Silver Bells and Cockleshells

real live gardening and the nursery-rhyme set

Things Here and Things To Come July 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — carrotqueen @ 7:13 pm

Well, at least I’m sticking to monthly updates.

The few corn stalks are starting to tassel out. We should have at least one meal of our own corn. The beans are blooming–they have lovely purple blossoms. The cucumbers are beginning to set and we should harvest those in a few weeks. The greens are pretty much gone bitter and I have given up on them. We ate the carrots and the beets. Both very yummy–I loved the dragon carrots with their purple outsides and yellow insides. We should have planted more. The tomatoes are starting to ripen, especially the grape tomatoes which are doing wonderfully.

In bigger news, though, we’re hoping to sell the house and move across the country, back to my home state of Washington. That makes this blog sort of pointless as a journal to help me garden, but it’s still a piece of my life I’m glad to have recorded. I don’t know what or how I’ll be gardening in the next few years–we may stay with family for awhile, we may have an apartment. I will at least be participating in the massive gardens my family has in some capacity, even if its only taking extra produce off people’s hands. If we are in an apartment, I’ll probably try to make a serious effort at container gardening finally.

We aren’t sure when we’ll actually want to own a house and land again. The maintenance is a lot for us at this stage of our life. When the kids are big enough to help instead of hinder, when we’re more sure where we want to go and what we want to do–maybe then we’ll be ready to do it again.

But working to get things ready for sale makes me realize how much the way I want to garden depends on continuity, which in turn depends on ownership. As long as it was my land, I could do things the slow way. Wait for compost. Weed by hand with mixed success. Leave the green stuff growing in the corners. Cultivate perennials to gradually fill in the bare spots. Mulch with whatever came to hand.

Now that we’re trying to sell, I have to conform to what’s expected. And that means doing it the fast way, slash-and-burn. Weedkiller, cheap annuals, beauty bark. We’ve been told we can leave the vegetable garden for now, and hopefully the compost pile, but I’ll have to stop adding to keep the smell at bay. (I suppose I could try to keep all the beds around the house hand-weeded, but I simply don’t have the energy and time at this stage in life to do that AND keep the house in show-perfect condition AND keep all the children alive and fed.)

It would be nice if whoever buys the house actually wants the compost pile and the trenches in the vegetable garden, but I suppose the chances are pretty slim. So, although we are excited about the move and future changes, there’s a bit of regret for what will be uprooted here.


Garden Update June 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — carrotqueen @ 7:24 pm
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I alternate between being very glad I put a garden in this year and thinking it must have been the craziest idea I ever had. Caring for it goes like this: Yank a weed. Pull a baby off the steps. Yank another weed. Get a baby away from the gas can (we don’t have a garage or shed, so everything’s lying out there). Yank another weed. Retrieve a baby from heading down the driveway.

Well, maybe it will help me lose that twin weight.

Anyway, at least I’m finding out what works well. The greens are doing well, except the ones that hit too early or too wet of a planting time. It’s been a wet, wet spring and there is standing water between the beds after every rain storm (which is pretty much every other day). The peas are finally producing, but not very many. I’m going to have to plant a lot more to have enough to make a dish, and I’m going to have to have a better way to support them than a pile of dead branches.

The corn was not such a good idea; perhaps it was too wet but only a little of it came up. I tried planting beans and squash around it today, which is late but I hope not too late (the beans are only a 55-day crop).

The tomatoes are doing well. The cardboard mulch is wonderful; I’ve hardly had to weed them at all. The first fruit is setting. Some of them look a bit sickly, but I hope some more fertilizer will help with that. They’re probably also a bit too damp.

The carrots and beets are few in number, but growing well. The cucumber plants are starting to look like cucumber plants, but that’s about as far as they’ve gotten.

Really, it’s a tiny, tiny garden. I’m going to have to prioritize next year to only the highest-efficiency crops, which will probably be greens, tomatoes, and herbs. Maybe one vining crop (peas or beans) for fun for the kids if I get some good supports and can make tents or something like that.

