Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Catching Up...

The car issue is on its way to full resolution thanks to the mechanic's reasonable commercial liability insurer. I've been driving a rental, but things should be completely resolved this week.

Rykert and I have been spending our spare time busying ourselves with keeping our house clean (or attempting) and getting the yard into better shape. This has meant a fair amount of mowing for Rykert (the grass grows so fast) and some gardening for both of us.

So now to my "garden." When we first decided to purchase this house, my first thought was where should I plant my garden. I had settled that I would build a raised bed in the southeast corner of our lower yard. (the top left of the picture below)
Now, I should clarify. Some people tend flower gardens full of interesting and beautiful varieties of flowers. To me, gardening is primarily about the production of edible food stuffs - most importantly to the Midwestern summer garden: the tomato. Growing up, my dad had a garden, still does, and there were many summer nights when dinner was a BLT with a tomato fresh from the garden, sweet corn bought from a farmer on the side of the road, and a tomato slice with a bit of salad dressing as a complete salad. This was the staple of our summer dining starting in July. So, when I first thought about putting in a garden my mind immediately raced to the idea of tomatoes and peppers and herbs and cucumbers and the production of more fruits than we could possible eat. I was imagining myself canning a pantry full of tomatoes and bringing bags of extra veggies to my co-workers to share.

Well, as the projects began to mount, my enthusiasm waned, and my goals became a bit less lofty. In the first days in our new house, I noticed raised beds surrounding the sun room. The soil was baked and the beds were full of weeds. I pulled the weeds and then Rykert and I both turned the soil (admittedly this was more Rykert than me). With the addition of some top soil and compost they appeared to be happy homes for some tomatoes.

Only time will tell. But to my delight, one of the tomato plants already has a little fruit (that has since been tossed to allow the plant to concentrate on growing). While, planting these right up next to the house is not ideal, I think it should work for this year. If we don't prove to have brown thumbs and we enjoy this whole gardening thing, then next year we will build the beds, buy a wheel barrow and miles of hose, move and expand our vegetable production, and plant flowers in these beds.

I've taken to planting far more plants than necessary in an attempt to play my odds. If I want 4 plants to bear fruit, then I should plant 8 to account for the inevitable deaths that will come with my first attempt at gardening. So to supplement these beds, I repurposed some pots and buckets to plant a few extras. The tomato varieties I picked from starters at local gardening centers were Champion (the first to bear fruit), Early Girl, Roma VF, La Roma II (which may already be a goner), Mr. Stripey (I was intrigued by the name), more Romas, Sweet 100, and Patio (I don't remember the exact name of that one). I can't say that I am completely pleased with how the buckets look all lined up, but it will all be worth it if they don't die.
Tomatoes May 28
Around the corner, are a few bell pepper plants. Not sure if they will get enough sun over here. There are 3 bell pepper plants, but I am concerned that one is already struggling.
Peppers May 28
And a provence lavender, which there wasn't room for anywhere else, but I fear may be getting way too much water.

I've also planted some Baby Spinach and Lettuce from seeds. We'll see if the wildlife (scared into our yard by the dogs on both sides of us) leave it alone long enough to grow into a salad.
Leaf Lettuce (prior to merciless thinning):

There are cherry tomatoes in a hanging basket. Which is difficult to water, by the way, and also may be getting a questionable amount of sun.

On the deck, I've planted railing planters with herbs. Two kinds of basil, parsley, oregano, rosemary, cilantro/ coriander, spearmint, and bay. I have one spot left that I will probably fill with thyme. If I kill the spearmint, then my grandmother and father's green thumbs have clearly not been genetically passed on to me, as the mint family is notorious for growing out of control.
Cilantro, Basil, and Oregano"
Herbs 1 May 28
Bay and Spearmint:
herbs 3
Rosemary, Chives, Flat Leaf Parsley, and another variety of Basil:
Herbs 2 MAy 28
In the front, I have three hanging baskets full of impatiens, the only flowers for this year, and some new hostas. The front's shady, can't you tell? Now impatiens may seem a bit boring, but they are easy to grow, so they will stay, and the growers seem to be coming up with some pretty varieties.
front of house
hanging impatien

Rykert's developed a compost pile in the back behind the fence, and the two-story shed will be excellent storage once it is cleaned up a bit (see picture above). I'm focusing home improvement efforts on the outside since it is unofficially summer, and who wants to be inside painting. The craft room and the remainder of the painting can wait for rainy days (which we will apparently have a number in the next week) and cold weather. We still need to build something to contain the compost and learn how to actually do it successfully (for this we'll enlist my paternal grandma who used to compost and organic garden before it was cool or even had a term - she always had a bucket for kitchen scraps to go on the "compose heap").

Rykert has seen deer in the field behind us. Honestly, this isn't really a surprise, because this area is over-run with deer. What is amazing is that this is a field surrounded by roads and houses, so I'm not sure where the deer is coming from. I was skeptical since every sighting happened while I was work, but he has come up with photographic (though blurry) evidence.
Deer May 30

Next time... charity knitting, possible. Yes, actual knitting. And a crafty home improvement project that will require dragging the sewing machine out. But it's generally related to the outdoors so we can move forward.

7 comment(s). Tell me what you think!:

KnittingHawkeye said...

All of your hard work is paying off. The yard is looking great. We're lucky, except for the river that is, that it's raining so much. The plants on my balcony have just burst and grown soo much. =) I also keep seeing deer up by my apartment building on River Street. It's a great sight. =)

Knittripps said...

Yes, I remember deer issues from when I lived in Iowa City. They are actually quite plentiful in the part of Des Moines I am from too. I have had luck with Early Girl tomatoes in the past and the bulk of the tomatoes we currently have are Romas now (although I don't know what type of Roma). Romas are very good for canning and using later for tomato-based pasta sauces and chili. Good luck!

Ruby Banshee said...

Libby, did I ever tell you about my "laissez-faire" Iowa gardening approach? It was awesome for me, and I always had a garden brimming with tomotoes and basil. The BLT dinner you talked about was exactly the same for my family growing up, but it was tomatoes with sugar instead of salad dressing. In Iowa City, I ran a garden hose out to the garden, then connected it to a soaker hose, which wove through the rows. The first hose was connected to the spigot by a timer that you can buy at Menard's for $10. I ran it for 10-20 minutes twice a day, without ever having to touch it. We spread our grass clippings around the bases of the plants to keep the weeds and tomato blight at bay. All I ever had to do for gardening was harvest! I am totally missing my garden out here in Portland, where I am spending $3 for a few sprigs of basil. I used to fill a huge curbside garbage can (dedicated to that purpose) with the basil from my small garden and make loads of pesto!

Jennifer said...

I love your garden. I remember those Iowa summer nights of my childhood, too. My aunt had a garden that was so huge, I always felt it was a miniature farm. It was enough to feed a family of 9 all summer. The food always tasted better straight from the garden! Good luck.

Tracy said...

Even if you only get one tomato, it will be worth it. But, I expect you'll get more than that.

Heather said...

Everything looks great. I am jealous! We have tried for several years to grow tomatoes, but we have so many big trees here in Ann Arbor that we have become hosta lovers. I imagine that with all those tomatoes you will meet your neighbors quickly.

Gina said...

Great garden. It all looks so wonderful. Yum!

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