Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Greening Thumb

We started growing tomatoes about 5 years ago.  Just four plants, all the same variety, as we introduced ourselves to the idea of gardening.  The next year we were excited to get started and added a few pepper plants to our small plot.  Each year we added another type of vegetable and increased the area we worked in.  This year is the first where we feel we have an actual garden;

Fenced more for protection from young children than rabbits.

what started as one small raised bed has transformed into a plot with two 11x4 beds, one 13x1 border, four pots, one half wine barrel, and a wildflower patch that's around 20x5.  Oh, and a mini greenhouse and compost bin.

This year we're growing lots of squash and zucchini.  We had some last year and it was really delicious.  I've yet to get the kids to eat zucchini in anything other than sweet bread, but we're working on it.  

We had dwarf sugar snap peas growing in the other half of this bed but they were wiped out by wilt or root rot.  We were fortunate that the variety we planted was an early producer and we had a few weeks filled with sweet, tasty pods.  A favorite of everyone in the family we were sorry to see these die so early in the season.  The kids and I went out yesterday and pulled all the dead vines.  Once they were gone and all weeds had been removed everyone hopped in for some play.  Dirt castles galore!  They've asked to plant pumpkins in the now vacant space, so we're off to see if we can find some sugar pumpkin plants!

While they played I walked the garden pulling weeds and checking for disease.  Our two potted bush cucumber plants have started showing signs of powdery mildew so I'm trying a milk solution to keep it at bay.

We had trained our pea plants to grow up tomato cages (instead of in rows) so once the peas were removed I transferred the cages to our pepper and tomato plants.  Peppers don't normally need cages, but a little support never hurts.  

Our carrots and scallions are growing nicely.  We pulled a couple of carrots to check their size and, though they still have a ways to grow, the kids declared them delicious.  The other end of this bed has what remains of our bibb lettuce.  

We tried growing some loose leaf lettuce, a Paris Market Mix, but were severely disappointed.  It grew well but tasted spicy and bitter.  I'm anxious to try some new varieties this fall.  

Our herbs are doing well; basil, mint, dill, and thyme make their home in our half wine barrel.  It's pretty, but I feel the barrel would be more useful for potatoes. 

Along the edge of the fence we've planted a row of dwarf sunflowers.  A few have already bloomed, most are still growing.  The size difference in the leaves however makes me wonder at the mature size of them.  

At the back of our yard we've planted a wildflower patch.  A hummingbird and butterfly mix, it's set to bloom toward mid-late summer with flowers reaching between 18 and 24 inches.  

The variety of flowers that we'll get is completely unknown; there was no listing on the bag and an internet search has provided no hints.  We're watching anxiously though and finishing up a rock border to try and keep our very invasive bermuda grass from taking over.  

At the back of the patch, all along and through the fence, are blackberry vines. Planted in our neighbors yard they have migrated through to ours, pushing their thorny vines between fence slats and sending new shoots up from below. We've tied them back a well as we can and are watching pretty white flowers appear along 30 feet of fence line.   Too large an area to net, we're hoping some flashing tape will deter birds from our harvest. 

This year has been so much fun for all of us.  From the planing, to staring seeds, transplanting, even weeding, it's been a wonderful way to be outdoors together and has provided most of our natural science lessons.  This just gets better and better.