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Posts Tagged ‘garden’

The 2015 Spring Garden was almost a complete failure – the only thing that did well were the beans. So I’m back (from outerspace) with a new plan, some more mulch, a trash can full of compost, and plans to really *magic it up* this year. I am not content to just put the garden in the ground. This garden needs magic, or I fear it will go the way of last year’s garden, and I will get no tomatoes and be sad.

The container garden contains only herbs and one yellow squash plant that I’m attempting to make work. We’ll see:

  • cilantro
  • Italian oregano
  • straight neck yellow squash
  • scallions (green onions)

The actual garden bed contains:

  • Tomatoes (Arkansas Traveler, Globe, Sweet 100, Sweet Million, Yellow Pear, and Juliet) – almost all cherry tomatoes this year
  • TAM Jalapeno (3)
  • Sweet Banana Pepper (3)
  • Clemson Spineless Okra (4 hills of 2 plants)
  • Bush Blue Lake Beans (3 full rows)
  • Eggplant (Japanese Long)
  • Genovese Basil

The whole thing (except the bean rows, which haven’t sprouted yet) is mulched thickly with cedar shavings, which will hopefully help with weeds.

I’ve also got an order in for some “seed bombs” (mammoth dill, italian parsley, genovese basil, and mixed romaine) to toss in my garden bed with the aloe and the lime tree, to try to make something out of an otherwise useless little corner of garden. If it doesn’t work, I’m not super sad, but the seed balls look easy to use and sprout, and the bed gets lots of sun. That bed currently only contains the out of control aloe plants and Frank. Frank is my 15 year old oregano plant. He’s very hardy. At his largest, he was the size of a coffee table, but he’s much smaller than that now.

In the past, my most successful garden came after I blessed it with a drink that came out of a very powerful ritual. Next week is our Spring Equinox ritual, and so I think I will make extra of our sacred drink (remind me to post on that sometime) and use it to bless the garden. It’ll have strong blessings in it, and I can do a ritual myself to bless the ground. I’ve made a small earth mother talisman for our Druid Mooncast workings, so perhaps she will come and participate as well.

I really *really* don’t want another failed garden. It was so hard last year to look out and see it overtaken with weeds, not producing any fruit at all. I know I went and got a new job and spent the month of May living somewhere else, which didn’t help, but it still feels personal. So this year, I’m doing my best to ensure success.

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Last year I didn’t get a garden in – the first year since we’ve lived in our house that I waited too long and missed the planting window.

This year I was determined to not let that happen again, and so this past weekend, in celebration of the coming spring (and of my birthday, which was on the 2nd) ((and of the last freeze date, which is March 1 here)) we put in the garden.

My main garden bed is 10×12, so I’m limited to that plus what I can grow in containers. This year the in-ground bed contains:

  • Tomatoes (6) (Celebrity hybrid, my best producer in years past)
  • Eggplant (2) (White Beauty hybrid)
  • Okra (6 hills) (Clemson Spineless)
  • Beans (3 rows) (Bush Blue Lake)
  • Dill (Fernleaf)
  • Parsley (Flat leaf)
  • Cilantro
  • Basil (Genovese)

I also totally re-did my container garden, with a heavy weight toward hot and sweet peppers, which do very well here in pots (they don’t like as much water as tomatoes and eggplant and beans, so if I plant them in the main bed, they tend to not produce much). In containers I have:

  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
  • Sweet Yellow Banana Peppers (6)
  • Jalapenos (6)
  • Sugar snap peas (with a trellis)
  • Picklebush cucumbers (with a trellis)
  • Zucchini (compact variety, hoping that works in a pot)

I can’t plant curcurbits in the ground because of downy and powdery mildew here, so I am trying them in pots. If it works, hooray, and if not, I’m only out the cost of the seed packets and a big tomato cage.

It was a perfect weekend for planting. 55 degrees and cloudy, with a light breeze – cool enough to need a light jacket, but hopefully also to help keep tiny seedlings from getting too stressed. My parents were in town to help with the garden, so it was a community effort, and quite fun. I got dirt under my fingernails and in my hair, and it was glorious.

