Garden On the Way

So far so good with our vegetable garden. Most of the beds are planted, with a few empty spots left over for second plantings of lettuce, carrots and cilantro. A few weeks ago I added beneficial nematodes to help alleviate our cucumber beetle problem. I have my fingers crossed with that one. I also put up three new birdhouses this year in hopes that they might snack on the beetles once they hatch. Right now I am waiting to see if the seedlings get munched by the larvae. Like I said, I have my fingers crossed. After a couple of days, my melon seedlings still look OK:

Future Melons?

Last fall I planted garlic–two varieties–and those plants are the stars of the garden right now. They are just starting to form scapes.

Reaching for the Sun

The peas are a little behind. At least, they are smaller than I would like. Last year the pea plants got munched by rabbits. Just as I was thinking we may be free of those rascals, there were three of them at once yesterday. They have not munched the peas yet, but they will find them, I am sure.

Still Not Tall Enough

Also, peppers are growing well. I transplanted these several days ago and they are still alive. I will thin them soon.

Still Youngsters, but Showing Promise

So things are looking good so far. Potatoes are up as well, and arugula and carrots are poking out of the dirt. I hope this will be a good season. Something will grow at least. I mean, carrots are hard to kill. Unless those damn bunnies come back.

Damn bunnies.

Garden Woes

Ready for Planting

Ready for Planting

We started our garden at the house in which we now live in 2007.  That garden was limited.  We dug up some lawn and gathered some compost and got going.  We planted tomatoes and carrots and lettuce, pumpkins and strawberries.  Last year we expanded, adding more compost and digging more beds.  This is year three.  That first summer we had no problems at all.  Everything grew like gangbusters.  Now the troubles have started.

One mistake was getting compost from a new source last year.  It was filled with weeds and contained the larvae of cucumber beetles.  Cucumber beetles eat the roots of young plants and then, after they hatch, eat the leaves of the same plants.  I have had to replant zucchini and yellow squash and cucumbers, and the melons are pretty much bumming.  I have done nothing yet to get rid of them this spring so our problems persist.  I thought turning the soil late in the fall would help.  I turned it all again early in the spring.  No dice with that simple plan.

I planted peas for the first time this year.  They started off well but now the rabbit that hangs out in the woods has discovered the plants.  It keeps whittling them down to nubbins.  The pea plants are no taller than they were six weeks ago.  Then our cuddly friend discovered the carrots and the lettuce.  The little pecker is nibbling down our salads.  And a squirrel is eating our strawberries.  These critters are killing me.

I planted popcorn today.  Last year I had to plant corn three times.  The first time the turkeys ate the sprouts just as they emerged.  Then the crows did the same after I put up a scarecrow (can you say misnomer?).  Finally I hung a string across the bed with old CD’s hanging from it.  Those spinning reflectors kept the birds away.  I hope that this trick will keep them away again.  The popcorn was one of our best crops last year.

At this point the onions, at least the ten out of 26 that survived (no idea what was up with that) are healthy.  The leeks (except for the handful some crazy bird yanked out but left on the soil) are shooting up, and the pumpkins are spreading.  The tomatoes and peppers (planted a few days ago) are still alive but my optimism is wavering.  We will have some food out of this endeavor but not as much as we might.

I’m not all that upset, really.  I am disappointed, of course, but not upset.  This gardening adventure is about persistence over the long term.  I planted red zebra tomatoes the first summer.  They grew well but were not the sweetest.  I may plant them again as sauce tomatoes, or I might consider trying to grow them over a few years to breed sweeter fruit, but I learned that another variety might be better.  I also have not had much luck with melons.  They need warm weather and lots of it.  The beetles snacking on them don’t exactly help.  So melons will require much more trial and error (hopefully with diminishing error).

I have had luck with seeds I saved for peppers and pumpkins.  I will try more of that this year.  I like the idea of keeping the cycle going–planting seeds from plants that grew the previous year, then doing that again.  It is amazing that it works at all.  Plant a few seeds and they grow into plants that provide food?  That is plain old miraculous, really.

