Garden Project: So Close…

One of the greatest joys of this current garden project is that I set a goal, listed the interim steps in detail, gave myself a rough timeline, and have been sticking to it. The end product is in sight. If you want to read about the beginning of the project, check out New Beginnings and Getting There.

Something was eating the strawberry plants. At first, we set the short cages over them, just to keep them safe. But now hinges and chains have been installed on the short cages making them easy to open and close. I’m not 100% sure that the bees are getting through the cage openings, so I’ve been propping them open during the day. I’m looking forward to harvesting ripened strawberries this year, instead of having to pluck them early before the chipmunks and squirrels steal them.

The third and fourth beds will house taller plants, like tomatoes and zucchini. The frames of the taller cages are shaped like four-foot staples. (I have staples on the brain after attaching so many sections of hardware cloth!) The first tall cage was installed on the third garden bed using hooks and eyes, last week. Two flat, removable panels were attach to either side and secured with a simple combination of screws and wire.

This weekend, I managed to fill the 4th bed with soil, finally deciding to screen out a good deal of rocks and debris as I did so. It made the job harder, but was certainly worth the effort. Then, with the help of my husband, we secured the 2nd tall cage to the 4th bed and installed the two flat panels to close the cage. Finally, I attached old cabinet handles to the short cages to finish them.

What a sight to see — all four garden beds filled and covered and ready for the growing season.

Snow peas, potatoes, spinach, and kale have already been planted and are starting to come up. I still need to spruce up the area around the beds, but I’ve got time. In the next week or two, I’ll be taking a trip with my gardener-friend, Dawn, to the Herb Farmacy in Salisbury, MA, to pick up organic tomato and squash plants. I’m so looking forward to this new gardening adventure and hoping these new beds with their cages will make gardening a little more productive and fun.

Stay tuned for the final installment of Garden Project, when everything is planted and I’ve added the last few finishing touches. In the meantime, happy gardening! 🙂

Gratitude Spiral: Day 256

Today, I’m grateful for zinnias.

For the last few years, I’ve bought zinnia seedlings from The Herb Farmacy in Salisbury, MA. There are so many fun, colorful varieties. I keep meaning to grow them from seed myself, but each year I seem to forget, until it’s too late. So, I’m thankful to have any at all to brighten up my garden.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 176

Today, I’m grateful for The Herb Farmacy.

Most years, I don’t feel like starting everything from seed in my garden, so I head up to Salisbury, MA, to the Herb Farmacy. The women who own and run it are wonderfully knowledgable. They offer an amazing selection of organic vegetable, herb, annual, and perennial plants. Their tomato section alone, arranged in alphabetical order, is worth the trip. It’s a gardener’s candy store!

What are you grateful for today?

Glimpses of an August Garden . . .

The pole beans are producing, even as many other plants and flowers are past their peak and turning yellow or brown. Here, I’ve got some help with pole bean pest control:

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Every August, this beautiful hibiscus produces blooms the size of lunch plates:

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DSC_1235I like to try something new each year. I found this bell pepper plant at the Herb Farmacy in May. I had no idea peppers came in amethyst!

How’s your garden?

Nature Abhors A Garden

It’s true. Every spring I succumb to the urge to plant seeds and watch them grow. And by July I’m questioning my sanity.

It starts in March when, feeling a bit like a kid with the Sears toy catalog at Christmas, I order my seed potato from Wood Prairie Farm in Maine. I dream of what else I will plant and where. The possibilities seem endless. The snow melts to reveal the garden beds and I salivate at the thought of this year’s crops.

In April and May, starting seeds indoors brings daily doses of joy as the tiny sprouts push up from the soil and transform into healthy green seedlings. Venturing to the local Herb Farmacy for a few organically grown tomato plants beats a trip to the candy store any day! The exciting prospect of a fantastic gardening season dances in my head.

The weather warms up as June approaches and the time to plant outdoors arrives. The smell of the sun-bathed earth and the popping colors of early-blooming bulbs are heavenly. Newly transplanted seedlings look small but hopeful. The perennial strawberry bed begins to flower. Soon, the seedlings gain strength; little green strawberries swell from their flowers; spring is in the air. All is right with the world.

Until it isn’t!

Nature abhors a garden.

There’s nothing like the disappointment of finding a precious green seedling chopped off at its base. Unless, of course, it’s the satisfaction of digging up a fat brown guilty cutworm 220aand ending it between two rocks kept nearby for just such an occasion. While I firmly believe in organic gardening practices, there are days I’d like to poison the hell out of cabbage loopers, vine borers, spider mites, and Asiatic garden beetles– not to mention larger critters like chipmunks, groundhogs, and the local rabbit population! In mid-May this year, my poor apple trees never had a chance against a mob of voracious worms. And for every decent strawberry I picked this June, I probably threw another one or two half-eaten into the woods behind me. A few years ago, I met a tomato hornworm for the first time. Ugly creature!

In July, the temperature in New England soars to ninety degrees and the humidity descends. One day, the garden looks fairly well kept and the next, it’s overcome with weeds. They creep in, take over, and the battle begins. Some I can name — like crab grass and dandelions. The rest I know by sight because they don’t look like anything I’ve purposely planted! Whatever their names, they always seem to gain the upper hand, while I try desperately to cover every bare spot with mulch. August becomes a month of recovery, reclaiming my garden space, inch by inch. It’s back-breaking (well, back-aching, anyway) work.

If critters and weeds are not enough to deter any sane person from undertaking this hobby, the myriad of possible plant diseases and fungi might! My father gave me a copy of Rodale’s Garden Answers which contains sections meant to help identify what disease might be attacking and what to do about it. DSC_0097So many of the symptoms are frustratingly similar that by the time you take an educated guess, the plant could be beyond help. Sigh! I’ve seen plenty of powdery mildew taking out stands of Black-Eyed Susans. And two years ago, I watched my potato plants wither away, one by one, from blight. There’s also the challenge of trying to determine whether it’s an insect or a disease that’s causing a plant to wilt, turn funny colors, curl up, and die.

It’s truly a wonder that any gardens produce beautiful blooms or edible fruits. Yet, they do. I have a few gallons of strawberries and raspberries stored in my freezer as proof. Pea pods, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers await my attention outside my door.

As I wander around the grounds, I find myself already mapping out next year’s potential garden beds. Maybe next year I’ll be more prepared, more pro-active. Maybe I’ll beat nature at her own game.

Not.

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