Different people see different things when they look at a garden. Some might see a mess or chaos or laziness or weeds. But when you fall in love with plants, you can see a garden the way you see someone you love. Continue reading “What do you see?”
Starting a backyard garden without a tiller
For my new backyard garden, I tried two ways to make new garden beds. First I stripped the sod and did double digging. On another part of the garden I covered the soil with newspapers and straw.
Continue reading “Starting a backyard garden without a tiller”
When I was a child, I spent a lot of time sitting behind our garage, because just over the back fence was Frank Atwell’s most amazing garden. It filled his whole back yard and inspired garden lust in me the rest of my life. Fast forward to 2013, and I now have my own back yard garden. Yes, I live in a rental, but the landlord said as long as we take the fence down when I leave, I could have free reign over the lawn! The summer of 2012, I participated in a community garden on Maple Street. There, I was introduced to John Jeavons’ Grow biointensive gardening and I wanted to continue to experiment with this. Over the next few days, I’ll show you how I turned a 20 X 20 foot piece of lawn into a little piece of paradise with just my spade, some newspaper and straw.
Growing in the Garden: Bunnies!
Soon after the gardening season got under way in the spring, I was watering the potatoes when I heard a very loud, hysterical squeal! What the………..I had my guesses… so I got a long stick and started poking around in the straw. Sure enough…bunny nest! Well, I worried over the bunnies for several days, kept poking open the nest and half hoping it would cause the mother to move them away to a safer place. I lay awake at night thinking of this year’s garden philosophy, working WITH nature, not against it. And then I would dream about what wonderful compost bunnies might turn into…circle of life and all that! Finally I decided to just deal with it and let them alone. I had visions of the whole family setting up their dining room in our garden, but one day I picked a couple of the little guys up and held them, and they jumped out of my hand and ran away. The others followed, and I didn’t see them again! Now the deer…..umm, that’s another story!
What’s your favorite melon to grow in the garden?
It’s been years since I’ve tried to grow cantaloup, but this year, my motto was: “Try everything!” I bought some plants at Early May and wound up with a few melons that looked like this (and a few that looked oddly shaped and never made it past the golf ball size). I can’t even begin to describe the thrill of seeing YOUR OWN MELONS growing right there before your eyes! I had to really discipline myself to wait until I thought the first one might be ripe (Who knew it would be so hard to know when the thing was ripe?). Turns out I could have waited a few more days on that first one, but it was still sheer bliss when I cut it open and saw the orange firm flesh and tons of little seeds……a “real” melon, grown from my own fingertips (and Earl May!).
This particular variety was not very sweet (don’t remember the name and I didn’t write it down…ooops), even when it was quite ripe. Do any of you have a favorite variety of melon you’ve grown? What’s the sweetest musk melon you’ve ever tasted?
Double Digging is for the Birds!
I dug potatoes the other day and right now, as I write (11:09pm,) I am boiling up some of the ones that got nicked by the spade. I’m planning a bedtime snack of mashed potatoes to calm my heartburn from the homemade pizza sauce I had for supper!
Although most of the summer we’ve had a shortage of rain bordering on drought, a recent welcomed shower plus the fact that we did double digging in the spring made digging the potatoes pretty easy. You’ll also see straw at the back of this photo which we used to cover seed potatoes that we planted very shallowly. The straw was wonderful for keeping the weeds down and the moisture in, but I’m not sure it did a lot for the size of the harvest.
Double digging is part of the method for John Jeavons’ Grow More Vegetables that inspired our garden. In the lower right of the photo you see one of the digging boards that Steven made for us. As you double dig, you stand on the board to spread your weight and keep from compacting the soil. It was a lot of work, and when everyone else is planting and you are “still digging”, you can be tempted to give up, but the pay off later in the gardening season is worth it.
For several days in April as we loosened the soil to a depth of about 12 inches, a robin kept us company, enjoying the worms and grubs we exposed. So I guess double digging is not just for the garden, it’s for the birds too!
Ok, now I am off to soothe my stomach with some mashed potatoes. 🙂
Row cover, a gardener’s best friend
At the Ames community gardening plots, there are lots of….well…challenges. The plots are nestled in a pretty setting between two patches of woods behind the Iowa Department of Transportation. I loved the way the woods provided shelter on some of the windy days this summer, but woods also provide nice habitat for deer and woodchucks! I’ve heard people complain about deer in Ames, but being an apartment dweller, I’ve never had to deal with their eating habits until now. So, garden cover to the rescue! People often ask me, “What is all that white fabric laying around your garden?”
My first garden in Ames was at the ISU Student Organic Farm when it was located on Mortenson Road. One of the reasons I came to Iowa State was because it had a Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture and I eagerly went to Borders and bought several books on organic gardening. Row cover was suggested for solving critter problems in the garden, including mammals, birds and insects. It’s not something you can usually find at big box stores. This year I found mine at Earl May over on 16th street.
The photo above shows what is also called “floating row cove”r over my little patch of sweet potatoes. I was pretty sure deer were making a salad out of this after I saw the vines snipped off and hoof prints all around!
I also covered peas and beans (I pulled the row cover aside for these photos so you could see what is underneath.) I wanted both of these to climb, however, and after inserting some bamboo stakes, it was hard to keep the cover in place. I finally decided the tender plants were out of danger and removed the cover all together….and…..you guessed it…….SOMEONE snipped everything off! It doesn’t pay to get careless as a gardener….shoulda kept my best friend right there in place!
The Garden: Mid Season
I can hardly remember the garden looking like this at the end of April. I was recruited to share Nitin’s garden at the Ames community gardening plots located near Squaw Creek. I did a lot of garden dreaming, we did a lot of double digging and gradually the garden filled in.
Trellising at Seed Savers Exchange
Salad from my (our) garden!
This is what I had for supper tonight! It was the second salad from the….our…garden! In the past, I’ve usually gardened alone. I like to disappear into the garden for “me time”. It’s my gift to myself. After the ISU Student Organic Farm moved north of Ames, I thought I would never garden again, but this year, a friend of Steven’s asked me if I wanted to join their garden. He had gardened alone too, not been as successful as he had hoped, so this year, it’s going to be a community effort. 🙂 After working for several hours at the garden today, I filled my McDonald’s iced tea cup with some mesclun mix, a few spinach leaves, some sweet basil and lemon basil, and 3 sprigs of parsley. It didn’t look like much in the cup, but on my plate it was beautiful…and delicious! I dressed it with olive oil, lime juice and garlic salt.