Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Magic of Dirt

Gardening is one of my absolute favorite hobbies.  Last summer, we were transitioning between houses, tackling a huge renovation project, and I was pregnant.  In the third trimester.  We threw some tomatoes and peppers in the ground at the "new" house, and surprisingly, they did great.  I also moved about a dozen perennials from our old house to the new house, and hastily planted them in a makeshift plot.  Despite the cold, long winter, they all reappeared this spring.

This year, my fingers were itching to create some more permanent garden spaces.  Aaron has been a champ to remind me that we can take it slow, adding new things each year, and he has also been so kind to help me dig up new beds, edge beds, move soil, plant.   And when I say he helped me dig up new beds, I mean he pretty much did it all himself.  I come up with the ideas, and he makes sure the execution actually happens.

If you are on the fence about gardening, I get it.  That's where I was five years ago when we moved into our first house.  My mom and sister were avid gardeners, and I just didn't understand the appeal.  I remember my sister presented me with a detailed plan of all the perennials I could plant in our yard, color coded and mapped out, and I was like "Are you going to plant them too?  Because it's not happening if it's left up to me."   A few months after moving in, I bought some geraniums on a whim and put them in planters on our front stoop where they didn't get enough sun, and it was already July so not exactly the optimal time to plant things.  They hung on, and I was hooked.

So if you're not sure about gardening, start small and go slow.  Listen to my husband.  Buy a cheap four pack of tomatoes from Ace or Wal-Mart.  Buy a packet of giant zinnia seeds.  Turn up a small, sunny plot of soil  and throw a bag of compost on top.  (Or easier still, get four or five pots and fill them with potting soil.)  Plant your tomatoes, and throw the seeds in the ground.  And then little leaves will appear followed by flowers so glorious and big you won't believe YOU GREW THEM, and tiny green tomatoes will swell into red orbs, and it will be magic.  Just try.  I dare you.

Here's a little tour of the garden as it stands this year.  We're trying to plan for the long-term while doing what we can with what we have this year.

Here is the perennial bed that is going to get a reworking next summer.  For now, the goal is to keep them alive and thriving.  In the fall, I'll sheet compost a bed in the shape and size I want, and by spring, all the grass underneath will be dead, and the bed will be ready to plant.   If you live in the Midwest, a few perennials that have done great for me are yarrow, coreopsis, Shasta daisies, bee balm (invasive, so you have to keep on top of it), iris, chrysanthemum, speedwell, and salvia.

Here is our vegetable plot.  Next summer, we'll add two more raised beds and keep the skinny brick beds on either end.  The dirt mound in the foreground is the site of some overgrown shrubs we cut down last fall.  There is also an old tree trunk in the middle that still needs to be burned.  For now, I scattered zinnia, cosmos, African daisy, and calendula seeds there.  They'll attract pollinators to the garden and look pretty, and then in the fall, we'll tackle burning the stump and sowing grass seed.  You can also make out some reddish circles to the left of the garden.  Those are a combination of blueberry and raspberry bushes.  We won't get any fruit out of them this year or possibly next, but again, we're trying to plan for the long term since we'll likely be in the house a while.  

Cocozelle squash starting to peek out. 

Kentucky Wonder pole beans all set to climb up teepees.  Aaron took some leftover furring strips from a house project and ripped them down the middle with a circular saw.  Tied them at the top with twine.  Easy and free.  


Sweet peas.  Again, the furring strips make an appearance.  We're all about using what we have to make gardening cheaper.  Supplies can get expensive, but if you poke around, you might have what you need.  

This corner was looking a little awkward because we pulled out some yuccas which left it bare.  Yuccas are awful.  They shouldn't be allowed out of the Southwest.  Ever.  Third use of the furring strips in the crafting of this trellis.  I planted some cypress vine seeds and an eggplant which will climb up it.  Some cheap annuals (cleome and salvia) from Ace will grow taller and hide the planter.  

This brick planter was already on the side of the house, and I've designated it as home for the herbs. 

I broke one of my own gardening rules and bought a dahlia.  I try to stay away from flowers that are fussy, and dahlias fit that rule because you have to dig their bulbs up in the fall and store them inside.  This one was gorgeous, though, and on deep clearance.  So I gave it a home.  I can always treat it as an annual if I don't feel like digging it up in November.  (Of course I will dig it up.)

Spiderwort bought from the local Master Gardener's plant sale.  There is probably a yearly sale in your area as well.  It's a great way to get cheap plants that will perform well in your zone.

Hydrangeas poking up.  I love hydrangeas and was so excited that this house had two established bushes.  They took a hit with the winter, and all the old wood died, but the roots are still alive and sending up new shoots.  

I also like to grow things inside.  What's this flower sprouting up out of a high chair?  Species Anna, genus Weaver.   Now that is a beautiful specimen.  :)

Do you like to garden?  What are you growing this year?


  1. We live in an apartment and don't have much room for outdoor plants, but we have an adorable ponytail palm tree inside. :)

    1. Amy! I have a ponytail palm tree as well! I've had it for 10 years. It almost died once, but I gave it to my mom and she revived it. I hope yours has a long and healthy life as well! Just read on your blog about Mittens. So glad you got her back! :)