Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sad Garden and Seed Saving

Yeah, I crapped out on the garden this year.

The ongoing battle/issue with rats in the yard coming from neighboring properties beat me down. After seeing several in the garden (not snacking, just passing through IN THE DAYLIGHT on their way to chew a hole and nest in our garage) I freaked and broke down and ignored the garden for the rest of the season.

No tomato sauce. No frozen beans. No dehydrated tomatoes. Nothing. Just quit.

Which is pretty depressing, and goes totally against my intentions in the garden. My excitement of eating tomato sauce in March made from OUR garden's tomatoes was palpable. Ditto on the frozen beans and broccoli in January. It's an amazing feeling, and one I wanted to build on, and increase our yield and preservation each year. Our grandparents (OK, maybe our great-grandparents?) wouldn't have had the option to "get freaked out" and eschew their garden work for the season.

Obviously, I'm pretty disappointed in this whole deal. But am looking forward to next year ("KEEP MOVING FORWARD!" right?) and am collecting seeds from some of the fruit that has dried out on the vine or needs to be dried out. I planted a LOT of heirloom and non-genetically-modified vegetables this year, which means that saving the seeds should be a great head start on next year's garden. does seed saving/local seed exchange work? Just find a local garden club? look on Craigslist? host a seed exchange myself? Is it in the fall or spring? so much to learn!!!

I'll post some pictures of the charming rat holes leading into their burrows under the yard, and the damage they've done digging up my whole strawberry pyramid. Arrgh. MOVING FORWARD!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bird Baby!

So one of the most fun things this summer was watching a couple of birds set up camp in our bird feeder to prepare for a little one.

Like March of the Penguins, McCook style - they tag teamed who was watching the egg, we witnessed the way that one would hang on a wire, the sitter would go meet it on the wire and then they'd hang for a couple minutes then make the switch.

And at the end?

A little baby.


Early August Garden

Early July Garden

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Where have I been???

I have lots of pictures to get posted up here, but have been a colossal slacker. Plus have had massive issues with internet connectivity lately. And I'm lazy.

Anyway, we will be losing the empty lot next to our driveway due to a library expansion project (much needed expansion project) so in order to reclaim a BIT of our yard space back next year, I will be reconfiguring the garden and moving all the boxes along the fence, clearing up the back third or so of the yard. It'll be interesting!

And in sad, sad, sad news (which actually made me cry real tears of frustration and disappointment) I had to rip down almost ALL of the green that had been growing in the garden.

Let me back up:

Last summer, I had a TON of volunteer cherry tomato plants that grew on the other side of the fence from old tomato plants that just went to seed. Guess what? I made a ton of sauce. And I had tons of tomatoes. And they were tasty and delicious.

So this summer, when cucumber vines started growing all over the place, I didn't take most of them down because I thought "wow! Volunteer cucumbers all over the place! Everyone will get pickles for christmas!" and let the vines grow and grow. Even when they started to shade out some of my tomatoes. Even when they hid some of my peppers.

Until I went out there the other day and saw that THERE WAS NO FRUIT ON THESE VINES. That's right. NO CUCUMBERS. When I get the pictures up, you'll see why I was so shocked and angry with myself for being so stupid. Last year I didn't have the bee in my bonnet about getting all heirloom/organic/non-GM/non-hybrid seeds and plants. Some of them were, sure. But not everything. Not the cucumbers, apparently.

I have deduced that that is what happened here. Because why else wouldn't anything have produced fruit?

So I've torn down all the green. And decided to make some lemonade with this little lemon situation, and am dedicating myself to planting some awesome stuff for a fall garden.

Oh, and in other sad news, my raspberries took a BEATING in a series of summer storms and have been cut down pretty low. Also disappointing and frustrating.

It hasn't been a banner year out in the garden this year. I've had better years in my 7 years of gardening. And I'm sure I'll have worse years as I continue to learn and experiment.

More to come...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mid-June Garden


So far, here's some of the tasty treats we've been enjoying from the garden:

Romaine Lettuce - TONS! Also Butterleaf Lettuce. Lots of tasty salads with dressings from the herb garden. YUM!
OK. So I don't like radishes. BUT I had seeds, gave it a whirl. LOVED how they came up - peekaboo style - after I had totally forgotten what was planted there. Thankfully, Michael loves them with a little salt as a snack. SUCCESS!
Strawberries! My favorite thing about having a home garden is picking raspberries and strawberries and just eating them as I walk through the yard. I find it a very very sad statement that my kids sometimes get weirded out by garden strawberries because they are "soft" in comparison to grocery store strawberries. How far removed from our food sources we have become...

