My July Garden

They grow up so fast.

Late June and early July is when the garden really comes to life. Tomatoes start to ripen, tiny little squash begin to grow, and the tomatillo “lanterns” are dangling delicately from their branches. Some of the greens and herbs are trying to go to seed, and now it’s time to think about replanting new crops for the fall. I pulled up some lettuce that was past its prime and put down some new cilantro. I dug up some packets of beans and peas to start growing a late crop of  those.

Meanwhile, one of my tomato plants is now towering over my head and the butternut squash is dutifully climbing the trellis I set out for it. One of my watermelon plants has flowers on it — as do the eggplant — and apparently some of my strawberries are ever-bearing because I’ve got more coming in.

Now that most of the work is done, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to make from all of this. I also spend a lot of time dipping cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes in hummus. 😉

There’s too much going on out there to tell you about it all, so here are some pictures. Continue reading

Signs of Progress: A Garden Update

The handsome fellow pictured here is Jerry, my cat. He’s prowling through the lemon grass, blueberries, and hollyhocks while I do some basic garden maintenance. Jerry is probably just as curious as I am about who has been nibbling the flowers off of my squash.

I hadn’t planned on doing a garden update so soon. I figured it would be a monthly thing, but then we had a lot of sun followed by a lot of rain and more sun. Those things led to major transformations. I’ve started to get some ripe cherry tomatoes, and I’ve got one tomato plant so huge it will be taller than I am before long. I can’t even imagine the size of the fruit that will come off of it later this summer.

I also got some trellises and tomato cages to try and contain the squash. A trip to my favorite nursery also yielded some sugar baby watermelon starter plants. Of course, there’s not much room in the beds so I put them in the strawberry patch and just outside the raised beds. I also took a couple of seeds from a spaghetti squash that I cooked and planted them. Now I’ve got a couple of sprouting plants. I think I may have to relocate one of them.

It’s really amazing to watch your food come to life. I keep thinking about being a little girl when McDonald’s used to hand out seed packets with Happy Meals (it’s almost too ironic to handle, I know). One year my mother and I planted pumpkins and watermelons. I don’t think the watermelons went anywhere, and the pumpkins got infested by bees. But here I am, probably 25 years later, with a veritable produce section in my backyard. Continue reading

Getting Your Hands Dirty

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to most since I bought my house was putting in raised beds for my vegetable garden. I had a garden at my last place but the soil was more rock than dirt. Some things did OK but others did not, and I had a pesky woodchuck who liked to eat my butternut squash and watermelon every time they started growing. Luckily for my raised bed plans, I seem to know all the right people.

Over the past few months, a family friend who delivers lumber has been showing up with large beams and dropping them off. Then we all got together one day,  plotted out where the beds should go and got to work assembling them. For the past few weeks they’ve sat empty…waiting for the soil to fill them up.

That’s where my mother’s farmer friends come in. She works in a restaurant out in cow country, and one of the local farmers comes in every day. Later in the summer he’ll start showing up and leaving boxes filled with tomatoes and peaches in the waitresses cars. He claims he can’t sell them. About that time my mom starts showing up at my house and we start cooking up huge batches of sauce. One of his buddies–whose farm is much closer to my house–comes in once a week or so and he’s been telling my mom he’d drop off some compost for weeks. On Thursday, he finally did. It looked a little like a T-Rex left me a gift. Continue reading

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Flickr Creative Commons, mbadsey

My nana is thinking about leaving her house. It’s time. The house is old, with two stories, and the basement is moldy.

My other grandmother is selling her house as well, and moving to a ranch-style house. They both have big yards, but at Nana’s there are more rose bushes than any of us know what to do with. There is one, in particular, that no one could bare to see left behind. We refer to it as “Papa’s Rose” because my grandfather planted it and it was the one rose we weren’t allowed to touch. It also happened to be planted in a spot next to the driveway where we’d previously thought nothing would grow because he’d dumped oil there. Continue reading

Utter Destruction!

Before.

It was a long weekend…literally and figuratively. Friday I found out my car was in need of a lot…and I do mean a lot… of work if it was going to pass an emissions test next month. Rather than shelling out tons of money on my rickety old Hyundai (which still would have had finicky windows, a broken hatchback, and a defunct CD player) I went new car shopping. Long story short, I bought a certified used Subaru. Then I laid awake for most of the night thinking about taking on car payments I had not been prepared for. Ugh!

But was that the end of the bad news? Of course not. (See the devastation after the jump.) Continue reading

Rocks Started the Civil War!

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who theorized that rocks were the cause of the American Civil War. His idea was simple: Northern soil is filled with rocks (hence all those stone walls you see everywhere) and therefore less suitable for farming. This caused the North to switch to an industrial economy as soon as it could, leaving the South to be the farmers, using slave labor.

Today, my mother, grandmother, brother, and I rototilled a little plot of land in my yard, and planted cutting and vegetable gardens. We also pulled enough rocks out of the ground to build low stone barriers around the garden. My poor brother was down in the  dirt with a shovel, pulling up rocks of all sizes for hours…and this was just for a small plot. Imagine plowing hundreds of acres with a mule and a shovel. No wonder people preferred to go to work in textile mills. Continue reading

You Can Take Brits Out of the Garden…

but you’ll never take the garden out of Brits. I’ve known this in my heart for years — being as my people come from Kent, otherwise known as “The Garden of England” — and even over here in Yankee territory you can’t keep most of us from tending to roses, planting vegetables, and generally growing anything we can find. However, CNN has now confirmed this little truthfor me with an article called:

Guerrilla gardeners green their city on secret moonlit missions Continue reading