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20 June 2010
Sweet green sublimation
the garden experiment continues

wildflowers blooming
wildflowers blooming

The #1 question I get these days is "When's the next big trip?" Unfortunately, the way this year has turned out, it looks like we won't be doing any extended international travel. I know, it's killing me! My passport is highly offended to be sitting in the closet collecting dust. We've got some fun US trips coming up, but it's not the same.

So what's a Global Grrl to do when faced with a travel hiatus? Transfer that impulse into something more homebound, namely gardening. I took some of the lessons learned from last year's experimentation with the Special Olympics Victory Garden, and decided I was going to crank it up a notch this year. Notably:

* Move the veggies out to the front yard, where there's a whole lot more sun!

* Start seedlings inside with a proper grow light in more stable conditions.

* You can just never, ever have enough compost.

* Start early and plant late; cool weather crops like brassicas and root veggies can go out much earlier than other crops. I'm also planning to re-plant a bunch in the fall.

not nearly as illicit as it looks starting tomatoes indoors is fun! every container has the potential to become a pot

I got a set of cheap plastic shelves from Home Depot, hooked up some fluorescent lights on a timer, and gathered a handful of leftover pots and recycled plastic packaging. Suddenly every container that passed through the kitchen was a potential planter! I got pretty handy with the drill, too, to make sure each vessel had the appropriate drainage. Add in some free seeds from excellent sources like Wintersown and Washington Gardener Magazine's seed swap, and we were in business! After a few weeks, our basement looked as though something highly illicit was going on. I don't watch the show "Weeds," but I began to feel a strange kinship with Mary-Louise Parker, even though it really was just boring stuff like parsley and kale being grown down there.

hardening off plants by setting them out on the deck for a few hours a day
hardening off plants by setting them out on the deck for a few hours a day

Soon enough, it was time to start moving the plants outside. I struggled once again with having to create a garden plot from scratch, and wasted some time dithering over materials. This time it wouldn't be enough to nail some boards together in an odd corner of the backyard. We were moving into front yard territory, where the stakes are higher! I spent some time ripping out scraggly evergreen bushes (backbreaking work) and layering compost and shredded newspaper in their place. And I eventually decidd to buy some pre-made raised beds from Gardener's Supply, in conjunction with some cheap border material from Home Depot. No point spending time and money building expensive permanent structures when I didn't even know if this latest experiment was going to work any better than last year!

front yard in mid-February much better without all that nasty snow | mailbox view, mid-February mailbox view, mid-June

It was pretty funny to see an area that had been covered in three feet of snow not that long ago transformed into an edible landscape. And 'twas so subversive to rip up patches of grass, that sacred symbol of The American Dream! Moo hoo ha ha haaaa.

my spanky new Grow a Row sign
my spanky new Grow a Row sign

ahhhhh, brassicas!bolted broccoli, actually quite a lovely bouquetI ended up with four raised beds in the front yard. There's actually a considerable amount of shade from nearby trees, but I'm hoping there's enough sun to produce lots of delicious veggies. In fact, this year I've decided to participate in the Grow a Row program, where the Capital Area Food Bank pairs gardeners with food banks and other nonprofits that feed the hungry. Mark thinks the whole concept is pretty funny. I don't think I grew an entire row of anything all season last year, and now we're going to give stuff away? We'll see. So far I've had a profusion of leafy greens, and a few radishes. I didn't get the brassicas in the ground early enough, and while the broccoli and bok choi plants got huge, some started to bolt (flower and go to seed) before I was able to harvest anything edible. But, the experiment continues!

lush purple bush beans
lush purple bush beans

Three Sisters Garden: corn, squash, beans Mother Nature is fascinating up close! makeshift bean trellis squasharific

I decided to try a "Three Sisters" patch with corn, several types of squash, and beans. Almost all  plants were grown from seeds I got for free! Gotta love that.

tomaters a-comin'
tomaters a-comin'

tomato/cuke/pepper bed, in mid Maytomato/cuke/pepper bed, in early JuneI started a *ton* of tomato plants from seeds this year. The seeds came from a variety of places: saved from last year's few tomatoes, obtained for free, or in a few specialty cases actually purchased. These mostly-heirloom tomatoes have fun & funky names like "Razzleberry," "Black Cherry," and "Woodle." We'll see what kinds of 'maters start showing up! So far I've spotted a few flowers, which is a good sign, but most of the plants are still too small to produce anything so early in the season.



Cherokee lettuce, my new fave!
Cherokee lettuce, my new fave!

At the end of the day, no matter how many veggies get eaten in our kitchen or donated to charity, I still enjoy this pursuit. There's something zen about digging in the dirt and communing with earthworms. (They sure don't talk back or complain that your project is behind schedule or ask where your updated budget figures are!) It's a connection to my mom and grandmother, who taught me to appreciate the magic of popping a seed in some dirt and coming back to find a living plant. OK, it's not as much fun as spending a month in Italy, but if we're gonna be stuck at the homestead it's not a bad way to pass the time.

insect-attracting perennial wildflower mix
perennial wildflower mix

RELATED LINKS:
* read all garden-related blog posts

* browse all garden pics
* our upcoming travel schedule
* support the Capital Area Food Bank
* more info about Three Sisters Gardens

* Wintersown - learn to sow seeds outdoors!
* Washington Gardener Magazine


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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 1 comment
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Re: Sweet green sublimation
Great post! Helpful tips and nice photos! Look forward to more garden stories.
Posted by rkimages on June 22, 2010 at 8:32 AM

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