Monday, August 15, 2011

Awash in Squash

The lessons from this little exercise have been amazing but the thing I absolutely need to remember next year, my sophomore season is to plant less squash plants.  I thought 4 little hills with 2 plants in each, how many will that be?  Not too much, I thought.  Is there a small army starving somewhere?  Can anyone volunteer to take these to Africa?  I harvested 9 large squash yesterday that my husband took to work and another 5 today, pictured below.  I walked up and down the street knocking on doors and meeting neighbors I haven’t met yet and giving them away.  Looking at the plants I realize we are going to be harvesting these cube of butter squash until we get frost.  This is the photo of the ones I harvested just today.


You can see that next to the tea spoon they are fairly reasonable sized.  I haven’t let too many get too big because they are tastier smaller.  Another thing I learned this year.  This particular variety is very mild in flavor and takes on whatever they are cooked with.  I have sautéed them with garlic, onion in white wine with some of the snap peas and beans then mixed with rice and shrimp for a healthy, tasty dinner that is making my mouth water while I write this.  I am going to to search on Squash recipes though – maybe someone has a good dessert bread made with them as I am hosting some quilting ladies to the house on Wednesday. 

Fortunately I choose the Royal Burgundy Beans and due to their wonderful color they are easy to find in with all the dark green leaves.  I definitely like the color coded produce to differentiate from the plant and will try to keep that in mind next year as well.  This photo shows what I harvested today.  This has been the largest daily harvest of beans yet and will be our veggie tonight.  I think steaming with garlic, one of the Walla Walla onions (below) in white wine will be a nice side dish with the wild caught Alaskan Salmon. 


My dog loves these beans and we eat them raw.  They are sweet, crunchy and guiltless.

The onions are starting to fall over so today I pulled out all the ones that had stalks that were predominately on the ground.  I planted two kinds, Cortland and Walla Walla.  The larger onions in the smaller quantity group are the Walla Walla and the larger quantity but smaller onions are the Cortland.  The first photo is right after I pulled them up:


After a gentle clean and cutting the roots and stalks off they are ready to be put in cool storage on the top of the wine storage in a room off our garage that seems to have a consistent temp in the mid 50’s.  I think they’ll store alright there and will generally be needed when we go for a bottle of vino too.


I don’t know if growing vegetables is supposed to be this easy or this successful, especially without chemicals, or if I am having beginners luck.  I have learned that the hardest part of a garden is getting the site prepared to be a garden.  Digging up the sod, breaking up the soil, improving the soil, building the walls, finding and pulling out bricks is back breaking work.  The daily effort to water and cut the gifts that are coming now is more like my private meditation time.  It is wonderful to be outside, to admire the speed that these plants grow, to watch the bees pollinating the plants, to hear the birds and feel the warmth of the sun on my body.  I even get a little exercise chasing the bunny out of the garden.  If you haven’t grown anything; grow lettuce, at the very least.  Don’t wait until you are over 50, to do it either.  It grows easily from seed and the taste is so amazing compared to anything you can buy in the store, even good grocery stores.

I hope my next entry will include some photos of tomatoes.  I have 2 plants, both cherry tomatoes, one orange and one red (I think) with at least 100 tomatoes on them but they are resisting ripening and day after day are still GREEN.  The few that have ripened have not made it into the house but have been popped into my mouth as sustenance for the gardener.  The same thing with the strawberries.  Not a large quantity of strawberries but the ones that have ripened are delicious and are eaten immediately.  Keep your fingers crossed that I can show and tell you about the Lemon Cucumbers.  Those plants have finally taken off and the largest fruit is nearly large enough to harvest. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I don’t want to discuss the cost, or the effort, involved, but we are eating now from the garden.  I am still grateful to live in a wonderful locale where there are others who will make sure we don’t starve, however.  Last week we had the most wonderful, crisp, fresh and BEAUTIFUL Swiss Chard.  We had organic hamburgers and I cut up the Swiss Chard leaves below and put them with some onion, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper inside a tinfoil envelope.  We cooked it on the top shelf of the grill for just a few minutes.  I should have photographed the dinner but we just wolfed it down, making all the same noises you hear when you watch Food Network.  It was so simple and steamed just perfectly. 


