Tomato Babies

I repotted my two biggest tomato plants today. I’m not sure why these two are so much bigger than the rest, but they sure are. I mixed a lot of bunny droppings in with the new soil and added crushed eggshell to the planting holes, which is something I’ve never tried before. Of course, I’ve also never tried growing mature tomato plants indoors, so this is all an adventure. Fingers crossed that it’ll actually work!

Country Garden, Year Two

The second year in the country, I started with a nice blank slate — 21′ x 28′. I had my two 4′ x 6′ raised beds in the middle and planted around the perimeter, too. I remember it being a really good year for beans! My battle against the country weeds continued. This was the year I put cardboard down to keep the weeds from growing in the tilled soil, then put hay on top of the cardboard. It was better than having NOTHING, but it didn’t work great. After this 2013 garden, I switched to just letting the grass/weeds grow in the paths and mowing them.

I also dug up a bunch of my perennials from the Minneapolis house and brought them up here. I planted some of them around this concrete slab in the yard (there used to be a wood boiler on it). The first photo is right after I planted them in 2013, and the second is a couple of years later, in 2015. They sure fill in quickly!

Front Garden

I hope reminiscing about my gardens isn’t too boring! It’s been quite fun for me to look back at old photos and see how things have grown. I’m surprised I couldn’t find more photos of our little front flower garden — I feel like I take SO many pictures of it when the flowers are blooming.

When we bought the house, there was a sunken pit right out front. It had previously been a decorative pond, but the last owners took everything but the rubber liner and some of the rocks that bordered it. So out went the liner and in went a truckload of soil, and a garden was born. In 2012, I planted a hydrangea tree (“Strawberries and Cream”) and several different lilies and iris, some from my Minneapolis house and some new.

There were a couple of plants that didn’t come back the third spring — a lovely little rose shrub that had been so happy the previous summers and a stargazer lily — but everything else has grown and grown. Here are photos from 2013, 2014, and 2015:

It’s hard to believe the hydrangea used to be so little! It probably actually needs some pruning at this point; it gets so heavy with leaves and flowers, but it’s beautiful. In planning my front garden expansion, I’ve decided I’d like another (shrub) hydrangea, as this one has grown so well. And the bees LOVE it! The lilies are also more than ready to be divided. I’ve got some hostas in there that could do with dividing, too, but I’ll put them on the shady side of the house. There’s no shortage of places to plant things here!

Country Garden, Year One

In 2012, I had my final garden in the city and my first garden in the country. I built a couple of raised beds, filled them with top soil, and started growing. Nothing fancy. We have a big pile of pallets out in one of the fields, so I made a sort of boardwalk between/around the beds. I can’t remember why I did that, exactly, but I do remember the weeds growing up through the pallets! I started with a simple fence, and during the course of the summer, I put in a nicer wooden fence with a bigger footprint (21’x 28′) to prepare for the next year.

The biggest thing I learned from my first year of country gardening is that the weeds are TENACIOUS out here! They might supposedly be the same species, but the wide open spaces and country air have worked on them like steroids. I encountered stinging nettle for the first time (and “first hand” — ouch!) here, and the thistles have been slowly but determinedly been growing their army each year. We have a lot of lawn here, but I’d be curious to know what percentage is actually grass — much less than in a city yard, for sure. Our dandelion bloom in the spring is amazing!

City Garden

I’ve been thinking a lot about the garden/yard I had in Minneapolis. I gardened there for six summers and had pretty much got it to the point where all I had to do was plant annuals and pull weeds. So ha, ha to me — I moved away from all that hard work and started over again. I went looking for photos to show you, and while I have lots of individual plant photos and pictures of the produce I grew, I don’t have nearly enough of the gardens themselves. The photos above were two of my perennial planting areas. Loads of lilies and irises, which I had divided over the years from just a handful of original plants. I actually brought most of those with me, divided them further, and they’re ready to be divided again this year for my garden expansion. I LOVE those plants!

