There Will Be Peppers

A Saturday morning trip my son Takoda and I took to the local garden nursery was a slap of a reminder of how far behind my plants are.  It seems like such a short time ago that my younger son Luke and I spent a lazy Sunday morning in bed, sipping coffee (me, not Luke) selecting our favorite seeds out of Baker Creek Heirloom, sweet images of a lush garden unfolding in my head as I made each selection.  But it was not to be.

Oh, I have a garden, of course there is a garden, but those vibrant dreams are no more than tiny souls, poking their heads through a bed of sweet organic soil. begging nature to aid in their survival.  Organic soil that I paid a pretty penny for.  Story for another day.

After several natural disasters (see previous posts), round three of my seedling attempts are now nestled snuggly in their garden beds.  The cabbage and broccoli will make it.  I have 4 tomatoes in critical condition, and if the leeks have luck on their side, some of them should make it.

But there will be peppers.

I love buying flowers from the nursery.  I hate buying vegetables from the nursery.  But my pepper seeds were gone after attempt number two failed so I was left with the option of buying plants or going without.  So there will be peppers.  Two sweet banana, two jalapenos and 6 bell peppers.

They stand tall, proud and lush (yes, lush) over the rest of my patients, thriving aspirations for the rest of my plants.

But not all is lost.  Many of my plants were direct sows.  The cucumbers and pickles are small, but doing just fine.  I have two 15 foot potato beds with reds and Yukon Gold and my pumpkins are thriving.  I think my cauliflower transplants will make it too.

Progress so far:

  • Six garden beds are in and planted (2 to go which might not happen for this year)
  • 50 by 50 foot fence is up to keep out chickens
  • Compost is going strong
  • I should have at least two each blueberry, blackberry and strawberry plants that will make it.  I planted three of each but some didn’t survive the transplant so well
  • Lots of vegetables planted, just small for where they should be
  • Lots of pumpkins and potato plants that are striving!  Pumpkin pie here we come!

Coffee, John Mayer and Dirt

I spent my Sunday morning with all three  (please reference post title).  And wow what a gorgeous morning it was.  A little cold, but Saturday was worse (it’s May in WI after all), so I was willing to bear a few goosebumps for the pleasure of spending time alone in my garden.

After a Saturday of being cooped up in the house and catching up on cleaning, I wanted to make the most of a somewhat warm Sunday, so I rolled out of bed at 7, filled my french press with freshly brewed coffee, and headed out to my garden to dig potato ditches.  The coffee was cold by the time I got halfway through my first cup, but with a little John Mayer, Simon & Garfunkle and Cat Stevens on my Pandora shuffle and a clear sky lit by the rising sun, providing warmth between short bursts of cool breeze, cold coffee was just fine with me.


To me, being able to enjoy a Sunday like this is a big deal.  I used to hate Sundays.  In January I started a new job, but before that I spent seven and a half years in corporate retail where every Sunday was spent dreading Monday.  I never knew what Monday might entail.  More work than I could handle, that was a given, but perhaps I would walk in to emails blaming me for a problem the stores were encountering, or someone at my desk before I could even sit down with some “emergency”.  And of course there was answering to the sales numbers for the previous week.  That industry, while it provided financial security was not the right fit for me and each Sunday that I’m able to enjoy without a lump of dread sitting in my stomach is a gift that I appreciate each week.

So, I spent a wonderful Sunday day in the garden.  After making them healthy pancakes that they actually enjoyed (yay!  mom points!) the boys helped me dig out two potato ditches about 12 feet long, and after drying my Yukon gold and red seed potatoes in the sun most of the day, I planted and buried them.

Here’s Luke eating his pancakes (no Takoda picture because he wore his underwear to breakfast 🙂 ).  The ingredients picture would be a lot prettier without our ugly red counters!


Potato ditches!

Late last week while I was out of town, my live yam and berry bushes arrived.  I ordered a rare mix of sweet potatoes from a seed catalog and, but by the time I got them, they were in need of  life support.  I planted the purple, pink and pumpkin sweet potato plants in fresh pots and put them in the house to keep them warm.  Until I read up on planting the sweet potatoes, I didn’t realize they were actually tropical plants and needed lots of warmth and sun.  I’m in Cincinnati for work right now but hoping that some of them will survive the week.  I have seven plants but I think only four are going to make it.

I didn’t get around to planting the strawberries, but I have three blackberry and three blueberry bushes planted at the back of the garden.  Blueberries need multiple varieties in order to cross pollinate and produce a decent amount of berries (just learned this) so the seed company sent three different varieties of northern blueberries and I labeled them so if I like one of the bushes better I know what I have.

Chad was heading out of town to run errands so I had him grab me the remaining wood I need to finish the last three garden beds and a rain barrel.  Well he texted me late last night letting me know that we got a lot of rain and my barrel was overflowing!  I can’t wait to get back and be able to use the water.  Before the rain barrel Chad and I were sharing the hose between the garden and the pigs watering trough on the other side of the yard.  So the rain barrel beyond being environmentally conscious will be a great efficiency.