I started to cut some of the peas when I can find them.  I’m still a novice at this and need my veggies color coded so I can find them.  Tonight we’ll eat some of these peas along with some more that I’ll find this afternoon, on our salad.  I hope to remember to take some photos of the finished dishes, but don’t hold your breath.


Oh yeah, there have been a few strawberries along the way.  They don’t get far before they are sampled.  My loving husband has only gotten one so far.  Maybe next year, our yield will be larger but there are lots of flowers on the plants now.  We just need more hot days, I think.

According to the spreadsheet, today is the day the beets should be ready.  I could have pulled out the big ones and left the others to get bigger but since my sister is coming and she loves beets I just decided to harvest them all.  It was a very short row as you may recall from the plan.  I harvested several last weekend to give to my friend who also loves beets so this is not all the beets we got but is probably 75% of the total yield.  These were the easiest to grow of all except for soaking the seeds.  The greens look beautiful too and I have a huge bunch of beet greens in the refrigerator waiting for my sister and her wonderful ideas.


I took the smallest of the yield and roasted them for our salad tonight.  They are in the refrigerator now but here is what they looked like before the olive oil and the oven:


I think we’re going to be eating well tonight.  Wild caught Alaskan Salmon, fresh salad, Swiss Chard and some great bread with olive oil for dipping.  Does anyone notice that I LOVE olive oil? 

Lastly here is a photo of the garden taken today.  I can’t believe how large the plants get from such tiny seeds.  It’s truly a miracle, especially in my case!


I hope you all have wonderful family to share fantastic fresh food with.  Cheers!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hooked, Totally Hooked

We’re returned to winter in the Pacific Northwest this weekend.  Just kidding.  It’s so rainy and chilly it feels more like early spring than the dead of summer.  Of course I’ve not lived here long, this is only my 4th summer, but it’s the first summer we’ve had green grass in July.  We don’t water grass here so we have green grass all year but in the summer it goes dormant when the rains stop.  Well, usually anyway.  I’m regretting not fertilizing the back lawn now. 

The rain has been like steroids for the garden though.  I am thinking when the sun returns tomorrow the plants will spring like an overwound clock.  Just in the last couple of days the plants have grown enormously.  The spinach has bolted so I will plant more seeds in the back part of the garden with all the lettuces and hope to get more before winter.  It’s the best tasting spinach I’ve ever eaten and I can feel the cholesterol dropping after each salad.  I’m hoping the lettuce plants and seedlings will produce soon as my husband is allergic to spinach so cannot join me in these fresh salads. 

If you click on any image, it can be made larger so you can see the plants more clearly. 


Above is the bolted spinach between the marigold and the squash plant.  Yesterday I dug up one of the beets.  It’s about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and the seed packet said they should be around 2” and my spreadsheet predicts they’ll be ready for harvest on July 28.  That’s perfect too, just in time for my sister’s visit and she loves beets.  Hopefully she’ll have lots of ideas of what we can do with them and will take some home with her.  I also have a friend who loves them so I know they’ll go to good homes.


The beets in the garden.  Not one leaf was touched by any kind of bug or bunny. 



The peas have flowers and I added another tee pee of bamboo sticks yesterday for their support.  They were growing on the tomato plant next to it.  I did try to minimize the absolute requirements for space and now am realizing why they suggested such large amounts of space for each thing.  I am optimistic however that it’ll all still grow and fortunately I am able to move about nimbly. 


Only a month or so ago this was just dirt with signs to keep me from stepping on the places where seeds were.  It’s truly amazing and I’m still pinching myself that someone who knows absolutely nothing about this might still be somewhat successful feeding herself and her family.  Of course there are still some weeks yet to go so I best not count my onions before they are harvested. 


