Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Walk in the Garden

Heading into year two of our garden I felt the satisfaction of building on last year's work and had high hopes for this year's progress. Now at the start of summer we are just over one month into the growing season here. Looking back to where we were a year ago I recognize how much of a head start we already have over last year. The third raised bed was prepared and planted with garlic last fall. We had already dug out about half of the kids' garden last year and it was quick spring time work preparing the rest of the bed. Some perennials were already in place and I had my system for starting seeds down this year. 

I've started heirloom tomatoes for the past several years after realizing it was hard to find seedlings for my favorites (green zebras), and in an effort to keep costs down decided to give flowers a go this year too.  I started morning glories, pumpkins, cosmos, zulu prince daisies, poppies, lots of zinnias (because they make such wonderful cut flowers), along with my usual heirloom tomatoes. Will gets a bit annoyed when so much of our counter space is invaded by my trays of plants, but he is a good sport and doesn't huff and puff too much when I repeatedly request his help hauling the trays in and out the backdoor in the weeks when I'm hardening off the plants. Aside from saving money, growing these little plants from seed provides hope and that delicious smell of wet soil in the early days of spring when snow stubbornly clings to the ground inspiring woe in our sorely vitamin D deprived Minnesotan selves.

This year I've discovered a secret to successful gardening for and with kids - garden paths. Kids love running on paths through the garden. It keeps the garden fun and interactive and mostly keeps them from running through beds that have recently been planted. I have been hearing about the Friend's School Mother's Day plant sale for years and was excited to check it out this year. Along with a wagon full of happy little plants I brought home this stepping stone to adorn one of the prominent pathways. I surrounded it with irish moss and hope it will be a magical, cushy path by the end of the summer.

I ended up adopting a malabar spinach plant this year - and though I never intended for it to be a permanent resident of our garden I am happy it is here (thank you, Darcy!) It is a vigorous climber and, while not a true spinach plant, it supposedly tastes like spinach when cooked. Unlike spinach, it also loves the heat and will grow through the summer. The lovely malabar spinach sits alongside a patch of sunflowers (because nothing speaks summer like sunflowers towering overhead), snapdragons (Ava loves them) and a patch of several herbs (roman chamomile, oregano, sage and peppermint.) I've learned my lesson and will keep those sunflowers caged until they are no longer so deliciously appealing to the bunnies that hop around our yard like they own the place. 

With our recent discovery that Will is likely allergic to eggs my dream of backyard chickens is even more unrealistic than ever. Luckily Terracotta Chicken is hypoallergenic, low maintenance and, though she doesn't provide nitrogen-rich poop for the garden, she does a fine job guarding the jack-be-little pumpkins. I've never grown pumpkins before, but the idea of them is irresistible for a kids' garden. Along with the jack-be-littles (the tiny ones that fit in the palm of your hand) I planted lumina, those ghostly white pumpkins. I welcome any advice on how to keep the squirrels and other critters from eating them as they grow.

I planted broccoli and lots more kale this year because we eat so much of it - lacinato for sautéing and curly kale for making kale chips. I planted a collection of lettuces and we've been savoring our home grown salads. Even Ava and Eli get excited about the lettuce when they discover it's from our garden. I'm foregoing growing pole beans this year - I just don't end up getting excited about them come harvest time - and we're sticking to our favorite bush beans, yellow wax and dragon's tongue.

The third bed is filled mostly with the garlic I planted last fall. It is so glorious standing majestic and tall when other plants in the garden are only getting started. It is almost time for our annual garlic scape soup. Along with the garlic I am growing bell peppers, habaneros, eggplant and tomatillos. I have an excellent recipe for tomatillo salsa, which I look forward to making with these cuties.

And look at these beauties. Dare I get my hopes up? No apples grew on our tree last year. The previous owners of our house planted three apple trees, two of which have mostly perished after harsh winters and attack of hungry bunnies. But this one seems to be doing okay. And this year it appears we may actually have some apples come fall. I will be jumping for joy if we get a few - even one, really. And I can't wait to find out what kind they are!

I thought I overdid it with tomatoes last year. So naturally I'm growing even more of them this year. Twelve in the bed, one in a pot and one other in the kids' garden that Ava planted in her summer class at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. I started my favorites - green zebras - and am trying a new kind this year - gold medal. We were gifted our other tomato plants from Will's colleague who has his seed starting down to a science. I hope to have a wide array of tomatoes for my daily omelets, Sunday morning bagels lox and cream cheese, caprese salads, tomato soup and last year's favorite, garlicky oven dried tomatoes. You can never have too many tomatoes. 

I hope you enjoyed this stroll through part of our garden. With all of the rain we've been having (more than in any other spring in recorded history) things are growing fast and are already looking quite different from when I took these photos. I hope your gardens have gotten off to a great start and I wish you a very happy beginning of summer!


  1. I love this garden! So inspired to grow something...

    1. How is the yard in your new house, Cat? Room for a garden? And when do you move in? xo

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