Sunday, June 15, 2014

Today In the Garden- Father's Day

Things are definitely greening up out in our 'nook and cranny' urban garden, and we have several projects that are still in the works. I wanted to share a photo tour of what all we have going on at the moment. Camera in hand, I walked my usual path through the side and back yards earlier today. Slowly working my way through and looking at all the different parts of the garden is something I do several times a day if I can, not only to check up on how everything is doing, but to gain an often much-needed sense of peace, calm, and security.

The mullein plant that Uncle Loren gave me; it's growing tall and starting to form a flower head

I couldn't help but reflect today on a few things about life and gardening. Not only is it Father's Day, it's also the day that my Grandpa Marshall was born--102 years ago. Happy birthday, Grandpa! He passed away in 2000 at the age of 88, but I can feel his presence often, especially in the garden.

Grandpa was one of the biggest gardening influences in my life. The thing is, he didn't influence me the most until he was already gone. Though I have many memories of his huge gardens, the bees, the chickens, fruit trees, and the strong sense of self-sufficiency and simple frugality that he and Grandma possessed, I didn't take much interest in those things as a child. I was too busy being, well, a kid. Like many other aspects of my life, I bloomed late--my gardening passion did not rise from the seed Grandpa planted until I was nearing my mid-30s. Now I can't even imagine life without my gardens. Uncle Loren has preserved an enormous amount of the wealth of knowledge that his parents collected, and I visit his garden often. Every time I visit uncle Loren, I leave knowing something new, and in this way Grandpa is speaking to me, urging me to keep growing, trying new things, and expanding my garden however I can.

Kale, cabbage, pots of lettuces

What about my own father, Grandpa's middle son? My dad has not had a garden for years, but he grew much of our food when I was little. I'm so thrilled to announce; he revealed something to me just a couple of weeks ago that filled me with giddy joy. He is bringing back his garden! This may sound like a minor thing, but to me, it's huge, and I feel like it will bring me back full circle. He stopped growing a garden years ago because his job has monopolized so much of his time. The winds of change are blowing, however; he is retiring in September. There's a stack of cool personal projects he can't wait to get to, and the garden is one of them. He is always good-naturedly teasing me about my various garden ventures, probably because he remembers my complaining when I was kid at having to help out with his. Who would have thought that his whiny little girl would be so interested in her gardens now, and so excited to hear that his garden would be making a reappearance? I can't wait until he begins to grow his tomatoes and pumpkins and peppers again, to share garden stories and advice, compare notes, and to walk with my own kids through his rows of veggies. The fact that my dad is planning to reestablish a garden, even if it's not the giant paradise his brother (my Uncle Loren) maintains, gives me an inner satisfaction that I can't really quite describe.

Waiting to fill out: green onions on the left (newly planted tiny onions below the bigger ones), kohlrabi.
Spinach and radishes used to live here. They are done for the summer, and shall reappear in the fall. :)

Chaotic bliss: sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil, chives, a pepper and a rogue onion.
Flowers in the pots: nasturtium, four o-clocks, cosmos, and ageratum.
My style of gardening differs pretty wildly from my dad's. His garden always grew in traditional rows, right in the ground, on a huge rectangular plot. My garden is sprawled all over, incorporated into our outdoor space wherever I can cram it, and I really favor containers and raised beds.

South bed along the house. Our property ends at the sidewalk.
This bed has 8 Amish Paste tomatoes, 2 cherry tomatoes (hybrids), garlic, and lots of marigolds.

Simon walks along with me, and checks the compost.
The kids just love to see if they'll be overpowered by the smell of our rotting veggie scraps. ;)
The green peppers are greening and bushing out fantastically
in the self-watering buckets!

Here is where the heat resides; in pots are ghost, habanero and jalepeno peppers.

The mystery volunteer has been given the fence to grow up.
My facebook friends have all guessed a bean of some sort.
Can't wait to see!
In the backyard, green beans are bursting through in the straw bale, next to the potato towers.
Compost and straw have been added to the potatoes. They are growing like mad!

