Thursday, June 15, 2017

Digging In - The Truth Behind Joining a Community Garden

We moved back to the Pacific Northwest almost 2 years ago. For the first year I was in complete denial about our permanency in this state, mainly because I was hoping we’d move back to Oklahoma but here we are and at least until the unforeseen future, this is where we’ll be.

So, settling in and planting roots in relationships and in the garden, have become a priority. However, the “micro-lot” that our rental sits on, doesn’t lend itself to much gardening, so we put our names on a waiting list at the local community garden and waited.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that vegetable gardening is a whole new hobby for me. I’ve always grown my favorite floral perennials but never really dabbled into the vegetable side until this spring. 

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait too long to be notified that not only were we now the new adoptive gardeners to a single plot but we were lucky enough to garner 2!

As is my personality, I jumped with both rain boots on and I’ve never looked back and I’m so glad I did. Being a part of a local community garden has so many benefits and I’d like to share the few that have made an impression on me thus far:

  •     Freebies – During our March volunteer cleanup day, many of the experienced gardeners brought with them tray after tray full of early spring sprouts, such as lettuces, kales and swiss chard starts to share with those who joined in the melee of yanking up invasive weeds, mint and other wild growing plants that had found their way into the garden.  Freebies help save money, especially for a newbie like myself that didn’t have a clue I could plant lettuce that early in the spring.

  •   Walking Encyclopedias – For me, that’s exactly what experienced gardeners are. They can tell when to plant peas, how far apart to plant your bok choy and give you the recipe for a homemade organic fertilizer that will make your plants look like they’re on steroids. I love those walking encyclopedias, almost every evening I head to the garden, there’s another gardener who’s more experienced, more knowledgeable than I who is eager to answer questions and point out tips and tricks to keep my little garden plots happy and healthy.

  •  Making new friends – I will be the first to admit that when it comes to making new friends in most settings, I’m a bit gun-shy. But for some reason, when I’m in the garden, and I see another gardener it’s like we’re long lost buddies from high-school and we can sit and chat about our little veggies like a couple of first time mommy’s comparing notes on which formula is best.

  •  Giving back – I love to volunteer. I love feeding people. And I hate the thought of anyone going hungry, so it absolutely makes sense for me to garden and share with those in need. Now, our community does a fantastic job in allocating specific portions of the garden for vegetables to be grown specifically for the local food back. Last year, I’ve been told the goal was 1,000 pounds of vegetables and they almost made it, having come up short by 150 pounds. Which isn’t bad at all in my eyes! That’s a whole lotta tomatoes and zucchini! This year, I think our board members must have upped the ante to 1200 pounds which is quite a hefty goal considering the size of our community garden is less than an acre.
  •  Mind, body and soul therapy – There is nothing I love better than to head to the garden late in the evening around 9pm. That may seem late to some, but up here in the PNW it doesn’t get dark until almost 10 but the garden tends to get quiet around 8:30pm and that’s when I love to go do most of my gardening. There’s a peace and stillness that falls over the garden during that time that brings me so much joy. I’m sure my blood pressure drops and any stresses from the day simply melt away when I slowly make my way through each of the beds, pulling up weeds, watering in the plants and taking in the beauty that surrounds me. Definitely, gardening is very therapeutic for the mind, body and soul!

  • The Bounty! – Finally, I can’t forget the bounty of what we are growing. For now, while I’m still learning, I’ve kept both of our beds filled with easy to grow plants like kale, swiss chard, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, peas, bok choy and of course zucchini.  Every day, I ride my bike down to the garden with my 5-gallon bucket hooked to the handle bars. My mud stained garden gloves and my favorite garden sheers are in the bottom of the bucket just waiting to be put to use. And after a few hours in the garden I return home with the evenings dinner and lunch for the next day.

I must admit I have truly been bitten by the gardening bug. The abundance of blessings far outweighs any mulch-spreading, bark-laying, weed-pulling community chores I need to pitch in and do. And while I am a newbie and this is my first garden and so far, knock on wood, I haven’t experienced any issues, great or small, I’m already eager to make a wish-list of vegetables I’d like to try next year!

I pray you are enjoying your garden and all of it's wonderful abundance!

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Friday, June 2, 2017

The Calm Before the Storm

The vegetable gardening bug has definitely bitten me. Up until this point in my life I focused mainly on perennials and houseplants mainly because veggie gardening terrified me. All of those neat little rows, companion planting, decisions to be made on which fertilizer to use and when… it seemed all so overwhelming.

However with my desire to eat healthier and to learn a new hobby, all I can say is..WAHOO!

I am so glad I jumped in with both mud boots on!

