he grew tired of the game and wanted to play in the dirt.  The kids played in the shady corner of the garden while I planted the second bed with sweet peas and green beans.  Watching the kids getting absolutely covered in dirt from head to toe was by far the greatest part of my day.

Happy Kids

When I had all the seeds covered, the kids took turns helping me water.  Tessie was a little over zealous while watering our lettuce bed, but I'm hoping they don't mind.  

Having both kids (and Lucy too) in the garden today was such a treat.  Usually I just get to garden with Tes because Christian get's frustrated and can't sit for that long.  He had a blast today, and I couldn't have been given a greater gift.  We all worked hard, and were filthy by the time we headed inside.  It was a perfect Mother's Day.

Our Foreman

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The First Planting

Well we finally did it, we got some seeds in the ground!  I am so excited!  I finally had enough time, and a working staple gun, to finish the first bed.  After lining the bottom of the bed with hard ware cloth and stapling all the sides, I mixed my soil, and poured it in the bed.

 I used a mixture of about 2:1 top soil and composted manure.  My 4x6 bed ended up taking all the soil I had, so one bed is enough today.  I mixed the soil in my wheelbarrow first, then again with a hoe in the bed.  Tessie was dying of impatience as I finally announced we were ready to plant the seeds.  This bed is one of our partial shade beds, it gets good sun in the morning, a little shade mid day, and more shade in the late afternoon, so we decided it would be perfect for our lettuces.  I was planning on transplanting starters from inside, but as you know, that didn't work out.  So Tes and I gathered the seeds we needed, and got started.  I made a shallow trough for the seeds, and she delicately sprinkled them in, then helped me mound the dirt over the top of the trough.  I followed the instructions on the packet for seed depth and row spacing, and will thin accordingly once they have sprouted.  We ended up with two rows the width of our bed of romaine lettuce and bibb lettuce, one row of spinach, and two half rows (just to the middle of the bed) of arugula and sorrel.  We watered them well, I plan on putting in a soaker hose soon, and then sat back to admire our work.  I will let you know when they start to pop up, Tes and I can't wait!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Trial and Error

This whole experience is one big game of trial and error. I have been getting great advice, reading books, blogs and articles, and just winging it. Sometimes this had paid off, but at other times it has not. One of these not moments has ended, unfortunately, with the demise of all the lettuces I started indoors.

Like many other gardeners, I am completely addicted to Pinterest. I have gotten a ton of great ideas, and some really wonderful information on starting a vegetable garden. Check out my Garden board to see some of the great things I've pinned. One of the ideas I wanted to try was starting seeds in an egg carton. I am always interested in ideas that reuse all the junk I have accumulated, and this seemed perfect.  (Keep an eye out for my Reuse, Repurpose, Reimagine! page for more ideas on reusing "trash" in the garden.) At first it worked great, the lettuces were the first things to pop up, and they seemed to be doing great.

I got mixed opinions from other gardeners on whether or not I should have started my lettuce indoors, and the majority said no, I should direct sow outdoors before the last frost, because they won't transplant well.  If only I'd asked sooner...

The bigger the seedlings got, the unhappier they looked, and I couldnt keep them moist enough. I tried transplanting the lettuce into bigger pots, but I discovered that the roots had started to grow through the cardboard, and the few I did transplant looked very unhappy. 

Slowly, starting with the spinach, then the arugula, and the romaine, they all shriveled up. The Bibb lettuce was the last to hang on, but it didn't make it in the end either. 
The point of all of this is that I learned a lot.  I think if I had started the seedlings a little sooner, and had my beds ready sooner, I could have transplanted them successfully.  But I am not convinced.  I did warn everyone that I am a genuine gardening newbie, but hopefully you can learn a little from my misfortune.  You're welcome.  I'm getting ready to plant my beds, so wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Busy Weekend

It was a beautiful weekend.  Tes and I got some more work done in the garden, and we are getting closer to planting!  I finally made and hung the two gates.  I think it really looks nice.  Tes was eager to do something with actual plants, so I put her to work pulling weeds.  What are children for, after all?  I also got the first raised bed built!  I can't wait to transplant my lettuces!  I think I will wait a bit longer though, we have snow forecast this Thursday, ugh!  But it will give me time to get my drip irrigation system working.  Check back soon on the "Breaking Ground" page for the full story of how I am setting up all the "bones" of our garden.  I have learned a lot, and maybe I can pass along some of my new found knowledge.  Here are some photos of our time in the garden from over the weekend.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Playing in the Dirt