I had to include a photo of the Swiss Chard.  Someone was having a good old feast on the leaves a week or so ago but the plants seemed to have survived and have grown enormously in the past few days with all the moisture and less intense sun.  I believe we’ll be eating Swiss Chard this week with one of our dinners.  I’ll let you know how it tastes.  I love the colors of these leaves. 

I’ve learned so much during this process.  I think the largest lesson is the one my Mother always said, “If you can read, you can do anything” and although I don’t think that is entirely true as I can read but can’t go to the moon, it is true that you can read about something and attempt it.  It feels so good to learn something new at any age.  I’ve also learned that I’ll never be so picky in a grocery store or famer’s market again.  If a leaf has a little hole in it but looks otherwise healthy, wash and eat away.  It feels really good to be crouched down to the level of the plants, getting my hands in the soil, cutting the leaves either for eating or to keep off the ground, the exercise and flexibility feels great.  It’s a great sore.  Watering and weeding can be therapeutic and give you time with your thoughts.  This experience has helped me heal from a huge loss this summer.  I’m hooked, today I ordered a kind of Fava Bean seed, another kind of pea seed and 2 kinds of garlic to plant over the winter.  I think I’ll be growing food until I can no longer bend down to do it.  I hope to still be doing this until my death.  I plan to include recipes or links to recipes as start to harvest with critiques about how easy they are to make and how tasty (or not) they are.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Today brings some success and some frustrations.  Something is eating the leaves of the Swiss Chard and it’s being rather a hog about it too.  I think maybe it is some kind of bug but can’t see any evidence on the leaves either on the top or underside.  My neighbor warned me that I wouldn’t have success with this so I’m just monitoring to see what is going to happen.  Since I am doing this organically I won’t use any pesticide on the plants.  They might just have a nice Swiss Chard feast this summer if I don’t figure out what to do.  I have been sprinkling around the garden and even around the plants with cayenne pepper and more recently chili pepper but worry that I might be doing some damage to the soil or the helpful bugs so will back off on that.  Today after weeding I touched my lip and it is still burning a bit so whatever is out there is still effective to retard the bunnies anyway.

The plants that still look incredibly healthy include the beets, onions, tomatoes, pepper plants, spinach, strawberries, beans, peas, squash and cucumbers.  This is a photo of the garden from the north looking down towards the street.


The squash plants have tiny little squash developing – they’re so cute:


Can you see the tiny yellow parts?  This plant is called Cube of Butter Squash and it sounds just delicious.  I’ll let you know when it gets time to harvest and ingest!


The strawberries are developing pretty well considering that we haven’t had that much heat and the plants only get about 5 hours of sunlight a day.  Not sure how much longer before they ripen.  I want to get them before the birds do.


This is what I suspect is the beginning of the bean on the bean plant.  The description said the beans are purple and turn green when cooked.  Since this is purple I think this might just be the bean.  Thank goodness someone realized that it helps the novices to have their vegetable plants color coded! 

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th July 2011 Garden Progress

Everything is going along pretty well in the garden with the exception of the carrots.  I believe a bunny is eating the leaves but if that’s all that doesn’t succeed, I’ll feed the bunnies the carrot tops.  The soil is rather rocky so who knows how nice the carrots would look anyway. 

We’ve had salad from the garden on a few occasions as the lettuce is doing well in the pots and the spinach is so tasty and growing abundantly.  Unfortunately my husband is allergic to spinach we realized, so I’ll probably turn into Popeye and be giving a lot to my friends and neighbors.  These salads have lettuces and baby spinach leaves, feta cheese, sunflower seeds and wonderful dressings.  I absolutely love the Organic Provencal Dressing from Fosse Farms.


