Progress and plants

It’s been three weeks since the last garden update, and my how things have grown! I find myself grumbling about the heat, but when I am doing that I must remind myself that the heat is making my garden flourish.

Here’s June 19:

Here’s July 6:

And here’s July 30:

Some things have already started to flower/go to seed, like the dill and cilantro in the photo above. Pulled up the spinach last week, and will turn under the lettuces next week (they’re starting to get bitter, which means they’re about done).

The plant I can’t wait to check on every day is one of my pumpkins. Here’s the beauty:

Cannot wait to eat that sucker. Seriously. Can. Not. Wait. It’s a pie pumpkin and I’m having delicious visions of that pumpkin for Thanksgiving dessert. Below is a photo of my foot for scale:

So it clearly has a ways to go yet, but it’s getting there! And it’s bigger every day.

Here’s a photo of yours truly with the sunflowers for scale. I’m 5 foot 7 inches.

Remember that tiny little carnival squash plant? Here’s what it looked like in early June. It’s the first squash at the bottom of the photo between the corn:

And here’s yesterday:

Has a few male flowers on it, but no ladies yet. They’ll come. And with them, squash! Squash is probably my favorite vegetable. Acorn in particular.

The peas finally have pods on them (I planted these about a month late), and we’ve been enjoying some in our salads for a few days. They’re really great. Crunchy and sweet.

Oh hey there, little guy.

Now if only the weeds weren’t keeping pace with the vegetables…

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A little beauty

Gardens are beautiful places, and that’s one of the many reasons I enjoy spending a lot of time in mine. I love my stroll across the lawn every day to the garden. I like watching the growing things, and smelling the unique and instantly recognizable scent of soil and plants working together to feed me. A few days ago, I found a toad chillin’ under the broad leaves of one of the strawberry plants. Birds perch on the fenceposts. Butterflies and bees flit about. When we turn over the compost pile weekly, worms twist about before burrowing back into the pile (doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing in there!).

Here are a couple of photos of the beauty in my garden:

Drops of morning dew on cabbage leaves.
Lavender in bloom.
Can you hear the ears a-growing?
Johnny Jump Ups, planted around the perimeter of the garden.

Green joy

Here’s a much-needed garden update post. I’m proud to report that despite the hail a few weeks ago, everything appears to have rebounded and is growing away. We’re supposed to have a string of hot days (well, hot for Montana: 80s and 90s) and that means big growth days! Here’s a photo of the garden from the June 19 post about the garden:

And here’s from today:

Clearly things have been happening out there! A few of the stalks of corn have the beginnings of ears, we’re taking regular cuttings off the herbs, the Asteraceaes and the Chenopodiaceaes (Gotta keep up my plant biology terminology! But for those of you not trying to keep up your plant biology terminology: lettuces and chards.) are going gangbusters, you can hear the beans growing, there’ll be flowers on the squash any day, and the strawberries are turning red. And of course, the weeds are constantly threatening hostile takeover.

My tomato plants are pretty pathetic looking. They got thrashed by the hail storms. One of my neighbors has beautimus-looking tomatoes. I have Solanum lycopersicum (woo plant biology!) envy. However, despite their ragged appearance, there are several little tomatoes on each plant. We won’t have much of a tomato harvest, but will we have one at least!

My red romaine lettuce looks great. This is the second year I’ve used seeds from Baker Creek, and I’m again pleased with the results. Isn’t that some great color? We’ll be doing our first harvest tomorrow! Exciting!

Here are my snow peas. They’re just getting big enough to need to climb the trellis. Yesterday I put out some twine for the vines to climb onto the piece of old wooden fencing we found in the field that we’re using as the trellis.

This is my first time growing onions, but clearly they don’t need much assistance! I planted the onions from sets I got from my mother-in-law and they’re thriving. They’re nearly a foot tall! Here’s hoping the onion bulbs below look as great as the shoots above.