At the end of the day, we grilled our dinner, and I made a burned offering of various herbs and resins to the fire, as a blessing for my newly replanted garden. I always try to make offerings to the fire when I can, and I’m planning a formal ritual for the gardens where I will take the blessings in return for the offerings I make, and pour them out over the plants (probably in the form of a watering can 🙂 ). The spirits of my garden tend to respond very well to poured offerings of various kinds as well (they’ve received everything from wine to cider to goats milk mixed with kahlua).

If all of this does well, I will be drowning in produce come May, which is exactly how I want it to be. I’ll make salsa and pickles and eat fresh warm tomatoes with fresh basil and olive oil and salt.

 

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With the last frost date less than two weeks away, it’s time for me to really start thinking about my garden. It’s sat, rather sadly neglected, since last June, so I have some work ahead of me to get the ground ready for transplants. (I use transplants since our growing season is rather short, and I like to get a head start on things like tomatoes that will suffer in the heat.)

I suspect, with as mild as our winter has been, that I could probably get my first plants in the ground as early as this weekend, but I still prefer to wait until that official frost date. Maybe it’s a bit superstitious, but I don’t want to freeze my tomatoes.

My garden is about 10×12, raised bed and mostly organic. I compost all my kitchen scraps and yard waste in two bins on the side of the house, but I’m not sure either is ready to go into the garden just yet. I’ll have to check them and see. They’re both pretty full at least, so once things warm up I’ll have lots of compost to spread around the plants.

The whole garden needs to be cleared of weeds and grass and turned over to be ready for this year’s plants. Since we don’t own a rototiller/cultivator, I have to till the earth by hand. It’s always kind of cleansing (as well as somewhat back-breaking) to grab a shovel and turn over all of the earth there.

I’m probably mostly going to put in green beans and tomatoes – for some reason I have a great deal of trouble with curcurbits (cucumbers, zucchini, squash) getting downy/powdery mildew and dying on me (or getting big but not producing any fruit). I’d like to try melons this summer as well, but beans and tomatoes are my staples. They grow well for me, and last year I ended up at one point with over 15 lbs of tomatoes – out of which I made a delicious vinaigrey, peppery salsa. This year I’d like enough to make some marinara sauce to freeze in quarts. I’d also like enough green beans to make another few batches of “dilly beans” – spicy dill pickle green beans that I eat by the jar if I’m not careful.

I’ll also grow hot peppers, but I put those in pots. Hot peppers of various kinds tend to like to have periods of dry, and tomatoes need at least an inch of water a week, so if I water the tomatoes enough to be fruitful, the peppers don’t do much. They do well in pots for me though – I’d like to grow a nice assortment, from jalapenos and hot banana peppers to some larger Anaheim peppers that I can stuff with sausage and roast. Yum!

At some point I need to figure out what’s causing  my problem with curcurbits (I suspect it’s a fungus problem with the soil), but with as much time as I spend at work, I don’t really have time to troubleshoot a lot of garden problems. I wish I had more time to devote to it, since I get a lot of satisfaction out of growing things, but work has to take priority over hobbies, even useful ones like growing food.

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I usually have birdfeeders up during the winter. They’re usually a hotbed of jays, cardinals, titmouses (titmice?), sparrows, finches, and doves. And squirrels.

This year, I put up the feeders, and to date I’ve seen a few squirrels and two doves.

To say that I was confused would be an understatement.

I replaced the seed, wondering if maybe something was wrong with it, but still – no birds.

Then I got to talking to my neighbor, who is also a bird lover. She has a yard full of birds every year, doubly so because she has a pool, so the birds can get fresh water. She doesn’t have any birds either, but she kept finding piles of feathers in her yard. The first suspicion was cats, but we have no more roaming cats this year than we have had in the past. Then, one afternoon, she spotted the problem.

Instead of lots of little birds, we have Harold.

Harold, you see, is a Cooper’s Hawk. And Harold apparently figured out that bird feeders are literal, and can be used to feed finches to Harold as well as to feed thistle seed to finches. In fact, Harold was treating her bird feeder like a 24 hour, all-you-can-eat buffet. He has even figured out the bird-feeder-system so well that he will flyby the feeders, sending all the birds into the bushes, and then stalk along the ground, poking his head into the bushes and rustling out the songbirds. And then eating them.

