A New Gi and Thoughts on Gardening

karate
My son’s new Seido Karate Gi

On the way to Saturday afternoon karate class with Dad.  Karate – one activity that pulls us away from our garden plot.  School projects, house projects, jobs, swim team and more, also compete for our time.   Limited time and energy is why it has been over 3 months since my last post here.    It may be a bit odd to start writing again on the garden blog at the end of the growing season.  But, I just had to write about our garden again because it is grew despite all our distractions.  That inspired me to get a little philosophical.  Living is like gardening.   The rhythm of preparing, planning, nurturing and harvesting is the created pattern of growth.  Life abundant.  We had less time at our garden plot  this year, but we were still “gardening.”  I saw it as my husband helped my son put on his new Gi for karate class.   I looked for a moment in amazement at what grew amid all the daily chores and activities – a big boy ready to follow the rules in karate class and a father and son relationship.  We have several garden plots.   A metaphorical one is right inside our home.

Our community garden plot produced lots of veggies this year, but not as much variety as years past.  Recently we picked over 10 pounds of cherry tomatoes, 10 pounds of assorted peppers, three sugar baby watermelons, and several bags of kale.  We dug up over 3 pounds of sweet potatoes.  Kale is still growing in our garden despite an early frost last night.  I will post more about our recent harvests.   I may even add some philosophical posts about our metaphoric garden plot -home.  Glad to be back, gazing at what is growing in all our garden plots.

White Fuzzy Caterpiller

white fuzzy caterpillar
White fuzzy caterpillar on lettuce leaf

The lettuce in our garden had a long growing season due to the cool and wet weather in the early part of summer.  We had more lettuce than we could consume.  Unfortunately, lettuce can not be frozen like Kale or other thick greens.  Our lettuce plants finally started to go to seed and were very bitter, so I pulled them out a week ago.  While removing the plants, I found this white fuzzy caterpillar tunneling at the center of one green leaf lettuce plant.  I hated to disturb its home so I pulled out the whole plant and placed it in our compost bin with fuzzy still tucked inside the leafy goodness.

I did not mind a caterpillar munching on a plant that had become too bitter for us to consume, but I wonder if it will harm other crops in our garden plot.  My guess is that the caterpillar will turn into a Tiger moth, but I am not sure.  For any bug identification or garden questions, I contact The University of Maryland Extension Service, Ask a Garden Expert .   They reply with an answer to my gardening questions within a couple of days.  They are a wonderful service to the garden community.

I am waiting to see what the garden experts have to say about “snowy bear” as my son named it.   I will let you know what I find out.

Another Gardening Season Begins

firstdayplanting2

The first week in April, we started our fourth season in our community garden plot.  My son helped me break up the soil with a rake and hammer.  He likes to pound things, so he was content to whack and crush clods of dirt with a hammer.  Despite his destructive fun, this was the first year he carefully planted seedlings almost completely on his own.  He planted seedlings of kale, lettuce and brussel sprouts.openingday2

The worms and microbes were busy working in our garden plot already because the soil looks very healthy.  It is a deep rich brown and feels light and loose.  Almost every shovel full of dirt we turned had at least one fat worm.  We were careful not to over work the soil and disturb the worms.  We planted seeds of carrots, parsnip, turnips, beets and lettuce and seedlings of kale, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage (at least 12 plants of differing varieties), brussel sprouts, cauliflower and sugar snap peas.

Image

Gardening is a labor of love to produce fresh organic food for our family, friends and community and to spend time together as a family working on a common goal with others in a community.  May all our gardens thrive this season not only with food, but with joy and hope!

My son took this photo of the clouds above our garden plot on opening day of the 2013 growing season.  Use your imagination. Can you see the word “LOVE” ?

Garden Gifts

We are overflowing with peppers (bells and cubanelles), eggplants (neon, Italian, Chinese and globe varieties) and another 40 pounds of tomatoes.  We can not keep up with the processing of all these veggies.   We  shared with friends, family and the food bank.   I spend my free time searching for recipes, chopping, freezing or canning.    We canned 30 quarts of tomatoes and 11 pints of salsa.  We have several gallon freezer bags filled with chopped peppers and roasted eggplant slices (some plain or coated with bread crumbs).  The eggplant slices can replace the noodles in lasagna.

We are grateful for this wonderful veggie bounty, but the best gift from the garden came today.  It was not the 45 more pounds of veggies we picked (not in the photo).  It was when my son eagerly helped me plant the fall crops of broccoli, cauliflower, romaine lettuce, kale and fennel.  He put on gloves, tucked in each newly planted seedling with a handful of fertilizer and a smile!

Harvest Monday – July 9th

I found a way to get my son more interested in our garden plot – have him help me cook up the veggies we harvest.  He is thrilled to shred cabbage and zucchini in my food processor.  He likes operating a machine that is loud, powerful and destructive.  This week he helped me make zucchini crusted pizza, zucchini pancakes and zucchini bread and coleslaw.  He named our kitchen restaurant, The Tomato Garden (his favorite restaurant is The Olive Garden).

The Tomato Garden has been busy cooking up the harvest of…..Zucchini  (25 pounds), Beets (8 pounds), Red Onions (1 pound) and Cabbage (one head).

To see amazing harvests from gardens around the world, stop by Daphne’s Dandelions, the host of Harvest Monday.