In an effort to beat back the weeds and put some nutrients back into the soil, we’ve planted a lot of buckwheat in various places around the garden. In the above photo, it’s the lush looking stuff with heart-shaped leaves to the right of and behind the cabbage. Buckwheat is a great smother crop, and, if turned under once it flowers, makes a nice green manure. So far, we’re pleased with the results! So much so that we recently seeded a bunch more around the garden to help with the weed problem (darn thistles, grass, and bunches of unnamed nasties!).

Here’s those beans I was talking about earlier. They’re doing great. Totally exceeding my expectations. Of course, I didn’t expect them to do anything at all, but then again my problem last year with them was more likely the climate than the beans. I’m glad they’ve decided to be the all-stars of the garden this year (so far). I’m not kidding when I say you can practically hear these guys growing.

My husband and I are very pleased with the garden’s progress. And impatient too, because we want to start harvesting! Good thing the romaine is ready.

Renovation of the world

“There is, indeed, something inexpressibly pleasing in the annual renovation of the world, and the new display of the treasures of nature.” – Samuel Johnson

A week ago, before planting the transplants I bought, my husband built up five more beds in the garden.

We ran out of the horse manure compost that a friend with a horseback riding operation gave us, so we used organic compost from a local gardening shop in these beds. We laid a thin layer of compost, and I added some organic bone meal, too. I did this, because, as mentioned before, my soil test showed that the garden’s soil was lacking in nitrogen and phosphorus.

Here’s yours truly spreading the compost. Yes, I am wearing a fleece. Why? Because up here at 48 degrees (latitude), that’s also been the high temperature for a while. We have glorious autumns here, but cold and wet springs. In fact, there’s a winter weather advisory in our area today. Sigh.

Here’s the garden as it was about a week ago after planting the transplants. I apologize I haven’t posted this sooner, but I’ve been busy, ya know. The garden looks much the same now, except the lettuces and carrots are coming up, as are the onion sets and the buckwheat. And the weeds. Oh the weeds. I weeded for half an hour yesterday and got one half of one bed done. Well, that’s what I get for not weeding for a week: Now I get to spend my free time weeding!

Of the transplants I planted: I planted a pumpkin, a zucchini, a squash, two tomatoes, a pepper, mint, cilantro, shallots – all of these from the local Terrapin Farm. From a local greenhouse, I planted corn, more squash, cucumbers, cabbage, lavender, parsley, basil, oregano, and dill.

From seed I planted spinach, red romaine, rainbow chard, ruby red chard, carrots, acorn squash, cucumbers, snow peas, blue lake bush beans, onion (from sets, technically), sunflowers, and a bunch of wildflowers on the outside perimeter.

Here’s the herb garden we planted. In it there’s parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro, lavender, mint, and dill. We love to use fresh herbs in our cooking.

Here are the corn transplants. I will not be doing these again. At least not transplants that are this big. These transplants have taken an absolute beating with wind and rain, and yesterday, hail. They don’t have the established roots they need to stand up to the beatings, which, looking at the weather report, will continue until morale improves. Lesson learned.

And yesterday it hailed for fifteen minutes. The hail was about blueberry size. Big enough to cause some damage. I think I lost a squash plant, probably some of the corn, and time will tell what else I’ve lost once the lake in the middle of the garden recedes. We also had a bird get in the house, trying to escape the hail (we had the door open because we were standing on the porch watching the hail come down). It flapped around inside for a few minutes until we could get it out. Hopefully the hail didn’t kill it! It is supposed to rain more today (and snow up high). The picture below shows the hail. And the puddles full of hail that are probably three or four inches deep.

It’s supposed to warm up in the next few days. Hopefully, if everything didn’t drown, I’ll see some real growth out there!

Garden 2012

I’ve got a lot more going for my garden this year. First of all, it’s not in Butte. And that pretty much sums it up. It’s pretty hard to grow veggies in a place where it’s likely to snow in July. This year’s garden is in a very sunny patch of my backyard. My husband spent a few long afternoons rototilling and such and building me one heckuvan awesome deer fence around it, too.

