Sunday, June 28, 2009

Adventures in First Time Gardening!

So this year I decided to plant a small garden. I figured since I've kept my house plants alive for several years, why not right? I found the perfect spot in the backyard where the sun shines for most of the day. I grabbed my shovel and went for it! I'll tell you now, the soil/dirt here in Texas is a wonder. In about a 10 foot by 10 foot area, there were four distinct types of dirt: actual soil, sand, rocky mess, and clay. A few hours and 100s of burned calories later, I had a nice big square of freshly tilled dirt! (I will definitely be investing in a tiller of some sort for next year, enough said).

I found these little peat pots that start as nuggets, then you soak them in water and they soon become these perfect little starters for your seeds. This is the point when the magic began and it has only become more and more magical since then. Now, I did look over a list of things that were seasonally appropriate to plant at the time, but I bought some broccoli seeds along with my other choices anyway. I chose snow peas, white eggplant, green onion (also not suggested to start from seed at the time), tomatoes, marigolds (just to keep critters away) and broccoli. I wanted to make sure it was stuff that we would actually eat and also that it wouldn't end up taking up our entire yard. I planted the seeds in my nuggets, covered them with the lid and set them on the counter.

I'm not sure why it was such an exciting discovery when tiny little leaves started poking out of the tops, but it was. Everything except the marigolds that is. When they were big enough to plant, I lined them all up in, what then, looked like WAY too large of a garden. I watered and waited. Then... the weeds. Oh goodness the weeds. I started by plucking and plucking and finally grabbed my mini hand rake thing (surely there is a name for it) and just sort of tilled them in, hoping to never see their little leaves again. At last, my garden looked like it was supposed to, the plants still way too small for the space allotted, and carried on with the waiting.

Everything was slowly getting bigger and I went to closely inspect it. Now... I had been told that broccoli was not a good one to grow at the time, but rules are made to be broken right? I was thinking, "Oh well THEY can't grow broccoli but I can." My lady at my knitting group shared with me a story about when they grew broccoli at the wrong time and all the bugs that they couldn't wash off, even after many tries. Yeah, well let me tell you...every single leaf (which was about two per plant at the time) was absolutely COVERED in tiny black bugs! Seriously? Sure enough, so out they came. Ripped them out one by one and tossed them. This was just a little on the heartbreak side because if you knew my son, you would know that he ranks broccoli up there with m&ms. They are a staple and I couldn't wait to grow our own. All in time I suppose...

Once things were seeming to actually flourish, I decided to expand our garden and add a special plot for corn. Reference the above shovel, hours and 100s of calories burned, and at last, a place for corn. I wasn't sure on the timing and how to do everything, clearly I was a professional gardener since I had the sprouts to prove it in the neighboring plot, so no worries. Kiddo picked out some yellow and white variegated corn seeds and I plopped them in and covered them up. I realized afterwards, that perhaps I planted them WAY too deep in the soil. A while went by and nothing came of it, though I had a pretty dirt rectangle in my yard, seemingly ready for plants. Then one day, little goose came running up to me and announced "OUR CORN IS COMING UP!!!" In my head I thought "Ahh, a lovely plot of weeds awaits..." I walked back there and oh my goodness, there, in perfect little rows right as I had planted them, a gazillion little leaves! Almost a gazillion, well, whatever they put in the pack anyway. We were both so excited and I was in awe.

My "rake, bury and forget" weeding technique worked wonders. I have had very little problems with weeds since then. A few plucks and buries and all is well.

So I have these gorgeous trellis', black iron, tall, all rounded at the top with little circular insets of stained glass with dragonflies on them that I placed behind my snow peas. Every visit I would encourage (a.k.a. wrap and hook) them around the trellis so they could get all vine like a fabulous. Each time I would find them flopped and stretching across the ground, unloved and sad. I guess that the black iron got way too hot in the Texas sun and they hated it. They were not looking so good and even after growing them from seed decided that they would meet the same fate the broccoli did. I ripped them out. Oh and the white eggplant, yeah... not so much. Not really sure what happened with them but we will just say that they are in a better place now in some broccoli, snow pea, eggplant salad in Heaven.

