Interlopers

When I dismantled the garden last year, it didn’t make sense to throw away the used potting soil. And the internet seemed to be pretty much in agreement that reusing potting soil wouldn’t be a problem so long as I didn’t plant tomatoes in the same soil next year.

I figured I’d do a little composting over the winter to replace whatever nutrients I could and add plant food during planting in the spring. In fact, that had kind of been happening already; whatever tomatoes that weren’t harvested in time ended up as fertilizer in other pots. So all the plant matter–stalks and roots and leaves–from the garden ended up in a Rubbermaid tub along with the soil in late November.

Fast-forward to spring. All the old soil had found its way into pots with new seeds, and I went out of town for a couple weeks. When I came home, seeds had sprouted Even in pots and planters that I hadn’t planted anything in yet. And in ones growing alongside different sprouts. Like, I knew for certain what carrot sprouts should look like and the little green things growing in the carrot bucket weren’t them.

I plucked the foreign sprouts from the otherwise occupied pots; curiosity led me to let them continue growing in one with last year’s soil but no new seeds (yet). I suspected they might be parsley since that had kept growing in the Rubbermaid compost bucket for a month.

I figured out what they were after about a week. Some were marigolds, others parsley, and others tomatoes. The first and the third I found interesting because the seed packages make it seem like they’re so finicky to grow.

While I can foresee weeding these interlopers from other planters for a good chunk of the growing season, seeing these sprouts grow from last year’s plants has actually been a good thing in terms of saving money. It means that harvesting seeds at the end of the year is both feasible and could very well mean not having to buy seeds again next spring. It’s a little thing, but I’m excited to move closer towards being self-sufficient.

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Seeds & Sprouts

The garden has come together piecemeal over the past month. It’s not done of course; I’m planning on sowing season-appropriate plants throughout the year. But the planting is done for now. Which is a good thing since there’s no more room on the patio.I did the first round of planting–the seeds more tolerant to cooler weather–at the end of March and before I left for Myrtle Beach. Lettuce, green peppers, basil, rosemary, parsley, carrots, onions, and a myriad of flowers. Most of the flowers sprouted while I was gone; the vegetables took their sweet time and only began poking through the soil after I returned in mid-April.

I planted the second round of seeds on the first clear day after getting home. The weather looked like it would be warming up for good, so the tomato and cucumber and watermelon and

pumpkin seeds all went into potting soil. I also rearranged the entire patio so all the planters would fit in the minuscule space (also known as one of the biggest apartment patios I’ve ever seen).Now that the planting is done (for now), I have to actually remember to water them and then watch them grow.

Oh, and I need to find a salsa recipe.

Want to see more pictures of the garden? Check them out on Instagram!

Gardening Interlude

While I was house-sitting for my parents, they asked if I’d start their vegetable garden. Their new house doesn’t have a designated garden yet, so they wanted to plant a couple tomatoes and peppers in pots on the patio. And since I’m always itching to play in dirt and my garden will never bit enough to sate that desire, I said YES, ABSOLUTELY, WHEN CAN I START?

It’s a small garden with two tomatoes, a bell pepper, and a mammoth jalapeno. We bought four bags of soil, and I only ended up using two. I’ve already been given the go-ahead to take the extra bags home with me, which is exciting in and of itself.

I also found that I vastly prefer starting plants from seeds to buying seedlings from the store. There’s a certain–satisfaction, or maybe wonder–at seeing little green stalks poking through the soil.

And another lesson: Sam and Grace like to eat potting soil. I envision them trying to eat the plants as they grow, so it’ll be interesting to see how long the leaves are without doggy bite-marks.

If you have a garden, what are you planting in it?

Project Salsa: Preparation, Strawberries & Daffodils

Warm weather during the day makes me itch to press my fingers into the soil and rip open seed packets and sew specks that’ll grow into flowers and vegetables. But it’s still spring yet not quite SPRING, so the temperature drops low once the sun goes down. I have a couple seeds that’ll probably do okay, but I’d rather plant everything all at once.In the meantime, I’m preparing everything. Buying buckets. Making drainage holes in the buckets. Buying and organizing seeds. Planning out the garden layout. Buying (hopefully) enough garden soil.

During my latest trip to Lowes, when I was shopping for garden soil, I wandered through the aisles of started-plants: the herbs, the blueberries, the fruit trees, and such. I start my plants from seed since it’s cheaper to buy a packet of seeds than three or four actual plants. However I’m doing strawberries this year and starting them from seeds isn’t on the agenda. I’m sure strawberries are no different than planting tomatoes or cucumbers from seeds; I just want this year’s garden to go well. It’s my first attempt at growing a usable amount of food (not just snacking on tomatoes here and there), and I’d like to minimize the what can go wrong part of the equation the best that I can.

Strawberries grew behind my parents’ house in Massachusetts. They received pretty much no care as far as I remember and survived multiple New England winters and then produced crops of strawberries. We never got the chance to eat them, though. The neighborhood rabbits chowed down on them first.I picked up four strawberry plants from the shelf at Lowes before heading inside the Garden Center to pick up soil and two more packets of seeds.