Before we left for our trip to the Midwest, I planted three strawberry plants, two aronia (also known as chokeberry) bushes, and some flowers in pots and in the garden. Upon our return, there was quite a lot of grass coming up that we had to pull and till under again (a temporary solution, no doubt; I have a feeling I’ll be fighting an ongoing war with the grass). Yesterday afternoon while our son napped we planted.

We planted spinach, romaine, ruby red chard, rainbow chard, carrots, acorn squash, pickling cucumbers, slicing cucumbers, sunflowers, and chives. Outside the garden along the perimeter I scattered wildflower seeds. I also planted flax and black-eyed susans in the garden. I would still like to plant some onions, corn, garlic (this fall), broccoli, tomatoes (either in walls of water or pots on the porch since our growing season here is so brief), and some other things. I’ve planted all the perimeter beds and just have the two interior beds remaining. Amazing how fast the space got taken up! I suppose next year I could make my walkways a little more narrow.

On the right is our compost pile along one third of the wooden fencing we found in the field. The other two thirds of the fence are where I planted snow peas and blue lake beans. The fencing is for trellising. What I’ve planted so far is around the perimeter. The big spot in the middle will be two more beds soon.

A few hours after we finished planting it rained heavily for ten minutes or so, complete with thunder and lightning. I’m glad for the rain, but I hope it wasn’t too much. Wouldn’t want it to flood out my seeds. I enjoyed listening to the heavy rain fall, the thunder rumble, and watching the lightning light up the walls. All this while I was feeding Jonathan before his bedtime. I hope he enjoys a good rainstorm as much as his parents.

The strawberries have their own little corner of the garden. I’m hoping they take over that area and we get lots of strawberries every year. I decided to go with Junebearing strawberries as opposed to everbearing, which was the advice of my master gardener instructor. At least in our area, Junebearing strawberries provide a better crop. The variety I chose is called Sparkle. Maybe next year I’ll plant an everbearing plant just to compare.

I’m a little fuzzy on the aronia details. The bush is supposed to grow to about 6 feet tall. I’m not sure when it will start providing fruit and whether or not I can harvest it this year. I’ll need to do some more research. Aronia berries make fab jam.

I’ll be sure to provide frequent updates on the garden status throughout the summer. In addition to my own garden, I’m planning to work on a local farm (possibly two) some this summer in exchange for veggies. Good training for me, and good food. Excitement!

How does your garden grow? … Mine? Slowly.

OK, I’ve been promising a garden update for some time now. So here it is! It’s been an interesting season for me. I live in a place that’s sort of on the cusp of both zones 3 and 4 (less than 100-day growing season). Which means it’s hard to grow here! I would have liked to start planting in March, but was delayed until May because of snow and frost. So my garden looks woefully behind those of friends in friendlier climates it would seem. But despite that, I’ve had some successes, some failures and overall a fun time.

In the front garden, I planted an assortment of flowers and raspberry cane. The flowers that are thriving are bachelor’s button (the photo above) in white, lavender and blue and orange poppies. My sunflowers are coming up FINALLY, but they’re only six inches or so tall and I don’t know if they’ll make it to six feet before the frost. They’re Mexican torches, supposed to be bright orange.

There was a bee buzzing around the poppies yesterday.

I have to be careful to water the front garden every day. I usually dump two water pails on it, most of which goes to the raspberries. Since the garden is south facing and narrow against brick, it’s a hot place and the flowers and raspberries need a lot of hydration.

My romaine is going positively gangbusters. The spinach bolted at the first sign of heat (sigh), but the romaine just keeps on going. We’ve had a number of salads from the romaine patch now! Those salads always taste fabulous because about five minutes before they were eaten the lettuce was still in the ground.

The rhubarb is still growing like the giant beast it is. I had to somewhat decapitate it yesterday because it was shading out the beans. The carrots, which I’ve gradually thinned, seem to be growing well. When I thinned yesterday, I pulled out some tiny carrot nublets. Despite being only a centimeter or two long, they were delicious and orange! I thinned the onions again, as well as the rainbow chard. The pumpkins and squash I planted must have drowned in the couple long rains we got a few days after I planted. Alas, they wouldn’t have made it anyway, I don’t think. Too short a growing season.