It didn’t take long for all the little birds to leave. Not even the doves are coming to the feeders. He’s also chased off the wrens, a bird I have a strong affinity for (and have since I was a child), for which I’m rather sad. We’ve had several mating pairs of wrens at the house since we moved in, and this year they didn’t raise any babies, and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know.

She has taken her feeders down, not out of spite for Harold, but because it’s a little unsettling to find the messy remains of Harold’s lunch on your lawn repeatedly. Regardless of how useful he is to the ecosystem, the piles of bloody feathers are a little sad.

I have to agree that it’s unsettling to see Nature take its course so obviously on your front lawn (I feel less unsettled by all the bugs in spiderwebs. Apparently I’m a bit sentimental about songbirds.) Harold has as much right as any of the other birds to be here, and predators are a crucial part of the ecosystem, be they red tailed hawks, cooper’s hawks, barred owls, or buzzards.

As much as I have an affinity for raptors, and as much as I like Harold’s stripey feathered pants, I feel a little bad attracting other birds to be his lunch. So I’m taking my feeders down as well.

Hopefully, without the feeders there to attract the songbirds, Harold will decide to go elsewhere for his all-you-can-eat buffet. And maybe next year we’ll have better luck birdwatching.

I’m going to take the rest of my birdseed and put it out for the squirrels though. No sense wasting it, and they’ll enjoy the snack as much as anyone.

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Fall is slowly creeping in here, with the leaves on some of the trees turning and falling. Many of the trees here are Live Oaks though, so they’ll keep their leaves until spring, when the new leaves will push the old ones off the trees. Our yard has mainly a southern variety of weeping Ash trees and a Poplar tree (plus palm trees of various types), so we’ll be dealing with fallen leaves for a bit longer. The grass is mostly dormant at this point, so we’re only mowing once every 2-3 weeks. Things are looking pretty dry, so I’m hoping we get some rain soon.

The monarch butterflies are pretty much gone by now as well – they pass through here on their southerly migrations, so we get a good number of them. They’re one of the reasons I really love my butterfly garden in the fall. Sadly my salvias don’t seem to be doing well – I will try giving the garden a good watering, but they just don’t seem to be making it right now. Which is sad, as they were huge and gorgeous.

We also had a cold front this week, so some of the less hardy potted plants are coming inside. We need to build a drape frame for our lime tree as well, since it’s now too big to keep in a pot, and will need to be sheltered if it actually gets cold. Our lows this week are in the lower 40F range, so some of the tropicals definitely need to join the dumcane inside the porch. This will be interesting with the plumeria, which has gotten so large that we’ve put it’s pot on a wheeled platter. I’m not sure it will fit through the porch door, but I guess we’ll find out!

The lizards know where the warms are and have been attempting at cost to life and limb to get inside the house or screen porch. Unfortunately the cats think they’re both fun and tasty, so we’ve found a few corpses and made a few rescues so far. That will likely continue through the winter.

It’s probably time to get the bird feeders up as well. (Or the squirrel feeders, really) There won’t be any more hummingbirds this year for sure; we only saw two all summer, which was sad. Usually there are tons. I wonder if the climate is affecting their migration, or maybe we didn’t have the feeders up soon enough or something. I love having birds in the yard, especially when it’s cold – we’ve had breeding pairs of cardinals and bluejays for a few years now. The wrens usually make a nest in the yard (or in the wreath on my door), but I’ve yet to find a seed they’ll eat. I think they’re more interested in the bugs living in my potted plants.

I’m not planting a winter garden this year, mostly because things were too crazy when I would have needed to get it planted. Instead, we’ll compost the garden plot with leaves and kitchen compost over the winter. It could stand to rest for a little bit anyway, especially since we planted corn this summer. I don’t think I’ll grow corn again, just because it takes up a lot of space for not a lot of produce in the end. Maybe one more try now that I’ve done it before, but I’m not sold on corn as a backyard crop.

The days are approaching their shortest now, and the sun has already set when I get home from work at 5:30. The sun is about 15 minutes shy of rising when I get to work at 6:30am.  Having it be dark when I leave and dark when I get home is hard, but at least I still get some afternoon sun on my commute home.

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