American Gardens: Birke’s Garden Diary Hilarious, Helpful

Thoughts on the Garden: May 19, 2014
For us, this gardening season (so far) has served as a reminder that we are not in charge of our garden and how things will work out. There’s been rain, sleet, heat-then-freezing-temps-back-to-back, and my Indianapolis garden plot is looking battered.

Despite months of planning, re-arranging, re-planning and…let’s call it dreaming about the perfection that will be this year’s garden, we are now officially 3 weeks behind plan.

Radishes gone to seed...at least I can save the seed!

Radishes gone to seed…at least I can save the seed!

We have harvested a grand total of three (you read that right, 3) radishes, and they were minuscule, because everything is either languishing in the chill or bolting to seed before setting full roots.

The peppers and tomatoes went in on May 19, 2014, the latest I have ever planted anything, and it’s because I didn’t want the poor little plantiwuzels (totally a word) to freeze in the ground, but I had to get them in, because they were starting to not like being in seedling pods.

And don’t even get me started on the sunflowers just poking their little leaves out, because those are the support system for the cucumbers, so those JUST got seeded out. Slackers all around me. I NEED cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, fresh from the vine, for my continued happiness. Does Nature not understand my needs here? And no, buying them is not the same, I have been forever ruined for hothouse produce.

I’m starting to get scurvy, I swear, and I’m rapidly going through my last little stores of pickles from last year. This is completely unacceptable. Where do I lodge a complaint?

Just kidding–this is actually what makes gardening fun, having to adjust and go with how things run, not really having control. And there is a core-deep happiness and sense of thankfulness and accomplishment when I pull one of the canned jars from last year or the year before off the shelf. That is something that no one could ever have explained to me, that sense of “YEAH, we did this, despite torrential rains, despite season-long droughts, despite insect invasions that had me picking bugs for days.” Nothing quite like it!

I know, it looks tiny. It's my master garden planning spreadsheet, which I've tweaked a ton during the chilly spring.

I know, it looks tiny. It’s my master garden planning spreadsheet, which I’ve tweaked a ton during the chilly spring.

I do plan my garden to basically give me a 2 week break in the middle of summer, because we go on vacation.

Those two weeks are completely non-negotiable and we are not in charge of when the event planners schedule the event—we always know, though, it’ll be around the end of July and beginning of August, so I work the garden plan around it.

Having everything come into fruit just as one leaves for two weeks is frustrating at best and definitely heartbreaking, so after doing that for a few years I started checking the days to harvest and planning the garden around those dates. Apparently I learn by pain association…

And note, the way the chart is done is me planning, not how things actually work out, because never fear, nothing will go as planned!

With this year’s spring showing me who’s boss, I will definitely have to do some serious juggling and shifting of plant dates and even some re-arranging of where things will be planted, because the radishes that were supposed to be gone by now are still in situ where some of the peppers were planned, so those peppers have to move and that will create a ripple effect in my plan, because they have to go where the corn was scheduled to go. The corn planting will have to be bumped by a few weeks (thank goodness for long growing seasons), which means the beans will be bumped along with them.

To give a concrete example of one that didn’t work out for me: The buckwheat I put in as early as I could only poked their little baby leaves up a little bit before they all drowned (and were immediately replaced by dandelions, grump).

Super-tough Dragon Carrot seedlings in late March. They're fighters!

Super-tough Dragon Carrot seedlings in mid-March. They’re fighters!

The carrots,though, are clinging to life with a ferociousness I never thought I’d see in a humble carrot, because they have now been drowned, parched, nearly frozen and munched on by slugs, the letti (lettuces? Oh, if only I’d paid better attention in English vocab) is pathetically small, but at least they haven’t drowned (I was worried there for a few days) and they are being little troopers about not bolting (see above about the slackweasel radishes), so I am actually really impressed with those little guys, can’t wait to eat them :D

Despite being broiled, frozen and drowned ourselves, and see-sawing between fanning ourselves and lighting fires in the fireplace to warm up the house, the entire garden is prepped to plant–some of the hardier things, like the carrots are in already, and the plot is waiting…

