Archive for the 'gardening' Category

bitter lettuce

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

This year we planted a garden. In my state of constant list making, I have a mental list of things that I want. This is not the same as the “if we ever won the lottery” list. That is purely for fun. My list of things that I really want but do not have is incredibly short but one thing on it is a vegetable garden.

Our current house came with a fenced garden in part of the back yard so we were good to go! We planted seeds in little peat pots inside months ago. Around Memorial Day I got a local man to till up the garden and we planted our seedlings in neat little rows. The girls had fun playing farmer and it was a nice family activity. Then school got out and we headed south for three weeks to catch up on our family, friend and beach time.

We got back home and discovered that a lot of growing had been going on. Grass growing, that is. It was everywhere and it was thick. I was determined so I started weeding. Every morning I headed outside in my grubby jeans and got to work. Pulling grass on my hands and knees until I was exhausted and too hot to do anymore. It took just over a week but I got all of the plants cleared out. Even though about half of the garden did not survive the onslaught of grass, I was left feeling rather satisfied.
When we started all of this I had a whole list of reasons why it was a good idea. Eating better, fresher food, teaching the girls about growing food and all that is required. The list went on. But I have come to realize that this was something purely selfish. I wanted it. My sweet husband, of course, knew this already and humored me by being a good farm boy and responding to my laborious requests with a kind “as you wish”.

In all of the hours out in the garden pulling grass, I have discovered how much I enjoy it. I think it’s in my blood. My father grew up in rural North Carolina. In his community if you wanted to eat it, you’d better know how to grow it. This was not a matter of what was trendy or being organic. It was survival. He was one of 9 children and the only one to leave NC. My whole life, we have traveled back to see the family and I have always marveled in their gardens and the shelves of vegetables that they have grown and canned to feed their families through the winter. It is one of the most basic tenets in providing for one’s family and I find the whole thing rather appealing.
Unfortunately, I am not a very smart farmer. I shared this revelation with a friend and he said that he’s not a smart farmer either. But he’s a little smarter than he was last year. And smarter than he was the year before that. There is hope after all! I already have a list (shocking!) of what to do differently next year.

I have also realized that I am a very hands on person. Literally and figuratively. I love the feel of the dirt as I pat it down around young plants. I enjoy finding the grass that dares enter my Eden and ripping it out by the roots. Dispatching the enemy never felt so good. I enjoy sewing, baking and crafts for the same reason. I like to get my hands on it. I am a hands on mother and wife. I take the things that I am responsible for very seriously and I give myself fully to those things. Call it being a know-it-all, nosy, bossy, control freak, or whatever you want. It is just who I am.

Through all of this I am left with what promises to be a bounty of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, herbs, cantaloupe, peppers and kale. And even though my garden will never grace the pages of a magazine (except maybe as a “before” photo), I will continue to weed, nurture and prune until the season is done. I will look lovingly upon my beautiful lettuce in its fresh shade of bright green and try to forget that it is too bitter to eat.

you say tomato…

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

I have grown herbs and tomatoes for many summers but I’ve never planted what I would call a serious garden.  This year I had enough room in the yard to plant a few things without taking over the whole yard.  So in April, Robert prepared the plot and the girls and I planted three varieties of heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, lettuce and an assortment of herbs.  We were all very excited.

After a few weeks we started to see some progress.  Then the nights warmed up and things really took off.  I’ve got enough cucumbers to feed my whole neighborhood.  The lettuce is delicious.  The tomato plants are taller than my 8 year old.  The actual tomatoes are slow coming in but there is an abundance of flowers and little green tomatoes so I know that they’re coming soon.  I just have to be patient.  Not an easy task for me….I really like tomatoes…

Here’s my problem.  Deer.  Vegetarian, hungry, persistent deer.  When we lived in Franklin, TN I had to fight off the rabbits.  I’m not ashamed to tell you that I won.  They touched my impatiens once and never again.  Don’t worry, I didn’t hurt any rabbits.  I just used my Liquid Fence spray and the rabbits understood that they were not welcome amongst my flowers.