The garden and blog have been a bit neglected.  I did water when it needed, removed the cages over the squash plants and weeded as necessary.  I was busy with a family health issue recently so forgive me for not posting.  I also put up a support for the beans and peas and added a tee pee for the peas today.  The peas and bean plants look healthy and are growing.  Even the bean plants that I thought had died are thriving so sometimes it’s good to just leave things alone and see if they come around, I guess.   


Today I finished digging up the grass out of the back 14 feet of the garden, raked the soil flat and added some soil to the garden.  I was so happy when the ice cream truck drove by and my loving husband gave me money to purchase a cone.  This digging is really tough work and I am always grateful when my body manages to survive it.  We are going to build a rock wall along the bottom of the fence and build up the garden back there a bit more.  This back part of the garden only gets about 4 hours of hot sunshine a day so I need to figure out what to plant there.  I would like to grow some garlic and peppers but don’t think the amount of sun will be adequate for peppers and not sure about garlic.  I’ll research this and see what my options are. 


This is the largest of the squash plants.  It’s actually 2 plants in one hill, and you can see one more plant behind it about 2 feet away.  There are 2 more hills to it’s right.  I haven’t seen any squash flowers yet but I’m hopeful we’ll see something this week. 


On the right in the photo is the spinach which is something I will do next year for sure.  It grows easily and is very tasty.  I’ve even given some of it away.  The other 5 plants are Swiss Chard and I’m hopeful we will be able to eat them soon as well.  I have a fantastic recipe from All Recipes that includes garlic and vegetable stock.  I want to try this recipe however: Spinach Swiss Chard Quiche as it sounds so yummy and has such fantastic reviews. 


For awhile I didn’t think I’d get tomatoes this year.  It’s been such a cold wet spring but alas I have a few 3/4” tomatoes on my Sweet Million plant and a few on the other plant which lost it’s label so it’s a Mystery Tomato now.  I guess I’ll just eat them when they turn red.  Next year I’ll be sure to be more careful when I purchase plants to get the label. 


Strawberry plants, can’t wait!  They’re growing well and have lots of flowers – the strawberries probably won’t make it into the house but will be my sustenance while I work in the garden.  I will hope for enough to actually share with another human being however.


How the garden looks today, celebrating the 4th.  I am happy to have survived the hot temperatures and the two hours digging and raking the remaining grass out. 

I hope you all had a wonderful 4th and have fresh food on your tables.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Moving Right Along

We’re finally having more warm days than cold days.  The plants seem to be growing and the netting is protecting the squash and cucumber plants.  Today I thinned the Swiss Chard and moved the seedlings that seemed like they might survive to another location behind the middle retaining wall.  As of right now they look a little under the weather so we’ll see if they survive the night.  I watered them twice today and they are now in the shade so I’ve got my fingers crossed. 


This shows the entire front 15 feet of the garden. Since most of the plants are still quite tiny it doesn’t look like much besides tomato cages and marigolds. 


This is the squash plants that will need to be thinned soon but the cage I put over isn’t so easily opened.  If I do another garden next year I’ll rethink this solution.


The spinach is the closest to being in our dinner.  I think the leaves could be harvested for baby spinach very soon, they’re close to 2” long now. 


The carrots have the cute little carrot leaves coming up.  The zig zag row is pretty evident but my thinning to 1” leaves a little to be desired.


Healthy bean plant.


What is going on with these?  I guess I need to research.  It’s been rather cold so maybe it got too cold the day these guys sprouted.  If I figure it out, I’ll keep you posted.


Peas look fantastic.


Beets too . . . I don’t want to hear any comments on my no so straight lines.  I’m just happy I can squat down at my age and do this.


I hope to get a few strawberries so I can eat them while pulling weeds.  I’ve been told to cover these with bird netting or expect them to be eaten first by the crows. 