So I do what I can to keep things growing.  I weed and water and hang old computer discs.  I need to get on the cucumber beetles.  They haven’t hatched yet, but I know they won’t wait for an invitation to sit down to dinner on my cucumbers.  Their social graces, it seems, are less than refined.

Pumpkins Up, Frost on the Way

The kids planted pumpkins in their corner of the garden.  A couple of days ago they busted through the soil.  We were close to a frost last night.  My daughter covered the tender sprouts with plastic potting buckets.  She uncovered them this morning on the way to the bus.  While temperatures stayed above 32 degrees last night, tonight it looks like frost for real.  We have a freeze warning in effect since our average last frost date has passed.

I figure we are safe from frost around Memorial Day.  Apparently our average date for that is sooner.  Planting things like pumpkins this early is a risk.  It means remembering to cover young plants.  The only other plants coming up at the moment are peas and carrots.  I’m not worried about them.  The rest of the vegetables are still inside, or I planted them two days ago.  They are safe.

My daughter covered the pumpkins again tonight.  She and her brother will get some early squash out of those plants.  Later this week the weather should turn.  We might have temperatures in the 80’s.  That ought to get the cucumbers considering leaving the womb.  Hopefully they won’t have to worry about frost.

I planted a few things this past weekend–cucumbers, pumpkins, butternut squash, lettuce, summer squash–and I wanted to plant more.  The freeze warning for last night kept my ambitions in check.  Next weekend I will get on it.  That will be Memorial Day weekend.  I want to plant corn and basil but the soil just isn’t warm enough.  That will have to wait until June.

We also cleared a spot for an herb garden.  We cut down an evergreen shrub (I never learned what kind it was) that was just about dead from a fungus.  I want to plant rosemary and sage and thyme and chives.  And perhaps some other stuff.  I can’t wait to get things in the ground.  But I can’t do it all at once anyway.  Not enough time and all that.

So the pumpkins are safe, as are the herbs plants I never purchased.  I will go on a planting spree later this week.  Later this summer I want to be able to paraphrase the LoraxAnd then Oh Baby Oh how my garden did grow.  Of course, I will say it anyway, but it sure would be nice to be able to mean.

Peas and Cookies

Trellis for Peas Woven from Saplings

Trellis for Peas Woven from Saplings

I have been jonesing for cookies or pudding or ice cream or some sweet thing. I was going to make some pudding, whip up some cream to plop on top. But my wife made cookies. A local teenager is going to watch my daughter after school so I can go to a meeting tomorrow afternoon. So my co-parent whipped up some chocolate chippers. I went with those.

Also, I spent this weekend in the garden. I dug and prepped and then planted. I can’t say I planted because my children were right there with me. I set aside a chunk of the garden just for them this year. They planted peas, carrots and (early) pumpkins. I hope the pumpkins do OK given that it is so early, but we can always replant them. In the larger garden I planted peas and carrots.

That is the game we often play in the winter when we are waiting at the end of the driveway for the school bus–Peas and Carrots. We jump up and down and someone shouts out a number and you have to get in a group with exactly that many people. It has limited usefulness as a game when there are only four or three or even two of us, but it keeps us warm. Anyway, we kept singing the little ditty as wel planted–“Peas and Carrots, Peas and Carrots, Peas and Carrots.” We had a good time.

I ate one cookie but I could use another. Tomorrow I have a busy day. I get my daughter on the bus, drive my son to school, go to Burlington to work with three groups of students in a row, head to the office to get as many tasks done as I can, drive to Milton for a faculty meeting at the high school, head home to meet my daughter at the house of the aformentioned teenager, drive with her to get my son, get home for dinner, then head up the road for T-Ball practice. Then home in time for bed.

Knowing that the garden is doing its silent job of growing will help me mentally once the day begins. And that extra cookie will come in hand, too.