Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Herbs are the Pots. . .

I had planned on building--or at least getting material for--my raised beds this past weekend, but Memorial  Day came and went with no progress.  Well, maybe not no progress, but not much, and a bit in the wrong direction while I wait for the turn in the road that will get me back on track.  A bit rambling I know, but the thought runs parallel to actual events and plans involving my coveted raised bed herb garden.  

Allow me to elaborate. . .

I would have been perfectly happy with a 4'x8'x10", 2'x8'x14", and triangular side bed made out of slabs or planks of wood.  I would have added stone to the outside to make the beds more appealing to the eye when I was able.  I do have a vision for the area, and I want to see it come to fruition even if it takes a few years.  

My husband, however, didn't want those types of beds.  His vision involves a sweeping wall that is the back wall of the taller bed built of paving stones matching the patio he wants to put in.  The bed would be tiered, like I want, and somewhat pie-shaped--with the point of the pie squared off.  

Now, don't get me wrong, I love his idea.  I was just trying to be practical.  And timely.  As it is now, I had to purchase more pots to get the rest of my herbs and seeds planted.  My plan was to plant and transplant into my raised bed, but now I don't have one.  

Isotoma fluviatillis
Blue Star Creeper
Around the area where the bed will eventually be I want to plant a Stepable plant called Blue Star Creeper.  This plant grows 1"-2" tall with little white star-shaped flowers.  But the best part is that you can walk on it.  I dream of the day when I can walk out to my garden in bare feet and feel the soft plants tickle my toes.  If I can get a drawing of the plans scanned in, I'll post them.  It really will be beautiful when it's finished.  My personal Zen garden.

So I'm left with potted herbs for now.  I can deal with that since my dear husband plans to have the beds and patio built this summer.  I am concerned with my bee balm, though.  I really need to get it in the ground and out of it's two tiny 6" pots.  And I need to do it before the summer is over so it can survive the winter.

Beautiful, but stinky
After reading up on rose hips, I thought maybe I could get them from my roses.  Alas, my roses are tea roses, which, while beautiful, will never again be brought into my home.  (I hate the smell.)  Rose hips used in teas come from the little white roses that grow wild.  I would harvest from the ones around my home, but I don't trust their source because I don't tend them.  None of them are on my property, you see, so I would be relying on truly wild roses or roses that someone else may have sprayed with something.  These plants also can't be guaranteed to be the one I'm looking for.  Because of this, I am going to look into purchasing some plants from a reputable seller next year.  

Short and sweet, with a bit complaining, but as long as it all pans out in the end all will be be well with my herbal world.  Next post, fruits, then back to the veggies so I can go on about what I've planted and how I'm keeping records.

Oh, yeah!  I have to give my man super awesome props for getting me a garden dump cart.  I am truly loving my little black wagon.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Soul Food. . .

Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the big picture, note all the details, and reevaluate.  I have a 2 year old boy, so getting things done isn't always easy.  In fact, my nerves have been stretched taught and thin lately, making me quick to snap or lose my temper.  

This year I have 28 tomato plants.  Sunday I planted them in my freshly tilled, plowed, and covered garden.  But I had to split up the job to accommodate Bug's bedtime.  For 45 minutes I left him inside with his brother (13) and Disney's Lilo and Stitch while I started planting.  At the insistence of my husband I wanted to get them in the ground before the impending three days of rain heading our way.  (Thank you Atlantic storms.)  

In that first expanse of planting time I succeeded in getting everything I needed out to the garden and establishing a system for efficiency.  I even got 14 of the tomato plants into the ground.  
28 Tomato Plants

Here's a little secret I use for planting, be it seeds or transplants:  Dig the hole and fill it with potting soil.  For the tomatoes I mix in Tomatoes Alive! as well.  Add your transplant or seed(s).  (For transplants I use less potting soil to start and add more after adding the plant.  For seeds I fill the hole to 1/2 inch below the top.  This helps in heavy or copious rains.)  Water lightly.  
Sunbright Tomatoes

Brandywine Tomatoes
I took a break from my garden to put Bug to bed, but he wasn't exactly cooperative.  He was upset about having to get changed and wanted to hide in Daddy's room.  I let him go while I got his pj's ready, and when I went to find him I pretended that I couldn't see him laying on the floor by the bed.  We made a game of it, which helped to ease him into getting changed.  I even put him in the tub for a quick "shower." 

But the point is I didn't freak out when he started to, and I credit that to working in my garden.

So after Bug was sleeping soundly and Tommy was tucked into bed, I went back out to my garden to finish the job.  Clad in my thick flannel shirt-jacket and sporting my head lamp, I wrapped my gel pads around my knees and pulled on my gloves.  (I'll tell you more about these later because I love them so much, I feel they need a shout out.)  

Top 4 are Cherries
Bottome 4 are Grapes
My wonderful husband was going to provide me with a spotlight, but it died.  So I kneeled between the rows where I was planting my tomatoes and got to work with just my head lamp.  It wasn't a big deal.  I use the head lamp for pollinating my gourds, so it wasn't an inconvenience.  Tom went inside and left me to my planting.

