To Plant A Seed

It is that time again. If you live in a warmer climate, chances are, you have already started planting. If you live in Colorado, you may be soured by our recent snowstorm and temperature drop. There is always a chance of late snow or late frost in April and May.  So be prepared.  As much as you can be.

I realize I have not been the astute writer I wish to be, but many life changing circumstances have taken hold and putting in time to help friends and family in need always takes top priority. This passed year, we have seen family come and go, a couple of friends pass on from this world, and new pre-teen challenges arising that have made me step back and rethink how growth and change influences us. As we start our new gardening year, I remember my grandpa telling me something about planting: when you plant your rows, always look back at your row.  It will show you where to plant your next seed. My grandpa never talked much, nor did he explain things a whole lot but I knew to what he was referring and I, too, have been looking back to figure out which way to go,  where our family has been, and how much our lives have changed.

On that note, we are also in our 4th Year of Recycled Gardening, and the payoff is showing its roots. Our new seedlings for this year are coming up. We have tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, peas, chard, and beets. Our herb garden has bounced back all on its own. And now, we have added a small community garden plot to our mix, in which we are planting sunflowers, squash, cucumbers, and chard. My hope is to transfer some of our at-home garden to the community plot where there is more space and to test our seed-saving and composting techniques.

Thanks to our stringent (okay, cheap) ways, we have saved enough seed to start our own seedlings, saved enough yogurt containers and fast food drink cups to replant tomatoes, and saved enough buckets to screen our own compost and dirt, and saved enough styrofoam meat trays to dry herbs and to re-use for plant drainage. This idea trend of “up-scaling” gives me a chuckle because if you ever had penny-pinching grandparents, you would never think of them as trend setters, just the crazy grandparents who threw nothing away. Yet, here I am talking about how my crazy, penny-pinching grandparents have influenced my decisions on gardening, up-scaling, and learning what is important in life.

I think my next chapter in life and on this blog will be to “upscale” some of our materials to look better and possibly give to friends and family. Until next time.

 

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Inse[c]t a bug.

Melanoplus sanguinipes (Fabricius)

Melanoplus sanguinipes (Fabricius)

So, bugs.  I have never been a fan.  They fly/sting/bite/crawl/land on you. Thus, they make a horrible crunching sound should you accidentally, or purposefully, crush one.  Invertebrates are disgusting.

Fast forward to the present-day and I am in the garden picking tomatoes.  I look up and I am staring straight into the face of a big-eyed grasshopper.  Speechless, I move back slowly and notice its legs are blue and barbed.  And for the first time in my life, I am fascinated.  Well, now I have ugly things tickling my nerd brain and I am finding I like invertebrate watching more than I realized.  Inset a bug here.

The next several pictures are of insects I have found around the garden throughout the summer.  I know some of them, like my dear grasshopper friend above, are not guys you want hanging around the garden.  But I am still fascinated.  I’ve done my best to identify the species but please, if I am wrong, feel free to comment and correct.  The last beetle I am not sure so your input would be more than appreciated.  Thanks and enjoy!

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Agapostemon angelicus – Metallic Bee

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Cat-Faced Spider – Araneus gemmoides

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Soldier Beetle?

The Dry Spell

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Now that I’ve been gardening for about 3 years, I never knew how much I would worry about my garden’s growth and production.  Now I know.

This summer I found myself taken away from my garden.  Only periodically did I pay attention as things grew and needed more water or pruning.  A summer thought to be spent in the backyard turned into short travel trips, family visits, and volunteering with a gardening group.  Every Saturday, our family worked until late afternoon and came home tired and dirty, wanting very little to do with our own garden.  As a result, our garden took care of itself, as if to say, “You go ahead.  We will be just fine.”

We are still in the midst of volunteering but as things wind down for the season, I wonder what will become of my newly found passion.  I learned more about edible plants, planting, weed identification, and bugs than I thought I would.  Years ago, I was once passionate about my previous career and I would find myself working into the late night hours just to feel personal achievement.  Lately, I find myself researching ancient gardening/farming techniques, plants, soils, and insects.  I’ve been learning Latin names of plants and insects as they catch my eye.  It has been awhile since I have been this passionate about work that being paid to farm and garden might kill the intrigue.  What does this say about me?