I have to research fertilizing now too.  Some of the information I have is pretty decent, other times the information is so vague.  What does ‘regular fertilizer’ mean exactly?  Daily, hourly, monthly, every other week . . . seriously people, do you ever think that you have novices trying to feed themselves?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Frustration, Bricks & Cages

With the front part of the garden planted, I needed to work on the back 14 feet.  There was still grass and rocks that needed to be removed and more soil to be added.   Again, I questioned my sanity as I dug out the sod and attempted to get the soil out of the roots in the hot sun.  With such lovely soil it should have been easy, but I kept hitting very hard objects.  These hard objects were not small, moving the shovel over a couple inches did not work, I uncovered the first brick under six inches of soil and put it next to the garden.  Soon, I realized that I had uncovered a stash of bricks that were probably buried when the house was built.  After several hours working in this area I was still not done clearing the area, but my body was DONE.  It has not recovered yet but hopefully this week, my memory will forget about this, and I’ll be able to finish this part of the garden.


I was so quick to pat myself on the back with my seeds germinating and after just one day with the little squash leaves showing, they were pulled out.  Rabbits maybe, squirrels, who knows but they were strewn about like a tiny little hurricane went around my four mounds of squash plants.  O.K.  I thought, I can rise to the challenge.  With some bird netting and a short wire fence I created a cage for the four squash and one cucumber mounds. 


This cage appears to be working, the squash plants and the cucumber have germinated and are growing.  The unfortunate part is that it is not easy to get into this area to pull errant grass or weeds but for now I’m just going to let everything be. 


Two squash plants as of June 12.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Germination Times Four

The weather has been absolutely awful for seeds to germinate especially in the location I’ve chosen.  We’ve gotten some late afternoon sun after our home has shaded the back part of the garden in the past several days but overall it’s been extremely overcast, chilly with off and on rain for quite a few days now.  The good thing was that I didn’t have to water anything but I kept worrying that the seeds were just rotting.  I was grateful (and still am) that I have more seeds should I need to replant.  

I just came in from checking on the garden as it’s not raining at the moment.  I am very happy to report that four of the veggies have germinated.  They are:  Sweet Peas, Swiss Chard, Spinach and Beets.  If you notice on the map, the seeds that have germinated are close to the front of the garden.  All germinations are within the range the seed company advertised. 

The forecast over the weekend looks decent so I’ll be able to get out and do whatever thinning is necessary.  I’ll also take some photos to include with that post.   Hopefully Carrots and Beans will show their heads here soon. I plan to plant the cucumbers and tomatoes this weekend regardless of the weather.  I will also be checking on additional treatments for slugs and organic fertilizer.  I’m using Dr. Earth fertilizer. 

On another note we did eat some of the leaves from the lettuce plants that are in pots the other evening.  There were not enough for it to be the full salad but they did add to the existing lettuce to make a full salad.  They look beautiful and had a very fresh taste.  I need to separate these plants and place them farther apart.  They are doing well in the pots so I will try to just remove some of the plants and put them in the garden in the back but leave some plants in pots as I’ve heard that lettuce is frequently targeted by slugs in the ground.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds, When Will it Warm up?

Friday, May 20th, I got the front 15 feet of the garden mapped out with string and stakes. Here is basically how the front of the garden will be planted. 


After all the mapping I was able to get a few plants and seeds planted, five strawberry plants, in an area that will get approximately 5 hours of direct sun a day and is approximately 2 feet by 4 feet. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 onions were planted from tiny plants and another 20 or so were donated to the neighbor or I would have had to rearrange the entire garden to make room for so many onions. I allocated an area approximately 12” wide by 6’ long for the onions. I finished up with Oregon Sugar Pod II Peas in an area 2’ x 5’ then Royal Burgundy Beans also in a 2’ x 5’ space. These are large and easy to plant seeds that are used by grade school students ,so I PRAY they come up or I might be shown up by mere children.

