Garden On!



Post winter clean up of community garden plot. Chard and Kale in the back growing well post removal of the winter cold frame tunnel. Planted lettuce under the floating row covers.

Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow! Everything is planted and ready to go. My garden crew and I spent the past month and a half clearing out the community garden plot and patio pots, weeding and planning what to plant.  (Garden crew aka my husband Patrick and son, Calvin, age 9).

The swiss chard and kale planted in the Fall were doing great under the low tunnel cold frame so we pulled off the plastic and set them free. The strawberries planted the year before last were back and doing well.  So was my thyme.  Then we planted lettuce and sorrel seeds under the cucumber and squash trellises, thus providing shade once the vines start their trek upward.


Greenhouse with the parsley that had been over wintered, the tomato seedlings from the nursery that were biding their time until planting and my newly planted basil and cilantro seeds in pots.

Next came beets and onions and a few seeds to begin replanting the swiss chard and kale. That was it for the “cold”weather planting.  So I started planting a few things in the greenhouse including basil seeds and cilantro seeds. I also kept back a few herb pots that I had over wintered until I felt they were ready to leave the protection of the green house.

Then I began my yearly period of angst trying to predict the weather and our last frost.   Every year, I know better but can’t help myself. I know that mother nature has her own rhythm.  Then of course global warning throws in a few curves just to remind us that we cannot control mother nature. But after a long winter, I just so want to plant my “warm” weather plants:  tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers and squash. I know that to do it too early will result in stunted growth and vulnerability to disease at best,  and maybe even premature death of the plant. But to wait too late could mean the plants won’t have enough time to root and get settled before the wicked summer heat settles in. So I need to work with the predicted last frost dates, my intuition and chance and hope for the best.

Calvin taking a nap at the garden nursery....

Calvin taking a nap at the garden nursery….


Community Garden Plot

So this year I split the difference and planted tomatoes at home in my patio garden early (and ended up covering them with row covers and bedsheets a few nights of a cold snap) and waited to plant in my community garden plot.  The lettuce and sorrel were already growing strong. But eventually I could no longer wait to plant my warm weather crops so went ahead and planted my tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and squash in the community garden plot.

At the same time, I also added the peppers, cucumbers and squash to my patio container garden.  Okay, I guess I got a little ahead of myself, perhaps, and had to run out (well, Patrick did for me :)) and cover it all ever so tenderly with row covers and plastic bags to survive the freak cold snap two nights, but hey, it was worth it. Everything was planted just before a major rain storm period started and YES all was good.

Patio Container Garden

Patio Container Garden

I know from experience that planting on a gray day before a period of rain is golden.  It gives the plants a great head start. Then a few days of rain and next thing you know, the plants are well rooted and seem to double their size overnight. So all is well in garden land. We have been harvesting the lettuce and enjoying fresh salads each night. And this is just the beginning of the growing season. Garden on!

Lettuce in community garden plot

Lettuce in community garden plot


Herbs in patio container garden


Lettuce, basil and lavender in patio container garden


Strawberries in patio container garden


Swiss chard and kale that had over wintered in the tunnel cold frame, plus beets and onions that I planted this spring.


Harvested lettuce from community garden plot.


Winding up the Season

As the cool weather descends upon us, the leaves begin to change and the days grow shorter, nature marks the beginning of the end of a season. I have always loved October. Not only because this is the month of my birth, but also because it marks for me the bridge of transition from the the last days of the memory of summer, the full feel of fall and the first breath of winter that November brings.

My community garden and home garden contribute to this transition. As I harvest the last of my tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and green beans and look forward to harvesting my fall plantings of swiss chard and raddiccio in a few weeks, I begin to think about how I will soon be engaging in a different form of “harvest” come November.  That will entail pulling from the freezer and cupboards to harvest the vegetables that I froze and canned for use until the spring comes and planting can being again.  But before we begin to turn a bit inward and indoors for winter, I will need to get my herbs into the cold frame to over winter and do the final garden clean up in advance of the first frost. Hopefully mother nature will give me a few more weeks to do so.

As I was surveying my community garden plot and beginning to pull up for compost the plants that had exhausted their life of production, a woman was walking on the sidewalk outside the garden fence. As I was lost in thought, I heard her voice calling to get my attention. I looked up. She smiled and asked how she could get involved in the community garden. She said she is not experienced but wanted to learn how to grow things.

I explained to her how the community garden worked and guided her to the county park website. She said she traveled back and forth to Africa, where she is originally from, and she wanted to learn how to garden so she could help grow gardens in schools in Africa.  We chatted a bit more and she bid farewell.

With her departure, I felt bittersweet emotions. I was ready to close down my community garden plot for the winter.  At the same time, I love the interactions that I have had with passer bys over the past few months of the growing season.  I will miss them.  But one thing I know for sure.  All seasons have a purpose and, for now, a part of me is looking forward to the winter. A time when we are brought indoors for reflection and renewal. Then come March or so, I will be ready to take on the spring!

Lettuce be Joyful!

After leaving a bowling birthday party for a classmate of my 7 year old son, we turned right out of the parking lot and what did we see?……………………..the Garden Nursery!!!!!  I could hardly believe my eyes.  We got to the bowling alley from a direction that totally disconnected me to the fact that I was in fact right next to the…………Garden Nursery!!!!!!!   All those periods are for drama and effect and all those exclamation points are to highlight the fact that I was so totally excited about an impromtu visit to the plant store.   Excitement rose as we parked the car.  Then I was bordering giddy as we got out and entered the greenhouse.  Then I turned downright outrageously giddy upon seeing lettuce seedlings sitting all alone in the vast greenhouse with no other vegetable in sight.  I am not kidding. I put the GID-DY in giddy.  (I know there a lot of “giddys” there but I can’t think of a more perfect word or state of being right now.)  When we pulled into the parking lot, I thought at best, I would score some pepper seeds, maybe some cool garden sheers to prune the herbs I overwintered in the cold frame.   That would have made my day.  Really.  So you can only imagine (I know for some it is totally hard to imagine anyone getting so over joyed at seeing lettuce seedlings but work with me on this) the bubbling feeling of joy that started from my toes and shot right up to my head, thus causing me to nearly jump up and down like the seven year olds I just left at the bowling alley did when they hit a spare.   You see, let me explain.  It is only the first week in March.  I did not expect such treasures for a few more weeks, maybe not until April.  Who knew?  So I picked up a few flats and for good measure, added a few packets of  lettuce seeds to my purchase.  Then I had an intense conversation with the guy at the checkout counter on the hardiness of lettuce in this unpredictable weather we have been having. He told me about how they had some of the lettuce outside a few days back when the temperature dipped into the 20s and they did fine.  Also, we chatted about over wintering lettuce (he did it this year, I did last year but not this year).  I would have gone on and on about lettuce if my husband and seven year old didn’t pull me away. Oh,  I also did an impulse purchase of some type of small seedling pots that are organic and can be planted right in the ground and then compost and have some type of magical mimicking of nature and nutrients to boot.  Okay, I KNOW it was marketing for people like me, but whatever.  They were cool and I am trying them out.