Visitors in Our Plot

The garden grew dramatically while we were on vacation.  In less than two weeks we found new veggies and critters in our garden.  There were many overgrown zucchini logs waiting to be picked; about a dozen small butternut squashes growing on traveling vines; thick tomato vines dangling with yellow flowers and green tomatoes; yellow and red beets bursting through the ground; four large healthy cabbage heads stuck in the ground; and several small purple eggplants hanging on leaning stalks. Unfortunately, we found wilted yellow leaves on the spaghetti squash vines. Vine borer larvae were in its stalk. We picked the two medium-sized squashes then pulled out the entire plant. I will wrap the stalks of the zucchini and butternut with aluminum foil to try and prevent the vine borer from laying eggs on their stalks.

I found more critter visitors, too. Squash bugs and their egg clusters, crickets, ladybugs and a large (half-dollar size) black furry spider. When I first walked up to the plot I saw something brown dash out of the pepper patch, then another trembling furry animal under a pepper leaf. I hoped it was not a vole (others have found voles in their community garden plots). I was relieved it was only a baby bunny. At least it was a cute pest!
After it scurried away, I found its lunch – our golden and red beets! We pulled out several nibbled on beets. I wanted to leave the partially eaten beets for the bunnies. But, my husband protested, “we don’t want to attract more bunnies!”  We placed the nibbled beets in the community garden compost bin. I hope the baby bunnies look for their meals in the compost bin, on the other side of the garden fence!

Saturday Garden Work

We worked hard in our garden plot today, installing drip system, fertilizing plants, saving the eggplants, laying down microperforated mulch (looks like black plastic), planting cucumber seeds and picking sugar snap peas.

  • My husband installed the drip system.  He only had to purchase new drip tape and caps. All the other parts we reused from last year’s system.
  • The eggplants needed to be saved because when we arrived at the plot, the row covers were blown off  and the eggplants were freckled with flea beetle bites.  We sprayed them with Pyrethin and gave them a boast with fish emulsion fertilizer.  We only covered half of them with the row covers, since some were already flowering.
  • I fertilized the peppers and tomatoes with Garden Tone.
  • We put down BioTelo (since our community garden does not permit black plastic to be used) around some of the tomato plants and all of the pepper plants.  BioTelo is biodegradable and compostable.  It stops weeds, warms the soil and reduces water evaporation.  Ideally, it should be place on the ground before planting.

The main garden lesson we learned today –  in March, work soybean meal fertilizer into the soil, put down the drip tape and cover it with black plastic or BioTelo.  That allows two months for the soil to warm up and kill off the flea beetles that over winter in the ground.  The ground will be ready in May and June for planting summer crops.

Plot Planting Done


We used an organic method to plan our garden plot this year. No sketches or diagrams, just pick and plant. The plot is finally taking shape. It is planted, supported and protected. We worked in 90 degree weather today to plant eggplants and zucchini, stake the tomatoes and peppers and cover the eggplant, zucchini and butternut squash plants with row covers.
Here is what we are growing now:
From left to right in the above picture…
1. First row: Nasturtium flowers (will have edible red flowers), Arctic Poppy flowers (seeds were an anniversary present from my sweetie who knew Poppy flowers are my childhood favorite) and Sugar Snap Peas (growing on trellis).
2. Second row: Tomato patch, Pepper patch, and Beets.
3. Third row: Eggplants (I asked for Eggplants and my sweetie got me over 18 plants, including the following varieties, Neon, Regular large, Finger, and Sicilian Globe) all under row covers to protect from the flea beetles; Zucchini, Red Onion and Butternut Squash (under row covers to protect from the Squash bugs) and more Beets.
Before the planting my enthusiastic hubby did a “grow” dance, arms waving overhead with a cute body wiggle. After the planting, muddy, sweaty, tired we slumped in the air conditioned van and wondered if we should continue with the community garden. Anyway, we are glad the planting is done.

Holding On

It has been difficult to get to our community garden plot this spring.  More responsibilities at work, school, and home pull us away.  But we are determined to hold on to our garden plot and our family gardening hobby.

Yesterday, we arrived at our community garden plot in the late afternoon, just before the heavy rains came.  The dark rain clouds moved closer as we rushed to plant beet seeds and broccoli, eggplant and nasturtium seedings.   The wind blew strong, the rain fell fast and the row covers fluttered and flapped.  My son ran for the van, then on his own initiative returned to help me carry supplies back to the van.  I gathered rocks to help my husband secure our row covers over the broccoli and eggplants and anchor our neighbor’s row cover that almost flew away.

sugar snap peas hold on

It didn’t matter that we got wet.  We felt the simplicity in physical work and nature.  My husband and son pounded the hard clods of dirt to aerate the soil for the plants.  I gently unraveled tendrils on the sugar snap peas and led them toward the trellis.   We felt a storm unfold around us.  We worked together with our hands and helped protect our garden neighbor’s plants.   We completed our garden work and picked a bunch of lettuce.  We slowed down.

Our garden plot holds us so we are not blown away by the frenetic life in Howard Co. Maryland.

Surprises in Our Community Garden Plot

Our Shiba Inu
The first visit of 2012 to our community garden plot at Howard Co. Conservancy on Saturday was inspiring. My husband phoned to tell me, “bring your camera we have broccoli and brussel sprouts growing!” The brussel sprouts were pea size at mid-fall and grew to edible size through the warm winter. I hope they taste good.
Brussel Sprouts
I also found parsley and lettuce sprouting at the edge of our plot. The soil was loose and easy to weed and turn. We planted sugar snap peas, turnips and beets. A community garden friend visited and shared some gardening tips. He told us about a less earthy tasting beet, the Touchstone Gold. Even our Shiba Inu dog reveled in the garden, digging his nose and wiggling his back into the fresh soil.