Life is Worth Living

Is That Your Garden?

The Flops and Foibles of Gardening in 2020

As I stand in my yard and look around at the deeply wooded ridges and valleys, I think, Humph, I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Actually, I never was in Kansas, but I was living on those same Great Plains for nearly four decades, and now I’m not.  This is my first year gardening in the “Driftless Area” near the Mississippi River.  Driftless Area is a technical term referring to 24,000 square miles of steep, forested ridges that the last Glacier Period neglected to iron out.

In other words, we have zero flat spots in our yard in which to place a neat and orderly garden.

No matter, though!  We’re figuring it out.  Gardening is worth it after all, even if one doesn’t have a green thumb.  Today I’ll show you what our family has done this year, and by doing so, I hope to accomplish one thing:

To give hope and inspiration to those of you who find gardening horribly tedious or overwhelming, like me.

Now, if you’ve got a beautifully well-managed garden, this post will still be for you too, because perhaps, by reading about those of us struggling to keep our thumbs green, you may be inspired to give us your extra lettuce and rhubarb.  For heaven knows ours didn’t grow.

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Check out my pathetic rhubarb plant.

Gardening Tip #1:  Get Somebody to Help

Now I’m the mother of 7 little children.  I need help.  Thankfully my husband is more than willing to bust out the power tools and build something.  Earlier this spring he built a little garden box into the hillside because as I said before, we have zero flat spots in our yard for a traditional garden.

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You may remember this photo from April?

And here it is today:

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This box features one tomato plant, two pepper plants, two broccoli plants, and some basil.  Originally I had planted mint, but it didn’t come up.  I have no idea why.  So after about a month, I drove over to the local nursery to see if they had any vegetables left to buy.  This was really smart on my part because they were practically giving away the remainder of their broccoli plants and jalapeños for free.

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Broccoli.  Looks like some bugs are eating it already.

I’ve never planted broccoli, but I thought, why not?  And my husband loves jalapeños.  So we’re giving it a shot.

But that little box is hardly big enough for everything I wanted to plant.  And so, that leads me to my next Gardening Tip:

Gardening Tip #2:  Get More Help: Enlist the Children

Last year we tried something new.  We told our children that if they wanted to earn some money, they could plant a garden, and I’d buy all the produce.  And they actually did it.  They bought seed with their own money, planted some potatoes, onions, and pumpkins, and took care of it, and I bought it all.  It wasn’t a lot, mind you, but it was worth it.

This year, we knew we’d have to get more creative.  Just where were we going to dig up some earth for the Children’s Garden?  Well, why not try on the hillside?

So, the boys carried up their folding saws and bow saws and hacked away at the sumac in order to clear a patch of earth.  Then my husband hauled up the tiller and did his best to rip up the ground.  Naturally the soil wasn’t fertile, so we added some peat moss and Holy Water.  Lastly, the whole thing had to be surrounded by a deer fence, if we hoped to enjoy any of the produce ourselves.

And this is what we ended up with:

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Notice all the horrid sumac surrounding the thing.

Admittedly, it’s rather small, but I guess something is better than nothing.  This little garden boasts of a pumpkin plant, a few onions, some green beans, a pepper plant, and two tomato plants.

Here is a close up of the pumpkin and pepper:

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I know it’s hard to see through the deer fence, but the pumpkin is in the right corner and the pepper is in the upper left.  The onions in the background aren’t worth even mentioning…

And here’s the tomato plants:

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They look rather unruly.

They had planted cucumbers in there too, but they chose not to grow, which is just as well as they’d likely have vined all over the place.

I tried to get the children to plant beets, as they’re one of my favorite vegetables to roast and eat, but alas, the children positively refused.  They insisted that there was no room for such nasty-tasting roots, which leads me to my third Gardening Tip:

Gardening Tip #3:  Plant Vegetables Instead of Marigolds

Now this hurts me a little, as I love flowers, but if those rebellious children won’t plant beets, somebody’s got to!  So, instead of a row of marigolds, I planted a row of beets (and some onions) right by our front door.

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See the beets and onions in the front row?

Anyone can see that neither vegetable is truly thriving.  I’d like to blame this on the hail that went through a month ago, but really it’s because I’ve got a two-year-old who walks all over it too.

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Oh, but she’s cute!

In the end, I hope this little garden tour inspired you to keep at it, especially if gardening overwhelms you.  It’s always worth it!

Just the other night the children sold me a handful of their green beans.  We haggled over the price.  I told them that the average market price was a $1.68 per pound.  They responded promptly by reminding me that their green beans were organic and likely worth triple that amount.  How outrageous!

Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday: The Grass & Garden Edition

I haven’t done one these in awhile, so here we are.  Welcome to Flashback Friday to those of you who are new to the blog.  This is where I look back on my week and offer a few trifling thoughts.

  1. I am just downright thankful for having grass in the yard.  Yesterday the wind was whipping 40mph and for once, the dirt wasn’t swirling around the house.  If you’ll remember, this is what my yard looked like on June 4th:
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Oh, the dirtiness of dirt yards!  Oh, the agony of planting grass!  Oh, the endless dirt and mud flung into the house by carefree children!

2.  As it is, on September 4th, our yard now looks like this:

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Yes, it’s still patchy in spots, but seriously, it looks great.  It’s a vast improvement anyhow.

3.  And that’s my garden in the center there.  From far away, it looks perfectly respectable too.  But don’t be deceived by those delightful flowers.  Shall we take a closer look?

4.  Here are my tomato plants and onions:

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Tomato plants are on the left.  Onions are in the middle.

All six of my tomato plants are lying on the ground.  That’s because the wind whips them over, and I’m too lazy to walk out there and right those wire cages.  In my defense, I did attempt to stand them upright a few times at the beginning of summer, but those weak things just toppled back over with the slightest breeze.  Likely this is all my fault to begin with, as I ought to have stuck those wire cages deep into the earth, but I guess I didn’t.

Now the onions…that is just not my fault at all.  They look like they’ve been trampled on by a circus parade, and it’s true; they have been.  My 3-year-old and the tornado-wrecking-toddler play in there all the time.

Then there’s this:

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Notice the dead-looking sticks in the foreground?

See this dead-looking bush?  Yep, I guess I don’t know how to transplant rose bushes very well.  It was an offshoot from my grandmother’s rose bush, and I killed it.

Now this rose bush isn’t just any rose bush.  It happens to be descended from a my great grandmother’s original rose bush, which her mother brought from Norway to Elis Island, and then finally to South Dakota over a hundred years ago.

That dead-looking thing is my 3rd attempt at planting it.

5.  But all is not lost.  Even if my garden is a bit unruly and unproductive, I’ve always got the children’s garden.  In fact, they’ve been selling me their produce.  I bought a lovely cucumber the other day for 60¢.  (I thought that I had planted my own cucumbers, but alas, none came up.)

6.  In case you’re wondering, this growing-of-gardens business is what we call Science in our household.  Or Biology.

7.  Lastly, though, I’ll have you notice that my zinnias and marigolds are handsome.  I planted them from seed that I had collected last year.

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Zinnias and Marigolds.  See that bushy looking thing behind the zinnias on the right?  Yeah, what is that?  It was supposed to be cosmos flowers, but there are still no buds.  And no sign of any to come.  And as I do live in the Arctic North, those things better hurry up because it’ll likely freeze next week.

Happy Friday!