As I navigate this new found hobby I’m finding there are certain times that I especially enjoy being in the garden.
One is in the late evening.
I know my chances of being becoming a mosquito’s next meal are higher at that time, but honestly, having the garden to myself, (especially when my new garden is part of a 40 bed community garden)  and enjoying nature’s song as performed by crickets, birds and buzzing bugs, brings me great joy!

However, late evening is second only to my absolute favorite time in the garden: right before a storm.

This is my favorite time.

There’s a different type of silence in the garden, in that, even nature seems to quiet. There’s a coolness in the air, the storm clouds are slowly rolling in and raindrops fall and splat, watering the earth. If I’m lucky there’s a good half hour before the heavens open up, so I soak up each and every second. Earth between my fingers, new plant shoots reaching upward, and suddenly I don’t mind weeding out little invaders.

This is my favorite time in the garden.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Home is what you make it


Well we've made it. Five months and 2,000 miles later and we're shaking the road off of our feet and slowly settling into our new home in the Pacific Northwest.

When we pulled up roots in Oklahoma and headed to the Pacific Northwest I expected all of the normal changes: climate, culture and all of the typical dynamics that go along with a move, like, where's the closest bank, where do I buy groceries and how do I get to local post office.

But as I was unpacking I had this unsettled feeling and couldn't shake it.

I rationalized all the normal feelings about the amount of stress moves can create, but nothing I did seemed to make a difference. The more I tried to get settled the more I felt unsettled. I needed to make this my home, put my stamp on it. But how? The inside of the house was coming along but the outside...well, I hadn't touched it.

It didn't really make sense to me to bother with the outside because I knew we'd be moving again, at best we'd be here until next summer. So logically it doesn't really make sense to “dig in” and make it ours because, well..we'll be moving.

At least that's what I was trying to convince myself day in and day out. My mantra to myself and our boys was, “This is not home, we're not staying.” Which really equated in my mind to “keep it simple and keep it sterile. Don't bother trying to really settle in because whatever you do you'll have to tear up when it's time to move.”

After weeks of doing all of the necessary things like dealing with utility & cable companies and sending out change of address forms, I just couldn't take this feeling which was something akin to cabin fever.

So what to do?

Get outside! Plant something! Get some fresh air!

Now when we were packing up our old home, I chose to bring all of my indoor plants because I knew they'd transition well, because they had ridden in the car. But all of my perennial planters I left with my mom. I hated to leave behind my roses, lavenders, lantanas and a huge 6ft.cedar box filled with sedums. But I had very little faith they'd make the week long haul to the Pacific Northwest in the back of a U-Haul trailer, let alone the 30 degree temperature change.

Seriously folks, when we left Oklahoma in the second week of September we were still having 100 degree days and 80 degree evenings. By the time we arrived in the NW and finally found a place to live two weeks after we arrived, the temps were already in the mid 60's - low 70's. My poor plants would have had heart attacks had they been able to!

But now what? I knew with it being the beginning of October there'd be slim pickins. I didn't care. I needed to dig in the dirt no matter what.

That meant grabbing a couple of mums, a seasonal grass and a pumpkin and getting busy.

As I started piddling around our place I tethered our 2 new pups out front so they too could get some fresh air. I watched them romp and play and I couldn't help but laugh at them and relax.

This is what I needed,outside, digging in the dirt, laughing at the dogs, meeting a few of our neighbors and making our house a home. For us gardening types, a home isn't only about the inside 4 walls, it's about the outside as well.

In fact, that afternoon spent outside breathing in the crisp fall air while letting my fingers go numb as I hosed down the porch with ice cold water from the hose did more to alleviate the stress from the move than anything I was trying to accomplish inside.

When all was said and done, the outside looked a little more welcoming, a little bit more like home and I was beginning to truly settle in.

Here, take a peek! I hope you enjoy.

 Mums, a seasonal grass and an old warty pumpkin

A seasonal wreath

And the finished product!

Until next time,

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Growin' up and movin' out

No I'm not talking about my kids, although they are hedging their way to the door way too quickly for my taste but that's a completely different story and I digress :)

What I'm really talking about are my little seedlings.They've been sitting under grow lights for weeks now and I did my best to keep them watered and warm with the right temperatures thanks to the grow mats. But now it's time they head outdoors.

As a newbie veggie gardener I try to read as much as I can, talk to as many experienced gardeners as I can and let nature do the rest. (while I keep my fingers crossed of course!)

But now, as we head into warmer temps it's time to move them from their protected little world under the sunlamps to the harsh realities of hardening off outside.

And before you think me a heartless gardener, wait! Check out their new digs.

I bought this mini greenhouse from my local houseware store. For $20 bucks I think it was well worth the investment especially since, here in Oklahoma our temps are all over the place right now. One minute they're in the 80's during the day and then a storm front blows in with 50 mph winds and temps quickly drop to the 40's. Yep! That's Oklahoma for ya!