Surprisingly, my garden is still alive and we are, once again, making changes to our garden space.  We are expanding our garden and turning up the soil so it may fall fallow once again during the winter.  One task I did undertake was taking pictures of our garden.  I figured if I wasn’t able to blog about it, I should have documented proof that we, indeed, did grow our garden.  I continue to re-use plastics, although I believe many people refer it is as “upscale use” now (more on that subject later).  My plan is to continue writing throughout the winter.  I am full of ideas on yesterday’s gardening techniques and observations from this summer.  I have read that if you work at your garden space and continue to improve and allow the soil to rest for a period, it will soon thrive on its own.  This is slowly becoming a tested fact.  It has been 3 full months since we planted our first seeds this season and now, I cannot believe its production and how very little maintenance there has been.  While out, our herbs and vegetables waited patiently to be trimmed and picked.  Now that fall is upon us, all the tomatoes, squash, and carrots have decided they are ready.  I stand in awe.

Our fourth year of gardening is on its way and I can only hope my hypothesis is correct about the four-year cycle.

The Argument for Houseplants

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My office space, aka: The Green Room.

When we moved to our current home, my husband and I made 5 trips from the old house to the new house just to move houseplants, alone.  I had just started to garden but I couldn’t part with my beloved houseplants, especially Pasquale–my first houseplant.

Since then, I have continued to snip off dead leaves and transplant cuttings into water and vermiculite where they grow, GRow, and GROW…  And as you can see, my office space is a jungle.  And the photo only tells 60% of the story.  There is the dining room, the hallway, the bedrooms (ours and the kids), and the kitchen–all filled with houseplants.  And so, what to do?

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Plant clippings.

In the past, I have always left dead leaves in the pots as mulch.  But then, I came across a resource that said using houseplant clippings or old leaves from houseplants can be useful to your garden.  I imagine this is not big news for gardeners but a good tip for all you houseplant people out there like me, who think in terms of multipurpose and self-sustaining.  By clipping, you can give your plant a nice trim and propagate new growth while adding extra nutrients to the soils you use in your garden.  This can also help with keeping weeds down in your garden.  The resource also said that I could use lawn clippings as mulch, too.  Again, this is probably old news to the experienced gardener but I am always looking for information on keeping our garden self-sustaining and recyclable.

Our new year is turning out to be a good one.  We have tomatoes rising up from their soil and as the Spring warms up, we should have lettuce, spinach, chard, and radish.Vino and Pasquale.  Pasquale is on the right.

Vino and Pasquale. Pasquale is on the right.

Hiatus Over…

I took a hiatus over the winter months to refresh my spirit and actually reach out to beyond my comfort zone.  I have started volunteering for other gardening projects and so far, the friends I have made have been like gold to me.  I’ve been learning a few tricks of the trade while working on and tending to my own garden.

And so I begin again.  We have directly sown lettuce, snap peas, radish, spinach, swiss chard, dill, and cilantro.  We have starter pots filled with jalapenos, anaheims, and tomatoes–roma, cherry, and heirloom.  I am very excited to report the oregano, thyme, and strawberry plants all came back!  I have clipped them back and they are good to grow!  Sorry for the pun.

Anyhow, I am grateful for the new people who are in my life right now.  People talk about having a sense of community, a sense of belonging, and I think I have found it now.  It sounds naive but I have never felt part of anything in the world but my family.  And since I have moved away, it has been difficult to obtain that feeling again.  Now, I think I’ve found it.  Or at least a little bit of like-mindedness.

I am slow with the pictures so pictures will be posted as things start popping up.  Right now, we have dirt.  And lots of it!  Until next time, Happy gardening! 🙂

Guilty by Association

DSCN4681Living in Colorado, there is always the underlying suspicion that one has dabbled in a certain recreational activity that is now legal in this state.  Sadly, I must say, I am a disappointment.  All my life, I have never taken part in such activities.  Not because I was afraid or thought my life would spiral out of control.  Simply because I never felt like it.  But now I am proud to say my husband gave me the greatest after-Christmas gift!  It made me grateful for the wonderful, legalized substance in this state!

I have inherited a few “grow” tables from a certain type of “greenhouse.”  My husband made the call to the “nursery” and they told us, “Take’em. They’re free.”  And this is where I say, Yay, Craigslist!

I have been given lots of freebies throughout this project and I am grateful for every one of them.  I have received free bed frames, dresser drawers, and cabinets.  They have all been pulled apart to make raised beds, grow boxes, etc.  My tables may smell funny for now but come spring, they will serve another purpose.

Our next project is to build a greenhouse out of recycled materials to cover the new grow tables.  As you saw above, the tables are huge and they will need to remain outdoors.  They measure 8ft by 4ft.  I have been saving plastic soda and water bottles for about one year now and I am hoping my crazy person frugality will pay off.

My mind is racing with the start of new possibilities for the grow tables and greenhouse: cold and hot weather vegetables, herbs, and flowers for dyes and medicinal use (no pun intended with regard to previous use).  Happy growing!