First planting of green beans...

And the second planting, which has not sprouted yet. This bale has yellow wax beans, which I've never tried.
Petunias that we started from seed are doing fantastically!

Sunflowers in toilet paper tubes, awaiting homes.
Mulberries beginning to ripen on the tree...
...and we'll be happily harvesting them every day for the next couple of weeks, hopefully!

The blackberry bush has mysteriously died

volunteer sunflowers surround the dead blackberries.
West end of the house. It doesn't FULL day sun, but enough that things seem to
do okay back here. Right now the pallet holds peas, marigolds, and cilantro.
The bales to the left will be planted with melons this week. Hoping they get enough sun!

Another view of the expanding west garden. Morning glories in the barrel,
lovage in the container at the bottom of the pic.
Our row of straw bale cucumbers; muncher, pickling, and Mexican sour gherkins

Can't wait until these babies are sprawling all over the fence!

This week we will plant the pole beans for our teepee. Guess who couldn't figure out how to build it?
And guess who took over and figured it out?

I struggled to get the branches right, and the kids jumped right in and had it
situated within minutes. :)

Inside on the windowsill--a big collection of plants that still want homes.
I'll be thinking of ways to get them out there. :)

Although I'm doing this gardening gig in my own way--and decidedly differently than the garden gurus I watched as a child--I am always feeling the spirit of the amazing gardeners who helped raise me. I am incorporating the old with the new, and all the while enjoying the link that my gardens have to my past. Did you have a father, grandfather, or uncle who influenced you in your garden? Please wish them Happy Father's Day for me, and tell me about them in the comments!


  1. My grandpa was a wheat farmer. He passed away in the 70's but my mom teaches me about what he taught her even still. I loved the tour! :)

    1. Oooh, Christina, you have farming in your blood! No wonder you do so well with your huge garden!

  2. I'm a bit older than you...but like you...have a grandparent to thank for my gardening spirit, my Grandma. She had a couple of acres which were separated into 3 large gardens. I too, didn't pay a lot of attention to the growing part but was certainly part of the weeding My sister and I went up to her house practically every weekend during the summer to help out. We snapped beans , silked corn and canned in the hot summer kitchen. We always ended our days with card game and went to bed by 8 to rise early and do it all over again. Hard work but special memories. I know my practical side comes from those early years of understanding that a garden can provide food for your table. (CarolinaStrawBaleGardening)

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this. What a lovely childhood experience...and along with my Grandpa I also have my Grandma to thank for the gardening spirit, just like you do. I loved reading this!

  3. I absolutely loved seeing your garden update! Everything looks wonderful! I love the bean tee pee. So glad your dad is going to be doing his garden again!

    1. Thank you! I am overjoyed about my dad's garden! Hoping my own fills out and expands as the summer progresses...will have another update in July. ;)

  4. Your garden is looking so great! Your pepper plant is so impressive... I've been having a really hard time with both peppers + bell peppers this year. I've had them in containers because I share a backyard + am waiting for raised beds to be constructed. Any tips on getting the little guys to do well in containers?

    1. Caitlin, I cannot believe how my peppers have thrived...even since this post. I'm a pepper newbie, and have never done well. Last year my plants gave me two itsy bitsy peppers before simply dying. These self-watering buckets (there is a post about them here on the blog) have been amazing! I am currently researching ways to succeed with peppers. But so far, these buckets seem perfect! I added some vermiculite to the compost I filled the buckets with for some airy root-growing space. Other than that, I didn't add any other amendments. I read that spraying the plants with espom salt/water, or working espom salt into the soil, is wonderful for peppers. If you google "espom salt for peppers" there is a TON of advice out there for this very thing! Good luck, and thank you for commenting!

  5. I loved the memory of your grandfather. My grandmother is 90 years old and still lives in her own house. Her backyard is bursting, and I mean bursting with garden goodness, and she's out there every day digging and watering and picking. She is truly my inspiration. I'm going to look into the Epsom salt for peppers advice. See you around!