Broccoli - yum. Brought it in and blanched it straightaway so half the cooking effort would be done already.

Li'l Cherry Tree is producing delicious fruit. Can't wait until it is cranking out the cherries!
More strawberries. YUM! I say. YUM!
Sugar Snap Peas (left) and regular ol' peas (right)

Early June Garden

Garden slideshow from June 3rd...Everything's going gangbusters!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mid May Garden

Mid May Garden

Early May Garden

Early May Garden

April Garden

April 10

Sunday, May 23, 2010

March Garden

Wowzer. OK, pictures of the garden as it was in late March (March 19-21st-ish).

It always amazes me that even though ICANNOTWAIT until I can get seeds and plants in the ground, I am so impatient, I feel like it takes FOREVER to get things growing in the garden every spring, that when I look back and see how much grows, how green things get in a span of a few weeks, a month - it is incredible.

The onset of gardening season always seems so glum. See newer posts for current/time progression pictures, but for now, here you have the pre-green world of our backyard world...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Grow, Grow, Grow, Grow!!

The garden is 99.9% planted. Out of my 7 garden boxes (and the 2 little boxes that the girls planted. And then dug up. And then threw mulch on. And then covered with picked weeds, and then demanded to know why nothing is growing yet...), each with 16 square foot squares, I only have about 6 or 8 squares available for planting.

I had bunches of seeds, seedlings, and plants that I had been stashing under my homemade rickety cold frame while waiting for the last frost date. May First! IN!

I've used seeds and transplants from a number of different sources. Hometown Seeds generously provided a seed sampler for me, and some I planted and then I saved many of them for next season to test their storage longevity. I also ordered from D. Landreth, and a couple things from Baker Creek. And then my standard browse-and-grab Burpee seeds from the local big box, and seedlings from my fave local little garden centers (Clover's, a couple little joints in Bridgeview, and some folks giving away seedlings on Craigslist).

I'm hoping to get some pictures up, but cannot find Char's camera, which is what i used to take pictures. I'm really really really trying to document everything  this year, loved being able to do a time-lapse overview of how things changed last year.

Here's what's planted, box by box:
Box 1:
Black Simpson Lettuce
Little Caesar Lettuce
Romaine Lettuce

Box 2:
Black Krim Tomatoes
Pineapple Hybrid Tomatoes

Box 3:
Scallop Squash (White, Green, Yellow)
Bush Beans (Two Varieties)

Box 4:
Yellow onions

Box 5:

Box 6:
Bell Pepper
Hot Pepper
Sugar Snap Peas
Banana Pepper
San Marzano Tomatoes
Mamma Mia Tomatoes
Valencia Heirloom Tomatoes

Box 7:
Pickling Cucumbers
Burpless Cucumbers
Jalapeno Peppers
Asparagus Beans (Which was from a Burpee Heirloom packet, and had less than 25 seeds. Just saying, seemed stingy...)

I moved my herb pots to the other side of the fence from the raspberry jungle on a bench I garbage picked a few years ago. Basil, thai basil, rosemary, parsley, chives, dill. I have a ton of random lumber and was planning on making a large planter box for the driveway - instead of having to go in the garden, through the fence to access them, they are right there. My husband is pretty sure I just can't leave things how they are. Ever. And that I obsessively need to move things around. He MAY have a point.

I'm also expanding my "butterfly garden" which seemingly gets a dump of whatever I find attractive while wandering around garden centers or the internet.

Cherry tree is ROCKING and we're going to have fruit this year...there are little baby green cherries on there, cannot wait! Little green strawberries are sprouting up all over, too.

Love love love this time of year!

Saturday, March 27, 2010


OK, so I just went through all my seeds last night - between the Survival Kit I received from Hometown Seeds and some randoms I picked up at Menards, I am already at about 35 different crops/vegetables/plants. WOWZER.

And I still have about 5 or 6 things that I still want to order.

I guess this will be the year I really try to focus on continuous planting and staying on top of things, which I've always slacked on. No empty spots, continuous harvest, it should be great!

