Friday, June 27, 2014

Berry Day

Today we picked berries. First I had two helpers holding tubs, then I had one helper, then I had no helpers and I got hot and tired! We'll eat these tonight over homemade frozen yogurt, or freeze them for jam later.

I also got a handful of "green" (purple) beans and sugar snap peas, not that anyone else is going to eat either of those crops. Good thing I scaled back on both. To do list for next week: take out old lettuce in pot and plant something new there (what??), pray over tomatoes, take out those stupidly mysterious alliums. They're thicker than my forearm at this point; I don't think they're edible.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

... And now my daughter claims she doesn't like sugar snap peas. She looks at me like I'm nuts if I try to hand her one. She generously offered to pick some for ME.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Shy Green Beans and More

This morning I harvested my second zucchini, the first round of G3 (third sowing this spring-summer season) lettuce, and was surprised by a handful of ripe green beans from my bean volunteer that I always forget to water. My stepmother-in-law once referred to "shy" green beans, and she is absolutely right; I almost overlooked them! So discreet amongst their foliage.

My lemon cucumber is looking beautiful, even if barren of fruit to date. I had one two years ago that produced sparsely and late; this one appears to be on the same track so maybe it's a climate problem. (A much better explanation than human error...) This year's model is potted, and previously I had it in the ground. The berries continue to do their thing. A bunch of sugar snaps are also ready to pick, but I'll leave them for daughter when she gets home from school today. They are the only green vegetable she will eat, and then only if she picks them herself and pops them in her mouth on the spot. The word picky really does not do her justice.

I discovered some weeds in my basil pot! That's a first for me. Finally, lots of green tomatoes on our plants, tantalizing us! We need a burst of really high temperatures to get them off the dime. Ripen, ripen, ripen...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gardening Backstory

I came to gardening in what I should probably just go ahead and refer to as midlife, after we bought our first house and moved in in 2010, when I had a two year old and was pregnant with #2. As a child, we didn't grow anything much (although I do have vivid memories of making mud pies in bare dirt, so that's something!). As an adult, I was living in apartments and working fulltime. My husband meanwhile had spent 10 years jazzing up the bare dirt of his rented house, and one of his first romantic gestures was dropping off a bag of his homegrown tomatoes for me. Yet even after I moved in, I was too busy and uninterested.

That changed when we moved in our "own" home and I had a child to teach. I wanted him to understand where food came from, to eat vegetables, to be outside, to learn about science and math from nature as well as from books. My husband was completely occupied with landscaping the front of the house (another bare dirt situation) so the backyard became the fiefdom of me and the kids. I stopped paid work when my younger child was born, so even if I didn't have "free time", I was home more and could step outside without it being a big production.

The backyard was rototilled when we moved in (2010) and basic fill dirt added. Since then, I haven't added any significant new dirt to my 10x20' (approx.) patch. My summer priority is tomatoes. My year-round crops (okay, some months this is still aspirational) are lettuce and cilantro because I am a major cilantrohead. Everything else is added by whim, by accident, or by best-laid plan, and we know what happens to those. I do my best to grow without pesticides; I try to use organic seeds and starts but not exclusively. I care a lot about my plant-babies but some laziness creeps in; as my husband says with a shrug, "It's only plants. You can plant them again!" But you can't grow kids again, so my focus is more on the process than the product.

My older child's excitement and younger child's enthusiasm for gardening are awesome. Some days of course are better than others - this is true of any parenting effort! They usually enjoy being outside with me in the garden, and that's what's most important.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

And So it Begins

It's getting to be that time when gardeners start complain-bragging about ALL the WORK involved in HARVESTING, sigh. Well, I picked a pound of blackberries today and in fact my arm IS tired, thanks for asking. I also harvested a bit of lettuce - just enough for my sandwich at lunchtime - and one very attractive zucchini. I'm leaving the second ripe one on for a few more days to see what happens (I know...). Almost all our edibles are in the backyard, but we do have one gooseberry plant in front. Unfortunately I never notice it in its little corner so when it's fruiting, we tend to accumulate a couple pounds on it before picking. That is currently the case. I need to wait for a kid helper before tackling it. They'll pick gooseberries, but not eat them - it's a crop-swapper for sure.