As you can see, they're happy little veggies, all thriving and branching out. Soon it will be time to move them up to bigger pots as I wait for the ground temps to reach above 50.

Now let me tell ya, I'm not a bettin' woman but..something tells me that although our days are unusually warm lately with temps hovering right around 80, I get this niggling feeling in the pit of my stomach that good old Mother Nature has one more cold front for us, so I'll be keeping my veggies in pots until I'm fully convinced we're having an early summer instead of a late snowstorm. And if you think I'm kidding, I'm not. Two years ago we had snow in May! Eek!

In the meantime, now that my first seedlings have been transferred to larger pots outside into the greenhouse, I've started my next batch of seeds. These are the ones like carrots and radishes that don't have as long of maturity dates as do the zucchinin's and beans.

Now I will say that being a brand new veggie gardener, this whole timing thing is rather overwhelming. “When do I plant the tomatoes, what about the sunflowers, is it too early for the carrots and what about those marigolds and did I actually leave enough space in the garden to plant these things?

I tell ya, it's all so confusing trying to figure out who's on first and what's on second as Abbott and Costello used to say. So it's slow progress. But I will say it's all worth it.

Just to see seeds sprout, watch their initial leaves turn into sets of two and three and then branch out to a degree that you need to transplant them into bigger pots, it's all so exciting!

And as I recently found out, nothing is more relaxing when you're sicker than a dog for a solid month with a chest cold, than spending time transplanting your seedlings into larger pots while watching gardening shows on YouTube.

So while it's slow progress at the moment, my gut tells me that any minute, when Mother Nature stops throwing temper tantrums with our weather, my veggies are going to explode!

Here's to warm weather and great gardening days to you and yours,


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Seeds of Joy

See this sweet face?
 At first glance you might mistake our Little Miss Tessa as a cat. And if you thought that, I wouldn't blame you one bit for she outwardly looks like a cat. But.. let me reassure you she is in fact, NOT a cat, she is a goat and considered public enemy #1 in our house when it comes to my houseplants, specifically my orchids and African violets.

Doubt me? Let me give you some proof that she's a goat.

 See.. I told you so. 

Now it's safe to say that I was NOT a happy girl when I found out that Tessa decided to start noshing on my orchids. And for a few weeks I did everything in my power to her keep out of the plants, i.e. spray bottles, clapping my hands at her, having the boys chase her, you name it, I tried it and Tessa was not having any of it. She'd stop temporarily and then return when we weren't around.

Apparently the goat gene runs heavy in her veins.

Nothing was working until the day I brought home a plastic container of organic wheatgrass to add to my juices in the morning. 

From the moment I walked into the kitchen with it still in my grocery bag you would've thought Tessa hit the lottery. Literally she went cat loony.

I tried for a few days to keep her out of yet another plant of mine, eventually even keeping the wheatgrass under a cloche so she couldn't sink those chompers of hers into it, when finally I noticed that she'd stopped eating my houseplants in preference to the wheatgrass.

Off went the cloche! In fact, I grabbed an unused planter, plopped the wheatgrass in some dirt and trust me when I tell you, that cat went after the grass like a lion after a gazelle.

At this point we're not thinking she's normal. Somewhere in the body of hers, she is most definitely carrying around some goat DNA.  

After about 3 weeks of me buying  wheatgrass  for said goat-kitty, which can add up rather quickly, I figured since I'm already planting a bunch of seeds for the garden why not reseed the areas of the planter she's already eaten? Sounded good to me but then again, as a newbie gardener, I don't know if it'll work until it doesn't. 

To be honest I wasn't quite sure the seeds would germinate in our poorly lit kitchen area.  And if they did sprout would they hold up to Tessa walking all over them.  ( She has a weird knack of climbing into the planter and sitting on top while noshing on the grass that sticks out around her - she's weird, I know!) But so far, so good! The seeds are surviving her abuse and sprouting very quickly.
Now I have to say as a new gardener, this brought me a jolt of joy when I first spied the seedlings sprouting.

Funny how life can be that way sometimes. You have an idea, you put it into motion and hope and pray it works and then when you have that first glimpse of progress, wham! Pure joy!

That's where I'm at with this wheatgrass. Because it would seem that Tessa the goat-kitty enjoys having her own "garden" enough to keep those fangs of hers off of my orchids and violets, which makes me very, very happy.

So while this particular gardening success is small in the scheme of things, to me, it's a huge win-win. The goat-kitty is happy with her own patch of grass and I am so very happy that my houseplants no longer shake in fear when she walks by!

Therefore there is once again, peace and harmony in a our little suburban garden.

Until next week,

Blessings & best wishes,