Raspberries and romaine from the garden.

I also toddled up the street a few houses to snap some photos of a neighbor’s flower garden. It’s really quite beautiful. The folks who live in the house must have the garden planted in a succession because there are have been flowers there since May and they’re always changing.

These red and yellow sunflowers are called Velvet Queens. The pretty white butterfly was having a heyday amidst these beauties. In addition to the Velvet Queens, the neighbor’s garden has some great orange lilies, but I’d have to go up the stairs and into the garden to gets good shots of those and well, that’s creepy.

The neighbor’s garden.

In other news, my husband and I are moving about an hour east Friday. We’re moving so we can both go to school. Shawn will be doing most of the commuting, but I’ll be taking a free bus to campus. I’m so excited for school to start! I am so NOT excited to move. The only thing that’s really keeping me going on the packing process is the knowledge that the new apartment has a dishwasher, washer and dryer. Amenities I’ve lived without for four years. It’s time to rejoin modern society. Huzzah! I’m sad to be leaving the garden behind, but we’re planning some veggies raids later on in the season. On the positive side, though our new apartment doesn’t have a yard or space for a garden, we’ve already located a community garden nearby that I hope to join.

I hope your gardening this summer has been successful and delicious!

Il faut cultiver notre jardin

Ten points to the person who knows where the quote in the title of this post comes from.

So the girl who lived in this apartment last lived here for three years. In that time, she put in a garden in the backyard and she did a really good job. The town where I live is very industrial and the houses are all about three inches apart (no, I’m not exaggerating), so it’s a good piece of luck to have the space for a garden in the backyard of the apartment.

The garden is sturdy, has that great blue door and is covered in chicken wire so the pigeons can’t get in. We have a serious pigeon infestation at this apartment. To the point where our friend Devon’s offer to come shoot pigeons with a BB gun is growing on me. The pigeons have also taken to roosting on our porch, which sucks big time because now it’s covered in pigeon poop. So on our list of things to do this weekend is buy some screen and screen in the porch. And scrub pigeon poop.

Anyway, the garden has three raised beds built in pallets, which I spent some time Monday (when the temperature got up to a whopping 50 degrees!) weeding and cleaning up the garden area. To the left of the fenced-in area, I’ve started a compost pile. Still trying to figure out how to discourage the neighbors from tossing their trash in it. Since Shawn and I apparently live in eastern Europe (I’ll post a pic soon to illustrate that point).

We plan to cover the garden in white plastic too so it will be more like a greenhouse. It still gets pretty cold here at night until well into June. Here’s my point illustrated:

36 degrees at 11 a.m. in May. Ugh.

The plastic will be roll-up-able, and we can clip it up with clothes pins to let air circulate so it doesn’t get so hot inside in July and August. But to protect against those June (and probably July) frosts, we’ve got to get something up. Oh the trials of living at a mile high.

But despite the weather, there’s hope. While I was weeding and turning the soil over (it’s great soil, too), I noticed some small rhubarb plants pushing up. Yay!

Last night we went to a fundraiser for the community garden, which is also conveniently two blocks from our apartment, and I’m planning to get involved there too. They need some help composting and building raised beds. Huzzah for putting my master gardener class to use!

One fabulous outcome of the evening was that there were some seeds and tomato plants for sale. And guess which variety of tomato plants? Cherokee purple! Cherokee purple is my favorite (at least of the heirloom variety tomatoes I’ve tried, which isn’t very many). And since the little guys were such a deal ($2 a plant, with one dollar going to the grower and one dollar to the community garden), I couldn’t resist. Let’s hope I don’t kill all three of them. I’ll be planting them after Memorial Day, as per the suggestion of one of the community garden ladies.

Well, I’m off for the day — lots to do! I’ve got to get some freelance work done, design a brochure for a client (I’ll post photos of the final product) and get some lettuce and flowers in the ground!