Taking advantage of some kid-free time, I also added some Miracle Gro to most of the vegetable plants. I didn't even know we had any, but my husband confessed it to me last night, with a nervous laugh. Hey, I like success as much as the next gardener. I hadn't fertilized anything, so undoubtedly they will enjoy this boost. I mixed it in a bucket that the kids usually use for their garden playtime, so this truly would not have been possible if they'd been at home. I also tied back most of the berry canes drooping into the walkway, and sowed a new round of cilantro and lettuce seeds in-ground adjacent to the Alliums of Mystery.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mysterious Alliums

I have onion issues. I planted green onions from seed; in the past I've planted both onion sets as well as leek from seeds, and never have I successfully gotten what I thought I was going to get.

The current crop of weirdness features overgrown green onions and a flowery bulb-type thing. My son suggests harvesting seeds from this thing to replant. I don't know, maybe? I love that he came up with the idea on his own, so we'll try it.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Heating Up

We got back from a five-day vacation (Legoland's strawberries are doing much better than mine - maybe the slugs are made of Legos), and it was the cutest thing to watch the kids rush through the house to get to the backyard upon our return. "Mommy! Come here! Your tomatoes are growing! The zucchini is big! There are LOTS of peas!" Homecoming was pretty sweet.

And in fact, things are looking great. My new pot of lettuce is sprouting merrily, my new little pot of cilantro is ready for harvesting (mental note: time to sow again), and 4 out of our 5 tomato plants have the teeniest little green fruits on them. All the green beans I sowed are coming up - wow, are we going to have a lot of green beans for the crop swap - and even my pathetic little yellow squash finally has a blossom on it. I love June in the garden! Hope is still alive, blackberries are ripe for the plucking, and all is well.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Keeping Kids Busy in the Garden With You

Bubbles in a clear container, adjacent to chalk mess
It can be frustrating to get your kids outside and then have them be completely incapable of or interested in actually doing anything helpful in the garden. They often seem to have a "weeding is for chumps" attitude; while happy to water, they don't know when to say when and drown plants very quickly; when helping to sow, they scatter the seeds either a) all over creation, or b) in a tight little corner. The only thing they'll do for hours on end - more or less correctly - is pick berries. This leads to eating berries for hours on end, so if you're cool with eating unwashed fruit, it's great.

Coffee, anyone?
Now that my kindergartener is older, he is both more interested and more capable of helping, at least for short bursts. But I still have the 3 year old to manage. What works well for her are bubbles - decanted into a clear container, not in the original bottle where she can't see how much liquid is left, because she will dump it out.

We also have not one but two crummy plastic play kitchens and lots of extra tubs for cooking muddy coffee and desserts. (Not even during pretend play will she eat anything healthy.) She'll putter around with those for at least a half-hour. This usually ends up requiring a hose-down before coming inside, which is okay with me.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Four Season Gardening

Every climate is different of course, and one benefit of my cooler, foggier one is that at least theoretically, I can grow lettuce from seed year-round. I put in some Salad Bowl and Winter seeds today in a pot, placed right next to where an earlier round of Salad Bowl did great and is just now winding down. Meanwhile, I had to discard the transplanted radishes that were started indoors from seed (so the kids could watch them). I think I waited too long to transplant them and they got irredeemably overgrown. I could probably start more radish seeds but... eh. Nobody really likes them so there's not a warm feeling of success when they do well and no hard feelings when they fail. I'd rather have a bit more emotion at stake in my dirt.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

The kindergartener just rushed in to tell me, "There's some baby tomatoes on my plant! Do you want to come see?" OF COURSE I DO!