One of the things that I want to really plant lots and lots of is lavender. I love the smell, and after my friend Sara posted a beautiful picture of a field of lavender, I would love to just have a whole yard full of it. Or a nice patch of it. I am trying to figure out a spot where I can have a lavender patch, but I feel like my lavender never really comes up that well.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Awww, memories

I'm on spring break next week, and am unable to sleep, and am trying to get some stuff done around the house that is no big whip, but that I need to do. So I'm on Shutterfly and Snapfish going through pictures back to when Char was little, and I'm coming across some old garden pics through the years.


2005 - It looks so little in retrospect...

Then in 2006, we had 2 raised bed boxes...

Still rockin' the 2 boxes in 2008...hadn't yet heard of Square Foot Gardening...

Ahh, Built all my boxes and later the supports for tomatoes, etc...2009 was the garden space explosion!
 (and apparently I didn't take any pictures when it was lush mid-summer? Just the creepy shot after the first surprise frost made it look like a haunted house garden? WEIRD)

I need to find pics from 2003, 2004, 2007...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What? Where? Huh?

Where are you all ordering your seeds from?

I am behind the eight ball on ordering for this season, but I'm okay with it. I was super excited to order a bunch from Baker Creek, but I'm having issues with their online ordering system. Keeps dumping my cart after each item I add to it.


What're you growing? I've got my list ready...but it is always changing and evolving...

Here goes!

Edemame - Envy

Chinese Red Noodle Beans

Bush Beans or these guys

Pole Beans

Sugar Snap Peas

Tomatoes - Yikes - where to start??




PattyPan Squash YUM!




OH! And Grapes!! I am completely clueless on this. My grandfather used to grow grapes here, but in the front yard, 60 some years ago. This sweet little picture is from, oh, let's say 64 years ago or so? And there's the grape arbor in the front of our house. Now there is a great big tree, so that space isn't feasible. But I have a couple little corners in mind.

AND I finally purchased a rain barrel, something I fully intended to do last year and just didn't get around to doing. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Great Chicago has a rain barrel purchase program for (I think) Cook County residents. $50 each, 2 barrel limit per family. SUPER excited to get that hooked up. We have visions of getting a second one and installing a gutter on one end of the garage (close to the garden boxes) and setting up a drip system from the rain barrel...

Oh well. It's 1am. I'm going to place my orders and then get some rest. Ellie and I are going to be working in the garden tomorrow, or possibly just building and staining some supports. I am still having visions of TONS of vertical plantings, and possibly some canopied crops (cukes or tomatoes growing from a support in one box to a support in another box, providing a canopy over the walkway/aisle).

OH! Sidenote: I am also fascinated by  the survival seed movement that has popped up here and there in my internet garden reading. It's pretty much what it sounds like: In case of crisis or food shortage, you'd have this stockpile of seeds with proven high germination rates that you could plant to sustain yourself/your family. Seeds are all non-hybrid/GMO so you would be able to save the seeds to plant again the next season.

Now. I am not saying that I think the end is upon us. However, I am the first to admit that growing your own food is an amazing feeling that, for me, brings about a real sense of self-sufficiency and security. The fact that we are JUST running out of beans and broccoli now, in March, from last summer? It's pretty incredible to me.   It's a really capable feeling, I feel very accomplished, a very sustainable goal achieved.

That said, I've checked out a group called Hometown Seeds. They offer survival seed packages with a wide variety of plants and a long seed shelf life. They have graciously offered to send me a sample packet of their survival seed kit, and I'm going to plant a selection from it and track the progress and growth here. 

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Maybe now that I've told a friend of mine that I have a garden blog, perhaps I'll be more inclined to diligently post on it. Obviously not much is shaking in the wintertime, but the planning is beginning. Oh, the planning. Bwa ha ha!

Anyway, I think I'm going to start thinking aloud here as I plan...

Anyone in the Chicago area grow grapes or edible soybeans/edamame? I want to do both this year, but am nervous on the grapes.

Definitely still planning on vertical stuff, and less tomatoes as our tomato space is RIDICULOUS. And I'm going to do potatoes, for sure.

So far the only catalogs I have are Burpee and Gurney's, and I'm waiting for my Baker Creek to come in, as that catalog, as I think I said last year, is like garden porn. I'm drooling thinking about it right now.

I also want to try a seed exchange group, but have never done that before.

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