Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

| 3/17/2012 1:36:17 PM

A photo of Shannon SaiaWow. It’s been ten months since I’ve posted anything here. That’s a long time. Last year turned out to be a busy one, with household challenges, and health challenges, and even mommy challenges, including adjusting to having a kid in school for the first time… 


It’s a new year, and so far it’s been a doggone good one. I mean, here we are on St. Pattie’s Day, it’s sunny and 78 degrees here in Southern Maryland, and all the trees are in bloom. The birds are singing, and I’m even seeing some hornets cruising around over the deck. It’s definitely that time of year.

My garden faced some definite challenges last year. I lost a whole row of German butterball potatoes to some kind of blight or disease – I got nothing but small potatoes filled with brown dots. My sweet potatoes did fine, but I pulled them all up too early in a fit of desperation over weeds, and the grass once again trying to take the place over, so that they didn’t last nearly as long as they should have. I canned a lot of tomatoes, but they were gone by December. Ditto on the frozen beans and squashes. I do still, however, have jars of pickled jalapeños, which are lovely and which we are still enjoying.

So, this year I have big plans – which is to say, nothing much has changed since the last time I posted here, because in May of last year I was still somewhat in the “big plans” stage.

I spent my mild-to-nonwinter, well, gardening. I pulled out the rabbit guard fence that had grass growing up knee-high into it. I mowed all the grass down, and then trenched around the entire garden and put in a cinderblock border. I lined the inside of this with garden paper folded over to form an edge, and then put new fence back up inside the cinderblocks and on the garden paper. I am not having the grass growing into my garden from outside this year. If I have one gardening goal for this year, it’s that my garden space is going to cease to be fundamentally grass, and begin to be fundamentally garden.

In preparation for that, I have been spending my mild and sunny afternoons working my way through the space with a shovel and pulling the grass out. Tedious? Yes. Worthwhile? I should be able to answer that sometime in July or August. But so far, so good. I have peas and spinach and chard out there already starting to show thier little green heads, and broccoli transplants in the ground. I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of my seed potatoes. And this year I splurged and also ordered horseradish to plant around the potatoes in hopes of deterring those doggone potato beetles. 

I have half a dozen varieties of heirloom tomatoes started under lights, and about half a dozen varieties of peppers. I upgraded my seed-starting operation from just the Aerogarden to also include an old fish tank light up on cinderblocks too, so I’ve been able to start much more than in previous years. I’m having some kind of issue with my baby tomatoes, but more on that later. I started my own red cabbages this year, and though they are spindly and peaked-looking compared to their flat Dutch companions from the local big box store, I stuck them in the ground anyway.

I also had a revelation this winter about companion planting, mainly that I’ve been doing it all wrong. I haven’t been planting companions close enough together. It just kind of hit me one day a month or so ago. Companions! They should stand next to each other, rubbing shoulders! They should link arms and dance in the wind! I read somewhere recently that I should plant my nasturtiums at the shoulders of my broccoli, and this year that’s what I’m going to do. The idea, on a fairly large scale, is to plant all of my garden space with what I want to see growing there, thus not giving the weeds and grass a fighting chance.

I’ve also made a few raised beds this year, one specifically for greens, and one specifically for cabbages. I’m hoping to fool the cabbage moths and the slugs, but we’ll see about that too. I would love it if this was the year that I finally grew a decent cabbage.

A few points of interest about last year’s garden. I still have kale and chard growing outside and being harvested that I put in sometime around last July. By December last year, I had given up on my broccoli, which failed to make heads by then. But lo and behold, they finally did make heads, and then put out side shoots like crazy all winter. I only last week harvested the last of it, and still have a little in my fridge. It was an inspiration to me. This year, I’d like to keep some things like that alive all winter on purpose. Time will tell.

So, I’m looking forward to checking back in from time to time, and to catching up on my favorite fellow bloggers whom I haven’t visited in a very long time. I hope I find you all well.

3/22/2012 5:56:40 PM

Shannon! This post of your certainly has been 'a long time coming'! I've thought about you from time to time, and wondering what you've been up to. I've always loved your writing style, and enjoyed reading your posts. Great to have you back. Looking forward to reading more.

3/22/2012 2:56:17 PM

Sounds like your garden will definitely keep you busy. We're starting our first ever garden on our homestead. We have seeds started that will need to be transplanted soon. I have a picture of our newly fenced garden on my new A Wanner Be Pioneer blog here at GRIT. We cut our garden space out of an area of beautiful grass, so we are expecting to battle grass this year too! :) But we're very fortunate to have wonderful soil...which will get even better as we add compost and worm castings. Look forward to hearing more about your garden progress.

3/20/2012 2:51:57 AM

S.M.R., welcome back. Missed you while you were gone. As you can see our list of bloggers has grown over the last 10 months. There are lots of new and interesting bloggers to read about. I'm glad you decided to come back and once again share your gardening experiences with us. As for me, yeah, I've been busy too. You can read all about it in my blog. I've been scratching around outside all winter long. It was the year without winter almost every where in the country. Who would have thought that on St. Patrick's Day people would be on the beach in Chicago. Well, the caveat was no one was in the water at a chilly 42 degrees but the 80 plus record breaking by 20 degree temperature made laying in the sand on the beach a good experience. Unfortunately there are no beaches in Nebraska so my warm days are spent out on the Poor Man's Patio. It's not quite a living patio yet but I've been thinking about what to put in the hanging baskets this year. It was awesome last year. Thanks to a little help from my GRIT blogger friends. It sounds like you have a plan for the garden. I've heard that horseradish can be very invasive and comes back stronger every year. It really needs to be confined or it will spread into places you don't really want. Maybe Cindy can verify if that's true or not. I've kind of shied away from growing it for that reason. Good luck with all your best laid plans. Have a great day in the garden.

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