I also need to work on raising my beds even more. It is wet, wet soil. In spots the clay is so heavy I can’t even poke seeds in with my fingers.

We saw a beautiful little bug out on the lettuce this morning–striped red and electric blue. I’ve never seen anything like it.


Tomatoes May 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — carrotqueen @ 5:53 pm

I wasn’t planning to plant tomatoes quite yet (ok, I actually hadn’t yet figured out when or how I was going to do it), but on the way home from visiting DOB’s parents for Mother’s Day we passed a road-side stand with young plants. At 4 for $1.50, I decided I should just go ahead and get them while I could.

Yesterday we put them in the ground. (I say *we* broadly as the children basically stood around, played in the mud, and then complained about being muddy.) I allocated them two or three to a cage, since I only have six cages. I used an organic fertilizer to mix into the holes (This is the first year I’ve done that, so we’ll see how much that helps). Then I put a cardboard collar (cut from an orange box with holes ready-made) around each little tomato and planted it in the ground.

Once I’d put the cages in the ground between the plants, I layered pieces of cardboard box over the entire bed. The hose snaked through, and I poked holes in suitable spots to water the plants.

Today I put some rotting dead ornamental grass on top of the cardboard. The whole process took about an hour for sixteen plants, but I should have pretty minimal work to keep them maintained the rest of the summer. We’ll see how they grow.


Seed Tape May 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — carrotqueen @ 8:24 pm

I’ve already done a lot of my tiny seeds for this year, but I so want to try this out. You carefully arrange the seeds on wet toilet paper, then set the toilet paper in the ground. My little seeds got all bunched up and this would be a huge help. Also I like the idea of alternating the carrot and radish seeds. Maybe I should pick up a packet of radish seeds to intersperse with the carrots I haven’t planted yet.

We are starting to harvest a few early greens from the seeds I planted in March. The only thing that survived were a couple of greens from the mesculun mix. Everything else seems to have rotted away. The stuff planted in early April (peas, lettuce, greens, onions, carrots, beets–or maybe swiss chard, I’m not sure which was where) is doing great and we should be getting salads from there in a few more weeks.


Make Your Own Soaker Hose! April 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — carrotqueen @ 7:17 pm

I just tried this this morning. Just take an old hose (not having an old enough hose myself, I requested one on Freecycle). Drape it along where you want your plants to grow. Take a screw and twist it in a bit wherever you want water to come out. You’ll need an end on the hose to create enough pressure–I just screwed on the my usual nozzle, turned off. The spray was quite gentle and the kids enjoyed it much more than the sprinkler. And I only poked holes in where I have plants growing right now, so I’m not wasting any water. (Of course, this won’t work next year unless I do a new hose every year.) Easy!


Looking Up April 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — carrotqueen @ 3:10 pm

Some of the peas did survive, at least! Also I’m pretty sure some of the greens out there are from the mesculun mix. Not sure yet if there are any spinach or onions. Still, not bad for how early and how wet. I think I’ll try to plant some more of all of the above this week, as we are to be warm and sunny and I don’t see any frost now through the end of April.

I planted out most of the flowers that were started in trays. Milk jugs made the best trays; they have sturdier plastic than the cheesecake take-out trays. Which is good, because we go through a lot more milk than cheesecake. (Even when we eat cheesecake!) I also yanked out a lot of the weed-morning glories (and planted some what I hope will be non-weed morning glories.) I hope some of them live even if I never get around to watering them (everything is plenty wet now). I never give much attention to the front flowerbed, but it’s got a good stock of bulbs and a few perennials and if I could add some self-seeding annuals and get rid of the morning glories it should take care of itself.

I also put out some pumpkins I tried starting early. If they don’t make it I have lots more seeds I saved.

The kids picked violets and dandelions until their hands got too cold. It was a good morning.


Now Here’s Something Useful April 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — carrotqueen @ 9:26 pm

An experienced gardener showing how to grow a family-sized vegetable garden for $25. I’d already figured out the recycled-plastic seed starting trays (I’m using mostly milk jugs, which we have a lot more of than cake pans). I’ll be interested to see what else I can glean.