Yesterday morning was beautiful, and Tes and I got outside to dig in the dirt.  We turned over the beds in front of the garden fence that will eventually be a beautiful cottage flower garden, I hope.  Tes helped gather river rocks for the border and placed them with precise intent.  Earlier in the day we had been to town and, big surprise, picked up some more goodies for our garden.  Only this time, we didn't get any veggies.  Tessie and I picked out a bunch of bulbs, and even though I knew we wouldn't be planting them for a while, we got started on the the beds anyway.  We also picked up a little Gnome (Christian liked him and I couldn't help myself) and now he is guarding our garden.  I can't wait to see some flowers in here, but for now it's a great spot to play in the dirt.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Waiting Out The Weather

Spring is such an odd time of year.  The warmer days have me chomping at the bit to get outside and work.  One day it's in the high 60s, beautiful and inspiring for working in the garden.  The next day it's literally freezing, and snowing.  I'm going crazy!  At least the inclement weather has kept me from putting too much in the ground, and then loosing it to the cold temperatures.  If I can find a little patience, it will be summer before I know it.  I have been working outside through all the wind, rain, and snow, and I'm ready to be warm, maybe even get a gardening tan.  Anyone else having a hard time waiting out the weather?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Seed Addiction

I stopped at Ace Hardware today to pick up a few things, mostly hardware for my garden gates.  I wanted to get one packet of Sweet Peas to grow along the chicken run, but the seed rack proved to be too much temptation for us.  Tessie picked out two different pumpkin varieties, I grabbed some herbs, and we also made off with two big bags of wildflower mixes.  Sigh, I think I have a problem.

The Beginning

For months, Tessie and I have been talking about our vegetable garden.  We have been planning, researching, and imagining the possibilities.  For me, a vegetable garden represents so much.  It is a piece of my childhood, a way to get closer to nature, the best way to get organic veggies, and one of the greatest gifts I can think of to give my children.  I have been dreaming of what it will mean for them to grow and harvest their own food.  Today, we started the journey.

We had already been collecting seeds, but it was time to get them in some soil.  This is the part where I offer up a confession.  I know nothing about gardening.  For all my dreams of a gorgeous, prolific garden, I have absolutely no idea where to begin.  This is made so much worse by the fact that my mother is a genius in the garden.  She had the most amazing vegetable garden when we were kids, and now, even in the desert, her flower garden looks like a New Mexican Eden.  I have trouble keeping my house plants alive.  But in spite of this, I am determined to feed my family with food I have grown them.  That, and I promised my daughter...

So we stopped in at a local nursery for supplies.  Tessie was jumping up and down with excitement, and Christian thought if she was excited, he should be too.  We got a little advice, some seedling soil, and a few more packets of seeds, then headed home to get to work.  Christian had no interest in digging in the dirt, so Tes and I were on our own.  After a call or two to my mom for some advice, we got to it.  Tessie filled our little pots with soil, stuck our labels in, and, very carefully, placed the seeds in the pots.  The process was long, and she lost interest temporarily in the middle, but she came back around as I carried our future tomato, cabbage, broccoli, lettuces, arugula, and spinach to sit in front of a sunny window.  She watered, and hopefully didn't drown, each pot, then stood back proudly to examine her work.  After she had run back several times to see if they were sprouting yet, I explained we would have to wait about a week.  "And then we will have vegetables!" she declared.  I laughed and gave her a hug.  Our little garden is off to a beautiful start.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Our Adventure

This year I have decided to embark on a new adventure; A vegetable garden!  One of the biggest motivations for me is to have my children grow up not only eating fresh vegetables, but also to teach them that food doesn't come from a store, it comes from the earth.  Almost two years ago, we moved out to "the country" and now have the room to start our little homestead.  I grew up eating vegetables from the backyard, eggs I gathered by hand, and meat we raised ourselves.  I distinctly remember the feeling of popping a cherry tomato into my mouth, it's skin still warm from the sun.  I want my children to have these experiences, to grow up valuing the world around them for what it can provide, if they just make a little effort.  My daughter has jumped into this project with such enthusiasm, that she has grown the spark inside me, to an inferno of excitement over this project.  We have already learned so much together, and I can't help but share our story.  I hope you can find inspiration in our endeavor, and maybe start your own little piece of gardening heaven.