Friday, July 25, 2014

All Things Garden

I love the thought of having a vegetable garden.  Most of my friends began planting around mid-April to mid-May at the latest, and have vegetables overtaking their gardens.  My process was a bit slower, since I needed to wait on my husband's availability to pick up a load of good compost amidst his very busy days starting and repairing sprinkler systems.

In planning what I wanted to grow, I decided that I needed some labels so I would know what to expect as the plants began growing.  This part was fun and cheap.  I had some paint left over from a previous craft project, and some left over unused paint stir-sticks that I collected each time I bought paint.  I needed a few more stir-sticks than I had, so I went to the local home improvement store and asked them for the few I needed.  They were happy to give me what I needed, free of charge, since they knew me from buying paint there before.

I painted half of the the sticks with the colored paint, and after it dried, I painted the name of the vegetables/fruit/herbs I was going to grow in black paint.  After that dried, I painted the entire stick with a sealant - you know - the one that rhymes with Hodge Lodge.  After that dried, I stuck the unpainted end in the ground and voila!  Garden markers!  Here's what they looked like before I put them in the garden.

As you know, I'm a big re-purpose/recycle person.  While hubby wanted to build a pretty garden space for me, I just wanted to use what we had lying around the house.  Why waste the materials and spend more money, right?

Hubby and I built the framework for the raised bed out of scrap lumber we had around the house.  After laying down some weed barrier (which we also had), he was finally able to pull away from work to get the compost.  I decided to try square foot gardening, and had some ribbon in my craft room I had laying around that allowed me to line my grids perfectly.

The fence was built using two different chain-link fence pieces, which hubby wasn't pleased about, but I insisted on using.  I wasn't about to go buy more when we had what we could use laying around, and I didn't care that they were two different heights.  All I cared about was that we weren't wasting what we had, and that it kept our two little beasties out of the garden.  For some reason, when they saw the nice soft dirt, they thought we were building their own personal playground.  They made holes and popped the ribbon off in many places.  Here are the culprits.  Don't let their cuteness deceive you - they aren't as innocent as they look.  But they are cute aren't they?


Finally, after doing all that, we purchased the seeds and plants for the garden at our local garden store. Hubby was such a dear to put a sprinkler system in for my garden so I could water easily with just the turn of a handle.  I'm so blessed to have him!  Now let me tell you - it's June 6th.  Yes - June.  So many people were telling me that June is too late to plant seeds and not to expect anything to grow well because of the impending summer heat.  Of course I didn't listen to them because I was determined to have a garden no matter what they said.  Here it is after our day of planting.  See the little stick Garden markers on the outside edges?

We were blessed with a very cool, rather wet beginning to our Summer here, for which we were all very grateful.  I was excited, because I thought my plants would have the water they needed to help them grow. We had the fence (the ugly one my hubby hates but I think is a testament to using what you have instead of frivolous spending) to keep out the larger animals and protect the plants from being dug up.  What I didn't plan on was the sky being cloudy all the time, which made the plants not grow much at all, because there really wasn't any sunshine for them.

The other thing I didn't think about was squirrels.  Yes - the pesky, destructive, curious, horrible squirrels! They dug up all of my beans, corn, carrots, lettuce pods, spinach pods, broccoli and cauliflower.  At first we thought it was birds, but when I saw the little pods taken out whole, and slightly torn apart, I realized it was the squirrels.  We have yet to keep the squirrels out, so each time I plant to replace what they've eaten, the process starts over again.  Next year we may invest in a motion sensor on the irrigation.

At any rate, the sun finally came out and the garden finally started growing.  Each day I find a couple more tomatoes and sweet peppers.  The corn, hot peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, spinach, and romaine were destroyed by squirrels so I've given up on those for this season.  The cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, and pumpkins are slowly taking everything else over, so I'm excited to see if they make anything good to harvest.  There is one bean stalk winding its way up the trellis, so maybe we'll have our little french green beans after all.  The three types of tomatoes and the sweet peppers are doing wonderfully.

Here's my little bitty harvest today:  grape tomatoes that are actually about the size of a kumquat, a yellow pear tomato, and a sweet pepper.  I know it's not much, but there are more on the plants ripening as I type. So we'll have more soon (if the pesky squirrels don't yank them off).  I've never had yellow pear tomatoes, nor the light little sweet peppers before, and have been delighted at how tasty they are!  I recommend trying them in your garden.

Here is what my garden looks like today.  These were actually taken today before I wrote this so we're taling 'real time' here folks!

In the picture on the right you can see the tomatoes, sweet peppers, beans, cukes and basil on the right-hand side of the garden.  On the left-hand side are the cantaloupe, watermelon, and pumpkin.  The open space in between is where all the other plants should be growing but aren't because of the squirrels.  

The sun is out now and the heat is beginning to rise again, so the plants are getting what they need to grow. They are indeed growing quickly now, so now we'll see how well they produce.  Even if I only end up with a few more tomatoes and peppers and nothing else, I'll be satisfied.  I figure the late planting is a learning opportunity, and who knows - maybe I'll have so much growing after everyone else's gardens are dying back that I'll have fresh veggies and fruit into the early Fall!  Wouldn't that be wonderful?

I'll be certain to keep you updated on All Things Garden as time passes.  In the meantime, if you have any gardening tips, suggestions, or testimonies to share about gardening in Northwest Arkansas, feel free to comment on this post.  I'll be delighted to read them!

Blessings and fresh produce to you!

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