I was left with gorgeous tomato plants, corns sprouts, green onion sprouts. It was not quite the variety I had planned, so I headed to the nursery to grab a few plants to fill in the spots. They were out of strawberries so we ended up getting a small watermelon plant and two different pepper plants. I spread them out in the broccoli row and they looked like they fit.


It was the tomatoes that bloomed first. I probably asked anyone I talked to that day making sure that the blooms were where tomatoes were going to be. They all answered "Yeah I think so..." And so they did a few weeks later! Every step of this process has been magical. Like they are some sort of magical seed I planted, when really, they are just doing exactly like they are supposed to. It is quite something though, the whole process. Rewarding to say the very very least.

So here is a picture of some of my tomatoes recently spotted in my garden:

The watermelon plant was a nice little plant. All contained and leafy green. Staying nicely in the spot where I planted it. Seemed to be doing great! Then... it grew these arms. LONG arms. Reaching out and grabbing everything in my garden. At first I would carefully replace these monstrous vines in the spots I deemed fit. Then, it completely won me over. I have no idea how I didn't see it before hiding beneath the mass of leaves and unruly vines but I missed it. There it was:

And for a close up:

Keep in mind it is about the size of a baseball but isn't it BEAUTIFUL?! In the first photo there you can see my little green onions in all of their goodness. You know... the rebel onion seeds that were not supposed to make it this time of year, those ones. It was so great the first time we had baked potatoes and I ran to the backyard and plucked a few sprigs off of them for toppings. That is the first thing we actually consumed from the garden. The next thing we tried was one of our peppers. If you haven't grown peppers before it is absolutely amazing how quickly these things take off! A little dangling green pebble one day, and a huge pepper the next! We chose to plant Anaheim peppers because they have a great flavor and thin skin. Both are prime for, well pretty much anything you need a pepper for. Here is a glimpse of the ones that are growing right now:

The next thing to go wild was my corn plants. Now, everyone told me "Oh they are going to get really really tall!" I mean, the rate that they grow is fast but they reached about hip high and then grew these big shoots out of the tops. I think we must have gotten some sort of sawed off corn hybrid because all of the sudden I noticed while I was watering one day that they had...

Little puffs of corn silk stuff where the corn will pop out! How FUN!

We should have plenty to share too! (our storage building is in the background):

So now it is time again for the "Weed...water...wait..." game.

I will update our adventures in gardening soon! Oh by the way, the plants no longer look like they are drowning in a giant garden. They have filled it completely!

If you are a first time gardener or an old pro, "Doesn't it ROCK?"

And if you aren't "It is something you should try sometime for sure. I went from knowing nothing to being a total expert in no time! (or so I think)"


Anonymous said...

wow! i'm seriously impressed!

i decided i was more the farmer's market type than the gardening type, but i am now a bit jealous. :)

tamdoll said...

Your garden is magnificent! Wow. Mine has been getting so much rain and not enough sun... I think my peas have blossoms but everything else is kind of stunted. I don't even want to go out there to check it's so muddy.

Anonymous said...

Love your story! You started with some hard stuff. I never could get the bugs off the broccoli and also gave up. Dark green leafies are easier and very nutritious! Kale, collards, spinach, Chinese cabbages. They often mature fast enough to harvest before the bugs get a chance to damage.

Do you have a US Extension Office in your area? If yes, you can check with them to see what varieties of things grow best in your area. Or find someone who's grown veggies in your area for along time. They will know what varieties of things are bug and weather resistant for the challenges in your region.

You can use a mulch to keep down the weeds when you first plant. If you have a tree that sheds leaves, you can use that. I buy a bale of hay once a year that I use for the chickens' nests and as a mulch in the veggie garden. The mulch also helps hold moisture in the soil.

Keep up the good work!

Ana Revenant said...

You have some beautiful fruits & vegetables in your garden. It's nice that you appreciate their many people only think of them as sources of food. I hope you continue to cultivate your interests.