Mini-Post: What’s growing on?

I felt like it was time for a garden update. Our garden did not go as we had planned way way back, during the winter. That fun breakfast with my sister-in-law planning, how my husband and I drew up a blueprint of where we wanted things, then…lockdown. Then, my husband’s broken elbow. We had beds never dug, seedlings that never made it into the ground – but we persevered, and started again. We had to cobble a garden together in parts, my brother kindly came over and rototilled a few spots for me, we planted in containers. And while we didn’t plant anywhere near what we had intended, it felt good to just get some seeds in the ground.

My pumpkins are my favorite. I have always wanted to grow them, and they have taken off like crazy. Literally, they stretched out across our entire yard. I have a long term plan for our little pumpkin patch – if Halloween is cancelled, which I am feeling like it will be, we are going to do a Charlie Brown Halloween and wait for the Great Pumpkin to arrive while sitting in our pumpkin patch, next to a bonfire. And I am sure I will be drinking cider and eating stew or chili. So grow pumpkins grow! Although, I am a little concerned. Some of the leaves are a little funky! I need to google that, unless someone here knows what is happening?

My cucumbers are utter chaos. Like seriously it is anarchy in their corner. Weeds grew up along the fenceline and the cucumbers attached themselves to them, while also refusing to climb the trellis Billy built. And maybe we will get a cucumber or two? I planted seeds late, so whatever we get I will be happy with. They look pretty though, even among the chaos.

We transplanted our strawberries to this bed as well – they were living in a strawberry planter that got knocked down by strong winds and shattered. They are alive and kicking though so I am looking forward to what they do next year. Cabbage lives here too, along with the dill that the black swallowtail butterflies love so much… and grasshoppers. So many grasshoppers.

Our experimental peanuts are doing ok, I think? I can’t tell. Our radishes did fabulous! They were delicious on baguettes with butter. So yummy!! My carrots did fairly well too. My beets however, failed spectacularly. I am going to replant and see how a fall crop does.

In the front of the house, we have flowers, lavender, lemon basil, swiss chard, and our raspberry bushes. The lemon basil is enormous – almost as tall as me! I am turning it into flavored salt this week. The raspberries are so sweet and delicious, and it is so fun to run out there and pick a few to eat. We don’t have many, just enough for a little treat. And I have learned I don’t like swiss chard.. that was a substitution at the nursery. By the time I felt comfortable going, the lettuce and spinach was gone. I grabbed a few swiss chard but I am not a fan, which I didn’t realize.

What about you all? Any successes? Failures? Things you would do differently? I would love to hear!

A Day of New Life!

Yesterday was a big day around here! We had 6 of our 9 butterflies emerge from their chrysalis – and they couldn’t have had better timing.

It is butterfly week here this week, and Wyatt and I had just settled in to do some work after reading the book Butterfly Birthday. Butterfly Birthday celebrates the beginning of spring and also the birthday of all the butterflies that eclose in the book during the party. So, we read our book, got situated on Wyatt’s lesson, and I glanced down to see a butterfly! Our first butterfly made its appearance minutes after reading our book. Lol. We had to take a break to celebrate – with cake!

We just happened to have some left from Mother’s Day – strawberry with vanilla frosting and sprinkles. Yum!

It’s so cool to us that you can see them as fully formed butterflies within the chrysalis before they emerge. Nature is so amazing! This was the first one born – the one in the chrysalis was the third.

It was a day for new life all around – my seeds are starting to sprout, also something to be excited about! I am most excited about my pumpkins today – I have always wanted to grow our own mini-pumpkin patch. I hope they make it!

My little sprouts! Pumpkins, watermelon, squash, lettuce, and basil all have made their appearances. Outside, the radishes are doing well! We are still waiting on some but this is a great start!

Spring was certainly making itself felt around here yesterday, and with it, a happy hopeful feeling as well.