On my way to checkout, I spotted small, gorgeous daffodils and couldn’t leave them behind. I’m going to figure out how to harvest the bulbs in order to plant them again next year.Now that everything is home and prepped for planting, it’s a waiting game until the weather turns for good.Are you gardening this year? Have you started growing seeds inside or are you waiting for warmer weather? Let me know in the comments.

Spring Fever

North Carolina decided to take a break from winter and spend a couple days pretending that it’s spring instead of mid-February. And as a result, I’ve gone into gardening mode. Like buying seeds and fighting the urge to buy potting soil and recognizing that the cold will kill anything I plant but wanting to start gardening anyway.

I’d hoped that going through photos of flowers and the garden from last summer would help take the edge off. And they have, somewhat.

How do you handle these unseasonably warm winter days? Do they leave you with a touch of spring fever?

Doing the Thing: a Vegetable Garden

SE smiling with baby tomato plants

The patio off my bedroom isn’t great for a vegetable garden. It gets maybe six hours of sunlight in the morning and then sits in shade for the rest of the day. Certain flowers do fine; others not so much.

But this year I said fuck it. I researched what vegetables tolerated partial sun and came away with not so definite results. Some websites said root vegetables–like carrots–would be fine in the shade. Another said that they needed a significant amount of sun. One site said peas would do okay; another said the opposite. The same was said of lettuce and basil. What all the sites agreed on was that tomatoes were a definite no.

So after compiling a list of possible veggies in my head, I ventured to Lowes. The racks of packaged seeds stood in the front corner of the store; they were next to the lawn mowers and bird feeders and the entrance to the outdoor garden area. It became clear pretty quick that I was out of my depth. I spent half an hour pouring over the tiny text on the back of seed packets, only pretending to know what I was looking at. Ultimately, I decided on carrots and peas because they appeared to be the ones I was least likely to kill.

SE's patio garden

A week or so later, I found myself in the Home Depot seed department while waiting for the weather to cooperate for planting. More seeds–basil, lavender, tomatoes, radishes, and lettuce–found their way into my hands. I knew full well the gamble I was making, not being at all positive that any of these plants would even germinate. But I did it anyway.

Planting everything took a few days and left me with dirt under my fingernails. The two cinder-block and two-by-four shelves on my patio looked more than full with planters of different sizes and colors. Even if I’d wanted more plants there simply wasn’t room. All that was left to do was wait. But I’m slightly impatient, so I checked for specks of green in the dirt each night when I watered.

Things began sprouting after a couple weeks, and now I can look out onto my patio and see so much green. There’s still a way to go before I’m actually eating what I’ve grown. But things are moving in that direction, and I’m wicked excited.

SE with tomato plants

 

 

Lizard in the Garden

I found this little guy in my garden yesterday morning. It took a little bit of research, but I believe he’s a Carolina anole. This kind of lizard is sometimes also referred to as the American Chameleon because they can change color from brown to green.

In other news, I’m back in North Carolina. I already miss Sampson and Grace, and I’m regularly talking myself out of heading to the shelter to adopt a senior dog. I’m also working on getting myself into a schedule of looking for a day job and writing, with an emphasis on the job search. Another thing that I need to fit into my schedule is joining a gym and working-out. I have a 5k in mind for this fall and wouldn’t mind fitting in another one later this summer.

The writing has been a little tough. I’m trying to get back into the groove that I found during the last half of my Massachusetts trip. I’ll make it happen, once I get back into a routine.

As I’m writing this, it’s about 10:30PM. So I should probably cut this off right here because I need to get back into going to be before midnight. Otherwise jumping back into a job with daytime work hours is going to be rough.

My Little Garden

Whenever I was put in charge of watering plants, whether they hung off shepherd’s hooks on the deck or sat conspicuously on the back windowsill, they invariably turned crinkly and brown. Sure I’d water them for a few days, but then the habit would disappear off my mental to-do list.

So when buying three plant growing kits, I didn’t spend more than a dollar a piece. Killing them wouldn’t damage my wallet too much. I picked three different types of plants: daisies, poppies, and sunflowers.

Grace and Plants

Grace supervising the replanting

The sunflowers have thrived. Either the poppies or daisies (I don’t remember which) drowned from over-watering in their little tiny pots. Whichever one I didn’t kill is growing slowly but surely. That moderate success encouraged me to pick up a few more dollar growing kits along with potting soil to replant the sunflowers in bigger pots.

I’ve since replanted almost all of the plants in bigger pots, killed three more, and decided to try my hand at growing packaged seeds in a big planter. One of the sunflowers will probably bloom in the next week or so. And I haven’t forgotten to water them too much; that’s a win in my book.

Eventually spring will decide to show its face in Massachusetts, and my little garden will be moved outside to the front step. Remembering to water them there will be a bit more of a challenge. But until then, I’ll be enjoying my mostly green thumb.

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The garden inside.