Peace out, 2010

OK, so 2010 roundups are all the rage and I wouldn’t want to miss out! The ever lovely Tiff posted on her blog her favorite things from the past year, so here’s my favorite memories from 2010:

• Making a name for myself in the community I live in as a fair, impartial journalist. I’ve also made some great friends with community members this year!
• Visits from various friends and family. We had a great summer with tons of visitors (we’re hoping even more people come visit us in 2011 *hint hint*). We spent a great week with Shawn’s folks camping in Two Medicine and exploring the east side of Glacier National Park, where neither Shawn nor I had ever been. It was a great hiking summer, period. We went camping with Michelle, hung out with my mom and sister and saw Shawn’s cousins.
• Parties with our Montana buddies. Hubs and I have a great time with our Flathead County friends. Jasmine and Nate sure know how to throw parties, Tiff makes unbelievable cupcakes, Kristi always has wry, funny observations, Dillon is always good for a laugh (and if he’s not careful, a spilled drink!), Sydney is the most cheerful person I know (I need some lessons, Lil’ Miss Red!), Eric has jumped on the “Go Big Red” bandwagon with us, Britanni has a great artistic talent and generosity I am insanely jealous of and Jordan makes me laugh so hard with her stories I practically pee my pants every time we talk. Shawn and I are really looking forward to the Snob party in just a few weeks!

• Starting to write a novel. I’ve got a great idea, I just know I do. Now it’s just the getting down to work part that’s hard!
• Visits to Nebraska for Whitney and Nathan’s wedding and Kristin and Nate’s wedding (have I told you about how we have FIVE friends named Nate/Nathan? At least we don’t have to learn new names!). It was so good to get back to “The Good Life” and spend time with our friends. I was a bridesmaid in Whitney’s wedding and had a great time with my fellow ladies in the line.
• Discovering the North Fork and the Polebridge Mercantile. We spent many happy hours up the North Fork this past summer and ate many mouth-watering huckleberry turnovers. Alas, the Merc is closed ’til spring. Counting down the days until we cross the threshold into the Merc again.
• Our mini-moon trip to Seattle. Hubs and I fell fast and hard for “our future city,” and we’re already making plans for that delightful town to be our next stop in life. Visiting Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, ogling at the buildings, spending time with Molly and taking in a Husker game at a Nebraska bar in Kirkland made our trip fantastic!
• Getting married to the love of my life and my best friend, Shawn, in October. We had a beautiful wedding day and one heck of a party afterward. Going with Famous Dave’s as our caterer was a huge hit. The centerpieces I envisioned became a beautiful reality (sunflowers in mason jars) and a fun moment was watching my sister learn how to fold napkins in neat ways using her iPhone. We had a fabulous time with our guests (the party ended much too soon!) and will treasure Oct. 23, 2010 forever!

There were parts of the year that were difficult, however. The plane crash that killed Melissa and Erika, two friends and local journalists, was hard on us all. Their lives were ended much too soon, but I’m glad those two lovely ladies were having a fabulous adventure when they died. And I know I’ll see them again someday.

Shawn and I are adjusting to living apart again. Each goodbye is as hard as the last and we hate being so far apart. But I’m happy that Hubs is pursuing his desire for an engineering degree and I know in the long run our separation will seem brief. Can’t wait for it to end, though!

Here’s a few things I’m looking forward to in 2011:

• Chili cookoff with the Outside Media people in a few weeks. Let the best chili win! We’re sure our “Afterburn” chili will be a hit.

• Taking a master gardener class through the Montana State University extension office.

• Snob party with the Montana friends. There better be Jarlsberg, dah-ling.

• Seattle/Tacoma trip in March. Got to keep the love affair going. And we’re looking forward to a visit with the Gregorys.

• The launching of the Columbia Falls Community Garden.

• Hiking and camping in Glacier National Park and in the forests around Butte.

• Honeymoon trip to California. We’re hitting up San Francisco and wine country with the Knisleys. SO EXCITED.

• Meagan and Jeff’s “Junebug”. I can’t believe my friends are starting to pop out babies. But it’s a good thing and I’m so looking forward to watching my friends’ families grow over the coming years.

Happy New Year, everyone!