Saturday May 21 was typical Seattle area rainy weather. That said, I could reach and plant the carrots without stepping on the soil in the garden. I read that you shouldn’t walk on a wet garden, as it compresses the soil too much.  I believe it too, because when I was doing the heave hoeing to mix the soils to the original soil, I can attest that it was quite compacted from the walking we did on it while removing the sod when it was wet. I used a zig zag row to get a few more carrots in the area that is approximately 4’ x 18”. I think it’ll look interesting too and I’m just not one for straight rows. It’s my garden, and I hope the garden police won’t arrest me.

Sunday, May 22 was a little drier so I was able to step carefully into the garden away from existing plants and get a few more seeds planted including Squash, Spinach and Swiss Chard. I also decided to plant 6 small marigold plants.  My Mother-in-Law, who is a wonderful gardener, and grew up on a farm, suggested I plant them to help discourage various pests. I decided there was nothing to lose and it gives me some landmarks while I am in the garden or I might pull out the germinations as weeds.  Ugh.

Monday May 23 I took the day off.  The forecast was for rain and my injured wrist was really bugging me.  What was I thinking?  Seriously, what was I thinking with this project?  It didn’t rain as it turned out, but the garden seems to have retained some moisture and I don’t want the seeds to rot so I didn’t water.  The whole thing with watering has me totally discombobulated.  I’ll probably either kill the plants by letting them dry out too much, or I’ll keep them too wet, and drown them.  I love the gentle drizzle that we get here because it takes the onus off me to do the proper watering. 

Tuesday May 24, again forecast for rain, but alas, none.  I was bummed too because I could have played tennis outside, but elected not to with the forecast.  Could they just get it right?  Well, I decided to plant the beet seeds then watered the garden very gently. 

I only have one more seed packet to plant; Lemon Cucumbers which sound just delicious but the temps are not warm enough yet.  I also am still babying these tomato plants.  Keep your fingers crossed that we get warmer weather here soon.  My apologies to any readers suffering in blistering heat, terrible tornados or drought. I’ll try not to whine, seriously I will. 

Below is the facts spreadsheet that is indispensible to me in this project. 

Garden Facts Seeds from Territorial Seed Co in Oregon



Soil Temp to Plant

# Days

Seed Depth

Plant Date

Germination Date[1]

Harvest Date

Row Width

Thin spacing


Soil Needs






5/20/2011 plants




Lightly when planted again when fruiting, everbearing consistent light fertilize

Tomato – Sweet Million Early Girl (I think)


2’ sq ea



Cube of Butter Squash




1 – 1 ½”

5/22 seed


Proj 7/19



Good fertile soil

Teton Spinach

6.5 – 7.5




5/22 seed

5/28 – 6/12

Proj 7/6



High Nitrogen

Bright Lights Swiss Chard





5/22 seed


Proj 7/29


10 – 16” when plant is 3” high

When plant is 6” high fertilize

Chioggia Beet


55 - 70°



5/24 seed

5/29 – 6/10

Proj 7/28

12” – 16”


Moist rich- work in 2-3” of compost

Oregon Sugar Pod II Peas




1 – 1 ½”

5/20 seed

5/28 – 6/14

Proj 7/29



Side dress when plant

Mokum Carrots

5.5 – 7.0

55 - 80°



5/21 seed

5/27 – 6/11


12” – 16”


Not excessive nitrogen

Lemon Cucumbers


65 - 90°




3’ square

1-2 plants in each hill

Under each group of seeds

Royal Burgundy Beans

5.5 – 6.5

65 - 85°



5/20 seed

5/28 – 6/5

Proj 7/19



Not high nitrogen

Cortland & Walla Walla Onion


5/20 plant


4-5” apart



[1] Replace with actual germination date when it occurs – the range is to help me so I know when they should be showing their little heads J


Sun/ Heat


Other Notes:


Full sun


Mulch to protect berries and hold moisture – mulch deeply before winter, rake off in spring. Pinch off earliest blooms each year (all flowers cut off at planting time), pinch off all runners to get smaller numbers of large fruit or leave runners for smaller fruit but higher quantity. Rainier is June bearing, Tribute and Quinault are everbearing.