And finally, Chad helped me get the rest of the fence up.  We still need to build a gate so right now we just have the corner open for an entrance, but it will serve its purpose of keeping out the chickens.  With the fence up I was able to plant my tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, though small as they are I’m not sure that they’ll still be alive when I get back.  Ha, so I may just end up with a bunch of fenced in garden beds with no plants;  I guess time will tell.

Slowly But Surely

So let me just start with, this organic gardening thing is a lot more work than I thought.  Now don’t get me wrong, I knew it was a lot of work, but I guess this year I’m doing it all on the front end.  Most of my time so far has been spent on building garden beds (and trying to learn how to use a drill) and a fence.  The fence is necessary to keep out the chickens, but the beds will prevent a lot of the work I’ve done throughout the summer in the past in having to weed (I hope!).  On top of attaching landscape fabric to the bottoms of the beds I’ve also lined the beds with straw to further prevent weeds.  So we’ll see I guess!  Six beds and half a fence built, two beds and half a fence to go.

While my garden layout is going somewhat to plan (the fence is not where it was supposed to go, but my fiancé and neighbor put half of it up while I was gone and I am super appreciative and not complaining or moving it), my plants are pretty pathetic if I’m being honest.  My broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and onions (from seed!) are doing fine, but I’ve had several seedling incidents.  My first set of seedlings blew away while sitting in a temporary greenhouse and I spent a good half hour walking around the yard searching for empty seed tray planters (is that the technical term?).  My second set was doing great until I forgot to bring them in one night a couple weeks ago while I was getting them used to the outside and we got frost.  The hardier vegetables made it, but I lost my tomatoes, eggplant, basil and a tray and a half of Zinnias.  So not so great on the plant front.  🙂

Two years ago I got a very late start and a decent yield, without garden beds, so I’m pretty confident I’ll get something.  Lots more work ahead, but check out some of the pictures of our progress below.  I have some great helpers.  🙂

Grandma Suzie scopes out Starbucks for their free used coffee grounds for us.  A week ago she scored us two bags!  That’s our compost bin in the background.5.8

The boys are in charge of the cucumber bed.  Signs and all!5.8 2

Shopping for lumber with the boys at Home Depot was half the work.  So grateful for the awesome employees at Home Depot though who were super helpful and will cut the lumber for free!  Here’s Luke helping out with shopping and filling the beds.

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Chad (my fiancé) traded some trout that he caught on a fishing expedition with his friends and some pork from last year’s pig for these two large hay bails. Some of this has gone into my garden beds, some in my compost and most will go to this year’s pigs.  If the chickens don’t beat them to it.  Takoda has enjoyed having them around as well.  This makes a nice playground.5.8 4

The Garden Diaries

Two years ago I set out on a gardening journey.  I decided to just order the seeds that I wanted, follow the instructions on the package, use my new Rodale’s Organic Gardening book to learn about soil and composting, how to care for the plants that I was growing, and figure out what not to do in the future.  I intended to keep a journal on my learnings, but never did.  Last year, sadly I was not able to garden, but I’m back at it this year and plan on taking that journaling a step further.  I plan on making gardening a lifelong journey of learning, of layering my knowledge on year after year and honing my skills.

But I also want it to be so much more than just gardening.  I want to teach my sons how to care for something, to take on full responsibility.  I want to build memories with them and to teach them a skill.  A skill that I myself am still learning.  We’ll grow in this journey together.

I don’t know where this journey will take me (whoa, not trying to be dramatic here, I know this is just gardening I’m talking about)., but I hope to build this hobby into an everyday part of my life.  I want to eat food that I’ve grown myself, to create food to go along with the food that I’ve grown (bread, cheese, wine, etc.)  I want to understand the science of what I’m growing and to not have an idea of where I will land, but a vision of where I could go.

I do have one little victory to celebrate so far.  I’m really pretty proud actually.  Yesterday I “harvested” my compost from two summers ago.  I spent hours digging it out of my compost bin so I can use it.  The soar body I had for days afterwards echoed my accomplishment every time I moved.  It was a great feeling.  Unfortunately someone put some painted pumpkins into my bin so I’m afraid to use the compost for my fruits and vegetables, but I do think it’s fine to use for flower beds so it’s not going to complete waste.  And I didn’t stop there.  I gathered all of my “fresh” fruits and vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds, I chopped up old corn stalks and I shoveled the saw dust and chicken poop from the chicken coop and started a new compost pile in my bin.

I’ve also geared up on my Rodale’s, re-inspiring my organic gardening efforts and affirming my choice to garden organically.  It may be more time consuming but it’s so fulfilling and worth it.  So, wish me luck, I may need it!

Here are some of the harvest from my garden two years ago.

The first picture here is of the compost I dug out from two years ago and the second is the new compost pile I’ve started.  The dog is our 3 year old black lab Jake.