Monday, July 16, 2012

Gardening Woes and a Guest Post

Today, you can find me over at Simple Organized Living.  I'm thrilled that Andrea is publishing my article on sourcing inexpensive local produce!  My article lists five ways to do that...and gardening is not one of them!  That's because my attempts at gardening have always been rather laughable:

Year 1 - We are newly married and our yard has a small garden plot that's already tilled.  We are super excited to try our hand at gardening, and we cram a very small area with a lot of seeds.  Soon after our seeds start sprouting we realize that space is not the main issue...critters are.  We fight the rabbits all year, continually finding our poor plants nibbled down to the stalks.  Harvest is small and sad.

Year 2 - We get smart and put up chicken wire around our small plot.  This prevents the rabbits from eating our veggies, but the plants are still small and sickly-looking.  We realize that the area is probably too shady.  Harvest is pretty small again.

Year 3 - We give up because of the sunlight issue (see Year 2).

Year 4 - We move and are thrilled to have a larger yard with a larger space for gardening.  The soil is sandy, but the garden is in full sun, so we're home free (we think!).  I am determined to make this work, so I spend hours watering my precious garden.  We harvest a nice crop of green beans, but then baby #2 arrives 5 weeks early.  Some of the produce is never picked because we are busy trying to get our tiny baby to eat!  We do, however, have some beautiful sweet corn that is going to be ready at just the right time.  A week or so before it's ready to be picked, we head out to the garden and find our crop decimated.  A family of raccoons has eaten every single ear of corn.

Year 5 - We try again.  After all, the green beans did pretty well, and everyone can grow zucchini, right?  With a lot of hard work and water, we have a beautiful garden.  Everything is ripe for the picking when we leave to visit our friends on the mission field.  Our family enjoys our produce very much!

Year 6 - We take a year off.

Year 7 - We are "between houses", renting a townhouse.  Gardening isn't an option.  I'm not sure whether I'm disappointed or relieved about this!  I make salsa for the first time, using Grandpa and Grandma's tomatoes.  We love it, and I decide that next year, at our new house, I'm at least going to grow tomatoes. 

Year 8 - We have a new house and a new yard...a new yard with no grass or landscaping yet.  I'm not exactly sure where the garden will end up once the grass is in, and I'm busy with Baby #3, so we decide to wait a year.

Year 9 - I decide to plant a small plot with peppers and tomatoes.  I figure everyone with a garden has an overabundance of tomatoes, so they must be the easiest thing to grow.  Plus, I need a lot of them for salsa!  We have clay here...hard-as-rock soil...but I chip away determinedly and get my plants in the ground.  The peppers thrive in the clay, but the tomatoes look pretty sad.  I harvest five tomatoes total...from four plants.  No joke!

Year 10 - We till some topsoil into our clay, and I plant tomatoes and peppers again.  Once again, the peppers do great, but it is the worst year on record for tomatoes.  That is, for everyone except for Grandpa and Grandma, who are happy to share their abundance. 

Year 11 - I'm getting discouraged, but those peppers do so well here!  I've finally found something I can grow, so I plant a variety of peppers again.  My tomato struggles are a standing joke between my neighbor and myself.  She grows beautiful tomatoes every year!  She thinks it's because when she moved in, she hauled away almost a foot of clay from her garden area and replaced it with topsoil.  I decide the problem must be the clay, and we don't have the time or desire to remove that much clay from our yard.  Instead, I plant six tomato plants in these topsoil-filled socks. My husband says this is the richest, blackest dirt he can possibly find, so I'm hopeful.  The peppers thrive again, and it looks like the tomato plants are doing great. They're small, but have lots of tomatoes on them. I am getting excited. One day, I check on my precious tomato plants and am horrified to find one plant with not a single tomato, leaf or bud. It is literally down to two sad-looking stalks. The plant next to it looks a little weird. Half of the plant is down to the stalk, and half of the plant looks like it's moving!  What?!?!  There's a massive (and I do mean MASSIVE) green worm stuck to my tomato plant, chomping away.  And there's another one!  I am completely grossed out, but I put on a pair of gloves and try to pick them off the plant.  They hang on for dear life.  I win, and the worms lose...but my tomato plants lose too.  I fight tomato worms for the rest of the year and my tomato harvest consists of three tomatoes.

Year 12 - Peppers again, but I give up on tomatoes.  We join a CSA, and I happily go pick up my share of fresh, local produce every week.  For the first time ever, we have more produce than we know what to do with.  And the only thing I grew was the peppers!

Year 13 - It's the hottest, driest summer in recent memory, but I'm watering furiously.  I even got brave and planted tomatoes again.  This time they're in large pots, kindly donated by my father.  I have some huge, beautiful tomato plants going, but I refuse to get my hopes up!  And those peppers that always do so well here?  The rabbits found them this year.  I have an entire row of green pepper plants that are eaten to the ground.  I almost cried when I found them!  I'm tempted to keep a gun in my kitchen like my sister-in-law.  On a positive note, we absolutely LOVE our CSA.  If you live in my area, I'd highly recommend giving this farm a try next year (I'll remind you to sign up next spring!)  The people are nice, the system is organized, the produce is beautiful, and we definitely get our money's worth!

I'll post a tomato update (and my salsa recipe) later this summer.  In the meantime, did I mention my dad is a landscaper?  I think I missed out on the green thumb gene.

I hope your garden is doing better than mine :)


  1. I laughed so hard reading this!! This is why I never have had a garden, I just go to the Farmer's Market down the road :) haha

  2. I love your garden diary! I read your guest article and it is great. I have my own gardening woes. We do run a long garden hose out from the house and have it hooked up to a 4-way "Y" connector. One connector is a hose that goes to the Mister Landscaper system my husband set up to water my 6 4x4 raised garden boxes. Two hoses go to tripod sprinkler for the big garden (corn, tomatoes, onions, pumpkins. This makes watering a breeze and no effort other than turning the correct Y connector. The other hose goes to the 6 Scarecrow water sensors (search for Contech Scarecrow Sprinkler). These are around the corn in hopes of the keeping the raccoons out this year. They got all our corn last year, too. Let me know if you had a good plan for dealing with WEEDS. I can't keep up.

  3. I so enjoyed the garden time line! Seems much like mine, I sure do have a brown thumb! Thanks also for linking me on your "side wall" (not sure the technical name for it!!) It was fun to chat on Sunday!

    1. It was nice to "re-meet" you in person! And yes, I meant to add you to my "recommended" list a long time ago. Love your recipes...keep 'em coming!

  4. Lisa,

    Eric does the gardening here. We have a plot in a local community garden. It's within walking distance, and has worked out well for us as our yard isn't very conducive to gardening.

    The dry heat here is definitely having a negative impact on our harvest, as well. Last year we had beans out our ears, and we'll be lucky to get a dozen this year! At least our onions and potatoes look great--love growing those since they have such a long shelf life and are so versatile.

    Thanks for your smoothie emails--I'll reply soon!