Monthly Archives: August 2015

Checking Items Off the List

I’m one of those people who likes to put at the top of my lists “make list” so I have something immediately to check off. I love lists, and certainly there have been plenty on this site. But it’s not enough to simply make a list – you have to put it to use.

As a result, after turning up my 2015 to-do list from this past March I realized there are a few items yet untouched. I thought recapping it here might help motivate me to check off one more project before my most critical growing – that of baby number 2 due this fall – saps all of my remaining energy.

So without further ado, how did we do?

  1. Plant all six veggie beds – Success!
  2. Fertilize the lawn (finally) – Well….. not so much
  3. Cut down the front holly – Alas, yes
  4. Plant the boxwoods in front of the house and extend the front bed – If you count the pokeberries it’s sort of planted. I guess that’s a no.
  5. Edge the garden near the veggies with stone – Stone has been purchased, so step one is down
  6. Plant at least one shrub in the corner near the baby’s swing – Nope
  7. Complete my rain barrel making project (more on that as soon as my galvanized drum cover arrives in the mail) – Oh I’ll check this off before fall is officially here or die trying (which is possible since Chris keeps saying I shouldn’t lean inside the thing to inhale the fumes when I silicone the gaps in my assembly)!
  8. Build the long veggie bed (would love to plant it but am trying to rein in my enthusiasm before my garden partner rips out his hair on one project to many) – Yes!

3.5 out of 8’s not bad?

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Assessing the Edibles

The veggie garden has been a fun experience this year – my little helper is mastering her colors (“Green means go, unless you’re a tomato,” we sing); enthusiastically wields her own bag of rakes, hoes and shovels; and has loved crunching everything we harvest. Now that I’m planning for fall planting, I thought I’d sum up how everything has done so that I can better prepare for next year.

The year started with our spring bed, where we planted a small 6-pack of lettuce leaves, a handful of carrot seeds never truly thinned and four rows of sugar snap peas. The lettuce and peas were a particular hit, although I think the peas needed stronger trellising and maybe even a few more rows. Steamed peas were served at about two dinners for three, the rest my Rose gobbled before they ever plinked against the tin bottom of our gathering bucket. I pulled the first truly sizable carrots here in August, so I think with better thinning and moving them to the deeper bed we might get a better yield next year.

SONY DSCWith room to spread, the basil has outdone itself and has yielded five jars of pesto so far, as well as tons of dinner flavoring. I might have had even more if my toddler hadn’t eaten every leaf off of one plant back in May! She particularly loves making the pesto, pushing the green and purple leaves into the food processor and thoroughly licking the spatula once we’re done.

The Roma tomatoes were puny this year. Although I got a decent yield, their stems never seemed to strengthen and they flailed against the bottom rows of their support cages. I’ve canned eight pints, with plenty still to go. I think here I need some serious additives for the dirt, a smaller diameter frame to help the plants grow upright, and I’d actually like to double the space for this for a bigger yield. I’m not sure if I truly need more plants – from six to 12 – or to just give each one more room and attention, but I feel a little silly getting 3-4 jars out of an hour+ of work over the stove. I’d like to have more tomatoes ready for canning at one go.

The Big Boy tomatoes have been fantastic and tower over me. They simply need taller trellising. Oh the BLTs we have enjoyed..!

I picked the onions as their tops grew brown and fell to the side, as recommended by the fantastically comprehensive Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, but none were as large as I half expected. I’m not sure if I harvested too early, if I need more dirt or just better dirt, but I’m also not sold on trying them again.

I got a grand three cucumbers before my remaining two vines shriveled, at which point I reminded myself I hate picking the prickly things anyway. Next year I’m nixing the cukes and devoting a full bed to squash and zucchini. I miss my grilled zucchini and that hadn’t thrived until the cucumbers died and left it a bed unto itself.

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The corn has been a treat to watch, if nothing else. I picked three ears that we actually ate, although each was so deformed I wound up slicing the kernels off and frying them. The stalks did make a nice little trellis for the green beans. Still, the green beans have been my favorite success so far. I’ve frozen several bags of them for winter and we’ve had beans about once a week since early July.

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Finally, I planted several rows of sweet potatoes only to have some critter (possibly the Akita nosing around in the dirt) eat all but one delicate vine within the week. Disappointed, I decided to give up and planted a pretty sage and a purple dahlia to liven up the empty bed. Ha! My one remaining sweet potato starter is intent on taking over the world. That vine has circled the bed about 40 times and grabs at our legs if we get within a few feet of it. I have no idea what’s going on beneath the dirt, but the results up top are impressive. I’m hoping to move that to the deep bed next year – and free up this space for strawberries … with chocolate mint. Doesn’t that combination sound divine?

Ode to a Holly Tree

This is the sight that has welcomed my family home for the last several years.

Few days have passed without Chris snarling about  my beloved holly tree.

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I love that holly. In the summertime, I can sit out on the porch in complete privacy, sheltered from the rest of the cul-de-sac, lost in my own cool oasis. In the winter time, the holly has been one of the few colorful things in the entire yard, and it’s a very welcome sight at Christmastime. All year long a family of cardinals, and their feathered friends, dance among the branches while I watch from my living room window.

But even I’ll admit that a tree shouldn’t grow that close to anyone’s foundation.

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And now she’s gone. My beautiful berried holly is gone, leaving behind nothing but a hole in the ground where the pokeberries have begun to thrive.

For months, I thought if one more person were to tell me how beautifully open the house looked now I would lose it. Then one day, while I was sitting across the yard next to my would-be pumpkins, I thought to myself, “Wow, the house really looks nice and open now.”

I bit my tongue, then realized that it wasn’t the house I really wanted to shelter, it was the yard. And so the plan for the front yard has evolved further, and I have been hunting online and locally for the perfect medium-growing holly trees to create a semi-circle just beyond the house to help shield the yard and provide a new home to my cardinals. I’m looking for a balance between the fast-growing 40-foot heights of the Nellie Stevens or American Hollies and the slow-growing yet more appropriately sized Blue Prince/Princess. The Castle Spire/Wall combination (this variety needs a pollinator) looks promising but the search will continue through September.