Rest

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Winter is here and I welcome the break with ease.  I am slow to realize in that in this day and age, food production and plant growth can continue even in the deadest of times.  But I choose to rest.  The earth will awaken in spring.  But for now, rest.

Lately, I have been reviewing my notes on how my garden functioned this passed season and its output.  I must say, I was impressed.  Overall, everything we planted sprouted and produced, and we saved seed from almost every plant.  We are hoping some herbs reseed themselves from last season while others will be replanted.  Regarding our original purpose, re-using recycled materials not only worked but it also gave us future growing containers for the upcoming season.

Below are a few notes I made on the garden throughout the summer.  There are very few pictures but lots of information yielded from the growing season.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARaised beds.  We made 2 large raised beds from one bed frame and one bookcase.  We planted tomatoes in these and boy, did those tomatoes take off!  We could not believe the amount of heirloom and cherry tomatoes we had.  I believe there was some cross breeding.  We had cherry tomatoes that looked like heirlooms.  I am hopeful we will have more of those come next season.

The dresser drawer raised beds were much smaller and had spinach, chard, and herbs grown in them.  These smaller beds are holding up fine this winter.  We may need to repair the sides and turn the soil come springtime, but overall, they are looking great!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne word: Plastic.  I have found that many plastic containers, in particular 32 oz. yogurt containers, work really well for tomatoes.  With plenty of holes for drainage, frozen orange juice containers worked well for all the herbs.  I did start new seedlings in peat pots as a control measure and to test how well the smaller plastic containers did with seedlings.  They both produced good results of course.  I found there was less watering with plastic seedling containers than with the peat pots.  The peat pots tended to dry out faster because they were composed of paper and organic matter. I also found it is easier to transfer the seedlings directly into the ground from the plastic container once they started to root.  With plastic, you just bang on the bottom and POP! The seedling comes right out!  With the peat pots, it was easy to transfer the seedling with the whole pot into the ground.  However, with the peat pots, if the root did not propagate, the seedling either died or took longer to grow once sown in the ground.  And since we did not use extra fertilizers or nutrients and we relied heavily on rain weather for both types of seedling pots, some seedlings did not grow from the peat pots.

Seed saver.  This winter, I saved seeds from heirloom and cherry tomatoes, summer squash, pumpkin, acorn squash, radish, chard, and spinach.  We also saved seeds from dill, cilantro, and some oregano.  Storing seed was easier than anticipated.  Before storing, I researched how to save seed and I was surprised by the simple process.  I scooped seeds out of fruit (like tomato and squash), let them air dry on newspaper, and poured them into paper bags.  For spinach, chard, and most herbs, I let them seed in ground, dried them, and then cut off the seed stalks.  All seeds have been stored in brown paper bags, labeled, and are now part of my basement seed collection.  When I started this process last year, I worried none of the seeds would grow.  But as I’ve learned, a seed wants to grow.  And as each seed sprouted, I began to see the beauty in what I started–a true recycled garden.

And so there it is.  Not a lot of pictures but LOTS of information.  As I store seed and watch the ground turn cold, I am reminded why we have seasons.  We take breaks and enjoy our lives as we see fit.  The winter serves to remind us the earth needs to take a break too.  Give it time and its life will emerge once more.  Enjoy your winter!

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What’s a hornworm like you doing on a tomato plant like this?

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Tomato Hornworm

Busy with the garden one day, my younger daughter discovered this little guy hanging around.  Apparently he had been there for quite some time because the guy was HUGE!  I was intrigued but I told him he couldn’t stay any longer.  My daughter said his unicorn horn on his behind would protect him from his enemies.  Good luck little hornworm.  The force is with you.

 

And I Wonder, Still I Wonder, Who’ll Stop the Rain??

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My dad’s influence is everywhere, hence the CCR lyric title.

We have been getting inundated by rain all week.  And it’s been great.  Not watering the garden and letting the rain do all the work is good thing.  Although the impact of flooding and washing away soil is not.  One day, my husband came up with the idea to reinforce the check dams we built last month and dug a little canal system around the squash and pumpkin.  It works really well!

As you can see, we have sort of “terraced” the plants so they stay in place.  As the water accumulates, it runs along the side of our garden patch and into each channel.  My mom told me once that that is how her mother built her garden.  They had terraces dug into the earth and when it rained, the water would accumulate at the base of each terrace or plant.  I find it interesting that no matter how much reading and researching I do, I still have a tendency to rely on the “old methods” of farming and cultivating.  Thousands of years of survival can’t be wrong, right?