Broadforked and augmented with compost, weeded,  desluggified (it’s a word, trust me), because those little suckers will actually drink cheap beer–no, I’m not letting them drown in good home brew–sprinkled with crushed eggshells and diatomaceous earth, our garden area couldn’t be more ready! Now it’s all about the weather forecast. So here’s hoping that it’s accurate and I didn’t just plant almost 200 seedlings, only to have them all die in a late frost. Pray with me :D

Thoughts on the Garden: June 15, 2014

Done at last, done at last, goodness gracious, we are done at last.

With the spring/summer planting.

A whole month behind schedule.

My schedule that is, because as we all know, *I* am not in charge and there is simply nothing I can do about that and it’s sort of glorious, isn’t it?

Here’s where we are as of today:

Worth the wait! Aren't they gorgeous? Grow, Dragons, grow!

Worth the wait! Aren’t they gorgeous? Grow, Dragons, grow!

Dragon Carrots: (I simply can’t wait to see them in all their red glory :D)  going strong and being all bushy and looking inviting. Make you just want to nibble, don’t they? Grow, grow, we want to eat you!

Little Potato Cucumbers: these guys are being sprinkled with diatomaceous earth regularly, so that nothing nibbles on them when I’m not looking (as are all the other plants, that’s the little whitish specks you see in all of my pics)

Lazy Housewife Beans: Pretty and can vine their way up an ornamental trellis, if you want to plant out front. Or, as in this case, be in the garden and be purely functional.

Lazy Housewife beans are growing strong, and so fast! I'm pleased with these.

Lazy Housewife beans are growing strong, and so fast! I’m pleased with these.

That is something that is on the list, pretty trellises for the garden, it just hasn’t happened yet. It just so happens that the beans really don’t care what they climb. I’ve used sunflowers, corn, sticks, a discarded porch swing frame, the side support of my clothes line, you name it, beans will climb it. Hooray.

Three Heart Lettuce: the one in the photo is of the last ones I have, because we ate the rest already and only left a few to go ahead and bolt, so we can seed-save them for the fall planting. And they are kind of pretty when they bloom, so I get double duty out of the deal. Can’t complain about that, now, can ya?

Gorgeous! And I'll save some seed too.

Gorgeous! And I’ll save some seed too.

It is for that reason that I plant a lot of lettuce in the front of my house, where one would expect to see flower beds. I know that I get strange looks when I am out there, harvesting lettuce and herbs for dinner with a big ole colander, but I just can’t bring myself to waste all that space on things I can’t eat.

Note to self: Don’t plant corn in the front flower beds, it doesn’t look right.

Potatoes, lettuce, peas, carrots and radishes, cucumbers vining their way up an ornamental trellis: PRETTY. Delicious. Win-win.

The only limiting factor for me is what I want to have to look at in my yard all summer, so I strive for pretty. That garden is supposed to feed more than just our bellies, after all :D

My very own Black Cherry Tomatoes! I'll be drying and preserving some for sure.

My very own Black Cherry Tomatoes! I’ll be drying and preserving some for sure.

Last, but definitely not least: Black Cherry Tomatoes: I’m informed by a reliable source that these are delicious and candylike (me, I am that source, I had them last year) and will not make it into the house. And since the hubbin flat out refuses to eat raw tomatoes of any kind, they will be mine, all mine.

And there are 11 plants, so maybe, just maybe I will be able to dehydrate some or can them for the winter, because these things are sooooo yummy,  and dehydrated they would be like tomato raisins (tomaisins?).

I thought about taking a picture, but I used up all my self-control putting a handful of Black Cherry Tomatoes into the dehydrator. And they did dry nicely. And then I ate them. All of them. No close-up opportunity at this time…

A parting hint: Tomatoes LOVE used coffee grounds, and eggshells, so don’t throw those out. Put them around your tomatoes, and work them into the soil a bit. And the coffee grounds and eggshells also act as a deterrent to some pests, so there’s another win-win.