When I moved into my old house, the yard was pretty much a blank slate. There was a tiny garden in the very back corner (with the aforementioned lilies and irises), and a nice ash tree. I was at the T junction of the alleyway, so the backyard got lots of sunlight, and it proved to be a great place to grow things. Here’s my veggie bed at the start of the 2008 season (my second summer) and midway through 2011 (second to last summer):

The raised vegetable garden went through a few variations before becoming two 4′ x 6′ beds. Every part of the back lawn that was either difficult to mow or that didn’t grow well became gardens or mulched walkways. I turned my entire side yard (between the house and that gloriously huge hedge of lilacs) into a mulched perennial garden, too.

What did I learn from my city garden? Places that don’t grow grass well can still be a great place for perennials. Landscape fabric doesn’t really keep the weeds down year after year, so just put plastic under the mulch if it’s a permanently mulched area, like a walkway. All tomatoes really need is humus and a sunny spot (oh, and water). No matter how amazing it is to watch eggplants grow, I don’t really ever want to eat more than one eggplant a year. Good garden things (all things, really) take time. I remember walking through my neighborhood and seeing yards and landscaping that I thought were just amazing. I very slowly started trying to emulate the things I saw and was sometimes frustrated by how feeble my attempts were. But it was a little closer to something I loved each year. I probably would have continued to change and improve the yard if I’d stayed there, but the change from beginning to “end” was pretty massive. I’m trying to remember that as I look toward another huge garden project!

Garden Planning

My indoor garden is growing pretty well. I have a few too many tomato seedlings to realistically grow indoors, but I don’t have the heart to get rid of them. My lettuces are beautiful, and there’s lots of baby chard growing, as well.

This is the best time of year for thinking about the garden, isn’t it? You’re free to dream as big as you like, and the weather outside frees you from having to do anything about it. That chump, Future You, can take care of the heavy lifting. And I’ve been doing some serious dreaming! Last month, I read Practical Permaculture and Permaculture for the Rest of Us. I absolutely loved the first one, and the second was a good read, but a bit more memoir-y and containing a lot of basic gardening info that didn’t teach me anything about permaculture. I’m just about done with Gaia’s Garden, which Rob actually bought for me a few years ago — my brain wasn’t ready for it, I guess! If you were only going to buy one book, I’d recommend Practical Permaculture, but Gaia’s Garden would be a close second.

One phrase that struck a chord with me was, when surveying your property and making plans, to “enhance the views you like and hide the view you don’t”. I paused after reading that to think about which views I don’t like, and the most obvious was the big ol’ side of the barn you can see while looking out the front window. I can’t actually HIDE it from view, but I can put something between it and me that I’ll enjoy looking at! My plans have been spiraling from there. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve come up with, though I realize that what feels like “a tiny patch of ground” (relative to the amount of land we have) is actually “the size of a modest urban backyard”. So I’m expecting to not execute quite as much of my plan as I’m imagining — in the first year.

I’m hoping to document a lot of the work here. I tend to see the broad expanse of everything I don’t know, which makes it feel na├»ve and hubris-y to share anything in a how-to sort of way. But every now and then somebody will ask me a question about something, and when I pause my explanation to come up for air, I realize that, well, I do know a certain amount about a certain number of things. And it’s nice to share, anyway.

Day 25 — Today is…

Day 25 -- Today is... all about giving. I really like picking out presents for other people, and I don't really care much about receiving them anymore (though of course I'm still grateful!). M was beyond excited for her presents today, but she was also really eager for me to open up to gift she'd gotten me -- she picked it out while shopping online with my mom. It's fun to get a present from her but even more fun to know how much it thrilled her to give it.

Day 25 — Today is… all about giving. I really like picking out presents for other people, and I don’t really care much about receiving them anymore (though of course I’m still grateful!). M was beyond excited for her presents today, but she was also really eager for me to open up to gift she’d gotten me — she picked it out while shopping online with my mom. It’s fun to get a present from her but even more fun to know how much it thrilled her to give it. #decemberreflections #twelve22org