Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Garden: Spring 2013

Ever since I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I have dreamed of growing food in a yard of my own. Five years, four apartments, and three interstate moves later, we became homeowners and finally have the land to make that dream a reality. We were not lacking in enthusiasm for getting started, but the timing of our move--just weeks before HP was born--slowed down the process. Season by season, we are gradually decreasing the size of our lawn and increasing our garden's bounty.

The garden in April before the spring overhaul/expansion
In a spurt of energy last fall, I completed the initial dig-in, which required the time-consuming and hopelessly futile task of bermuda grass removal. A month later I added compost, formed the rows, and planted fall crops. Two months after that I sheet mulched a large area around the perimeter to start killing the bermuda grass in an attempt to make expansion easier in the spring.

Another "before" shot--bolted cilantro that fell over during a heavy rain
The fall garden was only moderately successful, but considering I was still getting the hang of parenting and spent next-to-no time tending it, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Some munching critter decimated the kale, I killed the first snap peas when out of pure laziness I failed to cover them during a freeze, the lettuce never germinated despite multiple plantings, and at times I was growing more weeds than vegetables. Even so, I managed to harvest chard, carrots, green onions, snap peas, radishes, cilantro, and one tiny beet.
First harvest of the fall
I have high hopes for the garden this spring, even with a late start. Here in Texas, the spring season starts early--many gardeners start seedlings in January and February to get them in the ground by March. I, however, am not among those many and did not head to the gardening store until early April. Transplants, to the rescue!

Some of my successful transplant purchases this spring
In the fall the garden had three short, narrow rows. The space I cleared for the garden was too small for three rows but too large for two. By the time I realized my error the thought of more digging was unpalatable, so I made do with three too-small rows. 

This spring, I redid the old rows so they were a more appropriate width and dug-in the area I sheet mulched in the fall. I easily tripled the amount of growing space in my garden this season. For about two weeks in April I was regularly working in the yard after HP went to sleep to dig in new rows, add compost, shape the rows, plant, and install irrigation.  The whole process took the better part of the month.

Garden "after" the overhaul/expansion with wider, longer rows
 Here's what I am growing (or attempting to grow) this season:
  • Bush beans, Blue Lake 274 (from seed, did not germinate, planted squash in its place)
  • Bush beans, Purple Queen (from seed)
  • Cowpeas, Big Red Ripper (from seed)
  • Black-eyed peas, California #5 (from seed)
  • Summer squash, Abundant Harvest Mix (from seed, mediocre germinate and sickly looking sprouts)
  • Summer squash, Early Prolific Straightneck (from seed)
  • Winter squash, Winter Harvest Mix (from seed)
  • Watermelon, Sugar-Baby (from seed)
  • Watermelon, Mickeylee (transplant--died in the first two weeks)
  • Cantaloupe, Hale's Best (from seed that did not germinate + one transplant)
  • Cantaloupe, Honey Rock (from seed)
  • Peppers, Bell Boy (transplants that I accidentally snapped in half--whoops!)
  • Peppers, Ancho (transplants, only one of which I have snapped in half)
  • Peppers, Marconi (transplants)
  • Cucumbers, Marketmore(transplant)
  • Basil, Sweet (transplant)
  • Parsley, Flat-leafed Italian (transplant)
  • Okra, Hill Country Red (from seed)
  • Okra, Silver Queen (from seed)
Squash and beans, grown from seed
It is hard to be out in the garden as often as I would like in this season of life. Getting out during the day isn't always an option, either due to the heat, HP's love for eating mulch, dirt, and rocks, or his furiously fast crawl that would decimate all plants in his path if given the chance. I know it won't be long before he will be interested in the garden and want to participate, allowing gardening to become something we regularly do together (even if "do together" means I can work while he plays in the yard independently). Until then, I am trying to make the most of the evenings and weekends to cultivate our little plot of land. 
Me and my lil' gardener checking on the basil


  1. Woohoo! Great job and great post. The spring garden is looking so amazing. I can't wait to see the fruits and veggies of your labor and hear about all the delicious food you're going to cook.

    Also, the photo of you and HP in the garden is beautiful and tugged at my heart. Love!

    1. Thanks, Abby! I was pleasantly surprised to find Henry took a series of photos through the window when I was in the garden with HP. When I look at it I think about how I am living the life I wanted.

  2. So great! That chard looks amazing!! I'm going to have to pick your brain next time I see you Sarah.

    1. I'd love to talk shop, but be warned that my gardening skills are next to none--I'm just learning by doing and relying on the expertise of the UP network when in doubt.

  3. I am so impressed. I wish you lived in Little Rock so you could help me set up my garden. I am planning on attempting to grow my own food this fall. I also am going to get some laying hens. Not sure how I will do, but it is worth a shot. And the thought of Miles working with me in the garden some day warms my heart.

    1. Keep me posted on how it goes! I am definitely learning as I go and have A LOT more to learn. We are contemplating getting laying hens, but right now that just feels like "one more thing" to add to my list of stuff to do. I think I will be more inspired when HP is older and will enjoy watching and interacting with the hens. Actually, he's probably already there, so I need to come up with a new excuse not to take on that project. :)