Planning a garden

We woke up this morning to snow, which was beautiful until I got onto the road to take the kiddo to school. Apparently Michigan has become too complacent this year, with our mild winter, and has forgotten it needs to salt its roads! The drive was one of those steering wheel clutching drives, nervous and slow down the winding road to his school. My brakes locked up, I saw another car hit a stop sign – the driver was ok though thank goodness. These are the parts of winter I don’t like. I love the walks in a gentle snow, I love being inside, huddled against the cold with a book and my family, but I don’t like the idea of driving in it, or any of my loved ones driving in it either. It made what I did on Monday seem even better. I planned my garden.

Well, a rough plan at least. My sister-in-law Chrissy and I got together Monday morning with coffee, and strudel and seed catalogs with our little helper, my niece . And her Care Bear. And we got to talking and planning and the room just seemed warmer and more full of life just discussing what we hope to grow. I had Chrissy’s houseplants behind me, adding to to the ambiance.

We discovered we have both been watching or following The Elliot Homestead on YouTube and Instagram. And while we are planning nothing like they have, although dreams there, we have both been inspired by their gardens. I love the idea of a potager garden! I love the look of an informal garden, with vegetables and herbs and flowers all packed in together, spilling out and spilling over with color and goodness. So when I picked my seeds, I divided my garden into three different distinct areas – our front garden, Wyatt’s little garden, a potager garden, and then special features like a strawberry garden and an arch covered in squash and beans. We decided to order the seeds that we felt essential first, the ones that neither of us could live without, and combine forces growing. We ordered carrots (Tonda di piragi), Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, and Easter Egg radishes that grow in all the pretty shades of spring; we ordered Ice Queen lettuce, arugula, and all sort of peas and peppers and squash. We threw in a few flowers for good measure, dahlias and strawflower and sunflowers. I can see them all growing and reaching for the sun, when it finally returns stronger in the spring and summer, not this weak little half light we have been getting. We have another order ready to go, and that one is more flowers than vegetables – a flower called strawberry fields, some apricot lemon cosmos that my niece picked out, nasturtium and phlox, hummingbird mint and pumpkins and marshmallow flower. I am super excited about something called a Mexican Sour Gherkin, that is going in Wyatt’s garden – they look like teeny tiny watermelons but taste like a lemony cucumber. I can’t wait to get started! Then in a month we have one final order, one that will have strawberries, a lemon tree for Chrissy, a cherry tree for us.

This feels really ambitious for us right now. We haven’t had a real garden in more than 6 years probably, and our backyard has turned feral, so before we do anything we need to get it under control. But what better motivation than a garden, in my opinion, to get us out there again? Last year we loved our front garden, where we grew flowers and salad greens and lettuce and basil, and a tiny pumpkin grew all on its like magic. The amount of insect diversity grew last year in our front yard – funnel spiders and caterpillars and praying mantis and snails; flying insects like bees of all sorts, and butterflies. We had a magical summer out there, and hope that this one will be even bigger and better.

One thing Billy and I love is our front yard apple tree. It builds such a sense of community for us. The neighbor kids love to pick the apples and eat them as they play outside, and while they are not the prettiest all the time since we don’t spray them and they get attacked by squirrels and birds (the apples , not the kids) they taste amazing. My family comes over and picks them to take home, to enjoy in pies or just on their own. We eat them, and we feed the less attractive ones to our snail. We used to feed those to the local deer but then learned that we are not supposed to do that, so I might find another place to donate them too, perhaps a farm animal sanctuary I heard about nearby. This is something else we want to encourage – we are planting our strawberries next to our house, not in our backyard, and we hope that the neighbor kids and Wyatt can just go out there and grab a handful and eat them. I love the idea of growing enough so that we can share, although growing enough for us is also important. It’s been a long time since I canned or made jam, and I hope to do that again this year as well.

So we have a few goals, and we always start with a big picture, and work our way through it slowly, bit by bit, area by area. And planning a garden in winter is one of my favorite things to do.