Full Sun


Cube of Butter Squash

Full Sun

Just barely damp soil to germinate

Can rub male flowers to female flowers to aid pollination. Hill the soil and plant 3 seeds in each hill then then to 1 -2 plants per hill.

Teton Spinach

Sun but not too hot


For baby – harvest when leaves are 3-4”

Bright Lights Swiss Chard

Partial sun


Chioggia Beet

Full Sun

Keep soil moist to prevent crusting over

Prefer rich, deep moist soil – then when 3-4” tall

Oregon Sugar Pod II Peas

Full Sun

Frequent ground watering, cool water, keep soil moist – mulched at planting

30” tall, spread out planting 6-8 days, use support on plants. I’ll put in seeds where some failed to germinate to spread the season – otherwise planted entire row on 5/20

Mokum Carrots

Full sun

Even soil moisture at all times, irrigate well just prior to harvest to ensure roots have absorbed maximum water.

Very smooth soil – work in lots of compost – clumpy soil will make crooked roots. Add 1-3” of soil when plant has 7 leaves or so to prevent tops of carrot to be green. These carrots need to be hand harvested carefully.

Lemon Cucumbers

Full Sun


Plant several seeds in a hill and thin to 1-2 plants in each hill

Royal Burgundy Beans

Full Sun

Mulch around shallow roots to maintain moisture – did at planting, can add as plants emerge

Plant a few days apart for different cropping’s 24” tall plants, one row. I didn’t plant on multiple days but can put seeds in the missing spots where they failed to germinate.

Sweet onion

Full Sun

Need moisture near surface

Harvest when tops are yellow and begin to fall over Walla Walla and Cortland. Walla Walla are closest to the street

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mid May Garden Progress

After removing the sod, the garden soil had to be increased and improved a bit. Overall the soil here is pretty nice but much of it went with the sod. It’s now in a huge pile along the fence in the backyard which will be another big project this summer after the grass in it dies. I’m beginning to really wonder what the H__ I was thinking. Someone should have suggested I have my head examined, but my friends are too nice. Please everyone, next time, don’t be so nice. I am not exactly sure how much time I spent heave hoeing heavy wet bags of Bumper Crop and Organic Garden Soil then spreading and digging them into the existing soil, turning and breaking up and mixing. By the time I finished, I was so exhausted I could barely walk into the house, remove clothes and shower. My memory of eating is completely gone but my lovely husband cooked something and I shoved it into my gob hole. Just a short while later I was grateful for our Tempu-pedic mattress and let the aches melt away overnight.  My body is a pretty achy thing these days and this bed is helpful in getting a decent night’s sleep and recovering the body to get up and do more. I realized that blogging after this kind of effort is almost impossible, so I hope you’ll all understand if the description doesn’t come immediately after the effort. I think the most physically difficult part is done, at least for the front 15 feet. The back 14 feet still have remnants of sod and needs a lot of additional soil and amendments before it will be ready for anything. Maybe that section won’t get planted this year, maybe never, or maybe something like blueberry bushes. I’m already wondering how long my body is going to hold up in this little misadventure of mine.

After all the tilling and turning, I attempted to test the Ph of the soil, to see if I needed to make any changes to that. I don’t know if I totally botched the tests, but it looks like the garden soil is somewhere in the 6.0 – 6.5 range, which I think is going to be fine for just about everything, except the spinach, so I will spread a little lime for that. I am also taking the advice of a gardener at Molbaks about the slugs here. I’ll use a product called Sluggo which is approved for organic gardens and is less messy than beer bait. On the other hand, pouring beer in the garden could be fun. Drink a gulp, pour a gulp, drink a can, pour a bit . . . hummm.