That's when the understanding enveloped my soul with its soft warmth.  Gardening is good for my spirit, my innermost wellbeing.  It cleanses me like nothing has since horses graced my life.  I'm not talking about just any gardening, though.  This purging only happens after the sun paints the sky with purples and oranges.  It's those quiet hours as the sun sets and the world grows dark and quiet.  I don't use the time for reflection.  That seems counter-productive to me.  I simply absorb the sunset,  the dusk, the night.  I let the sounds and the air invade me--body, mind, spirit.  And I am left all the better for it.

So I got all my tomatoes planted Sunday night.  The cherry plants have tomatoes on them already.  This coming weekend I'm going to start my seeds.
Baby Cherry Tomato

What does gardening do for you?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Progress, Progress. . .

Well, I failed in my first attempt to grow dandelions, so Bug and I got two more "poof balls" and tried again.  This time I took a cue from nature and didn't push the seeds into the dirt.  Instead I simply dusted the top of the container with the seeds.  Bug helped by thrashing his hand back and forth to spread the seeds on his "poof ball."  Honestly, he probably did a better job.

Apple Mint
(inside per feral cats)
On a more positive note, I found some apple mint and catnip at my local Lowe's store.  I had an issue with the apple mint in that the day after I bought it, it looked like it was trying to die.  So I grabbed a container--not the one I intend to use because I need to get more--planted it, and watered heavily.  By about 10:00 that night, it had already started perking up.  Now it's thriving.

Orange Mint
My other mints are virtually taking over.  Thankfully I put them each in their own shallow container with lots of surface area.  The chocolate mint was a slow to get started in its upward and outward growth, but it is finally showing some progress.  I need to get 3 more of the containers--which are Sterilite containers I purchased at Big Lots--for my apple mint, spearmint, and lemon mint.  (I still need to acquire my lemon mint from my neighbor's garden.)  Once those are out, I'll have 2 empty pots for other herbs. . .

Chocolate Mint


Like a second and third planting of lettuce.  It's coming up nicely now.  This is the first time I've tried lettuce, and I'm pretty excited to be growing my own salad greens.  In one pot I've got green ice lettuce, which is supposed to be similar to iceberg.  The other pot has a mesclun mix.  This is a leafy lettuce that should give me a "cut and come again" type harvest.
Green Ice

Mesclun Mix

I also have some borage planted on a container.  I'll be planting more between my tomato plants because it's supposed to help keep those pesky horned tomato worms away.  I planted it Mother's Day weekend, and already I have a sprout.  The pickling cucumbers and garlic chives I planted last weekend are also growing already.

I purchased the tomato plants the weekend before Mother's Day at Huber's.  I've got 4 grapes, 4 cherries, 6 Brandywines, and 12 Sunbrights.  I grew Sunbright tomatoes last year, and I loved them for their size and meaty interiors.  They were great sandwich tomatoes.  I'm trying the Brandywine tomatoes this year because they are said to have a wonderful flavor.  

Plowing the last of 14 rows
Sadly, our tiller decided to put up a fight.  Tom worked on it all afternoon Mother's Day, and after getting the fuel lines replaced and clean gas in it, the pull cord broke.  We also didn't get to Home Depot because of the tiller.  I wanted to get my raised bed built and planted, but, alas.  

However, my wonderful husband did get the tiller working eventually, and is out there prepping the soil for my garden as I type this.  Later my mother is coming over to help lay the plastic and get the tomatoes in the ground.  

The seeds are going to wait because they are calling for rain all week.  I had issues last year when it rained hard after I planted my seeds.  The corn didn't grow at all, and several other plants only had a couple sprouts.  So next weekend, after the rain is gone--hopefully--I'll direct sow most of my seeds.  The pumpkins and butternut squash will wait a while longer.  

Because of the initial setback with the tiller, I decided to start some of my seeds in newspaper pots using my mom's PotMaker.  I never did get that done because Bug hid the PotMaker under the TV armoire, and now that my garden is ready I'll direct sow.  It's supposed to be better for the plants because it eliminates the stress of transplanting.  

Next year I'm going to try growing my tomatoes from seeds saved from this year's harvest.  I'd like to get to the point where my garden is sustainable on it's own.  Where I can grow the next year's crops from the current year's harvest, and I don't have to buy seeds or plants anymore.  

 Before I go to bed tonight, I feel I must announce that the garden is officially ready for planting.  The ground is tilled and fertilized with my secret fertilizer (all natural, too!).  It's been plowed into 14 deep rows, and the plastic has be laid down to prevent unwanted natives.
Ready to Plant!

I'll give an update on the herb garden later in the week.  Hopefully I'll have the materials to get the raised bed(s) up and planted.  The fruits need some up to date photos and their stories told, too.  Here's a teaser. . .
Raspberry Flowers

Pineapple Sage