Liquid fence is an organic scented spray that stinks to high heaven.  After a day, humans can no longer pick up the scent but animals can.  In the past, this has been enough to protect my tender plants.  Unfortunately we have had so many hard downpours that I can’t make the scent strong enough to keep the deer at bay.  Case in point…last Thursday I went outside for my daily veggie check.  I had three yellow tomatoes.  They were fist sized and beautiful.  They were still a little too hard so I decided to leave them on the vine overnight and pick them the next day.  Wrong choice, Anna Kate.  The next morning I went out to pick the tomatoes and water the plants.  The deer had eaten not only the fruit but also the top half of the plant, about a third of the lettuce and the tops of several of my pepper plants.  I was pissed.  I had waited 2 and a half months for a homegrown tomato from my yard and the damn deer ate the first ones.  Stupid nature.  Stupid heart shaped deer tracks.  I just want to eat the tomatoes that I grew.  Is that so wrong?

I have no desire to harm the deer.  I am not a hunter.  I enjoy wildlife.  I understand that we humans have demolished much of the animals’ habitats so we have to live in the same areas.  Fine.  I like hearing the owls at night and watching the hawks soar.  I think it’s kind of cool that deer live in the woods near our house and that they feel comfortable enough to walk around our yards at night.  They really don’t hurt anything.  Except my plants.  Am I asking too much here?  ALL I WANT IS A TOMATO FROM MY OWN GARDEN! Sorry to yell….

I’ve heard several “tricks” for keeping the deer away.  Human hair.  Chicken wire.  An assortment of sprays and chemicals.  I don’t really want to spray anything on the plants.  We’re planning to eat the veggies, you know?  Since my liquid fence isn’t doing the job I’ve decided to try the invisible fence method.   You place some stakes around the perimeter and lace between the posts with cheap fishing line.  It creates a “fence” that the deer do not see.  When they bump into the fishing wire they are frightened away and unable to get to the plants but they are not harmed.  A friend of my neighbors swears by this method.  My garden plot is not very large so it shouldn’t be too difficult.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, we are eating cucumbers at every meal and making do with heirloom tomatoes from our local farmers market.  If all else fails, at least I’ll know that the tomatoes I grow are being enjoyed.  Not exactly what I had in mind….

summer salad here we come…

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Today has been planting day at our house.  After hours of manual labor, there is now a sun garden with cucumbers, bell peppers, chives, rosemary, thyme and three varieties of tomatoes.  The shade garden has basil, cilantro, peppermint, parsley and oregano.  A truckload of mulch and some flowers will follow in the coming weeks.

I have always wanted a good garden.  I grew tomatoes by the bushel when we lived in Birmingham.  I couldn’t grow much else but my tomatoes were brilliant.  When we were in Nashville I had a great yard for a garden but I managed to be enormously pregnant the first summer and toting my baby girl during the second.  That seemed to take up a lot of my time.  Imagine that!  Nonetheless, we had beautiful flowers but the tomatoes, peppers and herbs were less than satisfactory.  This frustrated the heck out of me.  My parents and my in-laws are all master gardeners.  Their yards are stunning.  Is breathtaking too much to ask for?

Luckily, our current house has a nice yard.  It was well landscaped about 12 years ago.  The bones are there – it just needs life breathed into it and crap hauled out of it.  Unfortunately, a LOT of gunk builds up in a decade.  A LOT.  In order to clean out the 4×10 area for the shade garden, I had to scoop out 5 wheelbarrows full of leaves, rotten mulch and who knows what else.  Do you know how much stuff fits into 5 wheelbarrow loads?  A LOT.  I think I’ve made my point.  It’s not easy for me to dump a full wheelbarrow by the side of the road for the leaf truck either.  Me + full wheelbarrow = freak show.  I’m sure anyone who saw me is now well schooled on my lack of grace.

However, I did manage to get everything cleaned up including myself before collapsing on the sofa.  I’m worn out.  Done. Over and out.  It’s a good feeling though.  I have accomplished something important today.  I want my children to know about growing herbs and veggies and about doing fun productive things outside.  Of course I won’t be able to enjoy any tomatoes for about 80 days.  My mouth is watering already!