With the garden bed nearly ready, and the temperatures of the soil getting close to what the seeds need, I realized that I needed a layout for all the plants. The spreadsheet came in helpful as these plants can get quite large from a tiny little seed, or not so big. It all needs to be planned out, or a novice can get a million beans and only a couple onions, or other equally awful combinations. I probably will end up with an awful combination anyway, as I have no idea how much these plants will produce. I used the information available to me and made a plan trying to give the sunny spots to the sun loving plants and the ones needing more cool temps areas farther back where they’ll get shade during the hottest part of the day. I also had to take into account a pipe running through the middle of the garden and not plant anything over it as it isn’t that deep.

At this point I have seeds for Cube of Butter Squash, Teton Spinach, Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Chioggia Beet (organic), Oregon Sugar Pod II Peas, Mokum Carrots, Lemon Cucumbers and Royal Burgundy Beans. I have Strawberry plants, Rainier, Tribute and Quinault, Tomato plants Early Girl and Sweet Million and Onions, Cortland and Walla Walla. It’s too cold at night to plant the tomatoes so they are being babied in the garage at night and out during the day. It needs to stay above 55° at night before they can go out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Better Late Than Never

Early May 2011

So, I’ve always wanted to see if I could sustain myself without a grocery store within 10 feet of my home.  I know it is impossible, I could never live far from a grocery store, but knowing that, doesn’t mean I can’t try, just this once, to grow some of my own food.  So, this is the summer to do it, before I am so old and decrepit, that the thought of bending down, to put a seed in the soil would break my back.  How difficult can it be?  Well, let me tell you, extremely difficult, if you weren’t taught all the particulars before embarking on this kind of adventure.  So, before I even start, I have to have all my excuses firmly in place.  My Father sold insurance, as did his Father, My Mother was a housewife, for the most part, but did grow some killer tomatoes, once.  Otherwise, she knew very little about gardening.  Her Father worked in a casino, in addition to being a soldier in WWI, but I digress. 

I’m more than half way through my life, and living where we have beautiful fertile soil and a decent sized lot, so it has to be now or never.  If I don’t at least try, another one of my life’s dreams will go unfulfilled.  I should have started this blog weeks ago, as I’ve already spent hours and hours reading pages and pages of books, seed descriptions, and particulars about the Puget Sound area of the Pacific Northwest.  The King County Extension Office Web Site is very helpful.  O.K.  I should be able to grow anything, basically, if you stick it in the ground here it grows; alright, already.  I still think it is important to understand what you are doing.  When I decided to do this I was definitely in the Unconsciously Incompetent group, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know and certainly didn’t imagine it to be so involved.  If I would have imagined it, I would have opted for some bushes, and weekly trips to the wonderful farmer’s markets; which we still may be doing.  I have moved slightly towards the Consciously Incompetent group with all this reading.  I am seriously jealous of the Unconsciously Competent Gardeners who don’t even realize what they know, they just do it, and successfully to boot.  I hope to become Consciously Competent someday.  Let’s see how close I get this summer. 

My fantastic husband has helped, he is much bigger and stronger than me so can pull out sod so much more efficiently.  We have mostly removed the sod from an area approximately 29 feet by 9 feet.  The entire garden is completely in shade from the neighbors house, on the right in the photo, in the morning and our house starts to shade the garden by 4 in the afternoon.  The front 10 feet get sun from late morning to 8pm or so.  I might already be screwed by selecting this site, as I said, I have no idea what I am doing. 


I ordered seeds from Territorial Seed Co in Oregon their web site is wonderful, with sowing, thinning, watering, fertilizing, Ph and other information about potential pests, diseases and problems for each so I printed those sheets out for each and have created a spread sheet to help me keep all this information handy as my brain is more like a sieve than a repository of information these days. 

I am also lucky to have a couple good gardening nurseries to get advice and products from.  The closest is Bellevue Nursery and another great one is Molbaks Nursery

My goal is to grow all the various plants without any chemicals and to use only organic products.  The seeds may not be organic as I am looking for hybrids that grow well here.  I can use all the help I can get.