Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 12

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Every year’s garden is different. As soon as you think you have it figured out, the next year throws you for a loop.  This is why becoming a professional farmer can cause severe anxiety issues.  There is no control.  Over anything!  Here in our three community garden plots we are simply trying to feed ourselves for the summer.  And we are eating delicious food.  This year we may not see pumpkins (which is crazy to me, my farm was called Pumpkin Hollow Farm, for crying out loud!) but we will see for the first time ever sweet potatoes.  We have had lots of rain for Colorado and it shows.  So for starting with a plot that had sand and ant hills, with little amending to the soil, and two tons of hail thrown in, I’d say we’re looking pretty good this year.

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In season now are peas.  Glorious purple snow peas and crunchy snap peas.  A few thick pods of English peas are ready but I do believe that I am missing several vines of English peas.  The rabbit seems to know nothing of it.

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The collard greens are prolific and delicious young.  Crisp them in the oven with the snow and snap peas, some garlic, salt, and a good drizzle of olive oil for a farm to table side.  The tomatoes are setting on their vines as well.  Yesterday I did have a hankering for fried green tomatoes but they aren’t quite that big yet!

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The cabbages are growing their heads.  Now, there is a fine line in the high plains of Colorado, one week you could have happily growing cabbage and the next little black bugs will be sent by Mother Nature to take them out since they aren’t ready yet.  The clean up crew.  So, sometimes you can just harvest as is, without the finished head.  Chiffonade the leaves and stir fry.  With the snow and snap peas, of course!

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Some of the potatoes have flowered and some are yet to flower.  Potato flowers are amazingly beautiful.  They always surprise me in their lovely understated elegance.  I let the mustard, radish, and arugula plants go to seed.  I enjoy their flowers and they may reseed themselves, which is always a nice treat.

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The herbs have been prolific.  Waving California poppies, knee high cilantro in bloom, morning glories grasping for the trellis, volunteer borage with its star-like blooms.  Chamomile and its glorious scent, the first head of Calendula, roses.

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Lots of fresh lettuces, baby carrots, greens, young onions, and herbs await.  I am better after an hour in the garden.  My medicine.  Watching the water crystals from the sprayer bounce off the leaves of the great sunflowers, watching birds flit by, a lady bug lands on a nearby leaf.  I am in my element in a garden, wherever it may be.

Farmgirl Gardening Series (Knee High by 4th of July)

“Here we go corn, here we go!” clap clap “Here we go corn, here we go!” stomp stomp.  My cheerleading days come in handy around here.  The corn is indeed up to my knee.  The sweet corn will likely make it before the season ends!  Some of the popcorn is up to Maryjane’s knee and I don’t think that counts, but we will keep cheering and watering and see what happens.

I did not ever thin the carrots.  I meant to, I really did.  I reached down and pulled one of the thousands of seedlings and out came a tiny little carrot.  I dusted the dirt off and ate the sweet the little thing and decided I rather like baby carrots and wandered off to the next task.  In season this week is the end of the mustard, kale, lettuce, arugula, collards, and herbs.

Just like when kids go from being little ones and one year in junior high shoot up taller than dad, the plants will do the same.  They are ten year olds right now, just cute and new but in the next four weeks we will see them jump up and start coming into their own.

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The gardens look beautiful.  Each person’s plot their own, filled with their favorites, the bunny rather enjoying the buffet.  Shh, I told him I wouldn’t tell on him!

Next week, compost tea and fall crops (already!), see you ’round the garden!

Friday Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 10 (erosion, hail, hoppers, and hope)

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And this, my dear friends, is one reason we do not rototill!  With the crazy summer storms we have been getting an inch of sandy thick topsoil from the neighboring gardens slid onto my plants and pathways.

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My novel takes place in the 1930’s and through my grandparents’ stories and books I am learning about the dust bowl.  Something we were never taught in school and something that could so easily happen again as we deliberately and repeatedly deplete our soils of nutrients instead of building on top of the soil.  Soil does not like to be barren!

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“Oh hail” is my new cuss word.  Grasshoppers are my nemesis.

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Yet, each day the soil and my plants call to me.  I find my respite and peace with fingernails caked with dirt, birds flitting by, and despite everything, the harvest.  Plants want to grow.  Spinach, baby kale, baby collards, arugula, lettuce, and nearing the end of radish days fills my basket.

I thin a few carrots and beets each day.  It is the most loathsome job in the garden I know.  I think that I will just put two fingers down for two inches, pick everything in between, but goodness, those seedlings are everywhere.  Which direction do I go?  Two inches this way?  Then I take out that nice tall one…It is rather stressful but it must be done, for carrots one or two inches in girth feed folks a lot better than two millimeters in girth.  The kids need room to grow.

Next year, I think, you shall find me at the end of the winter months at a table with a glass of wine and opera blaring carefully dotting each seed with glue and placing them strategically two inches apart on long strips of toilet paper.  Though that sounds dreadful to my “do six things at a time” mind, listening to Andrea Bocelli and dotting seeds with glue sounds a lot more fun than the mass killings I am attempting to complete in my garden.

This week I will be laying more mulch and making everything tidy.  We’ll see what there is to harvest.  We’ll start planning our fall crops.  We’ll listen to birds, get a sun tan, and plan up new recipes inspired by the garden.

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My balcony garden is doing amazing, may I add.  Just goes to show that the best gardens have a roof!

Friday Farmgirl Series Week 8 (radishes and respite)

The radishes are here!  The first of the crops.  Beautiful pink and red orbs peeking through the soil.  What gifts.  I appreciate food so much more in a garden.

Checklist this week:

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#1 All seedlings that are four inches tall must get thinned.  Gosh, they worked so dang hard to grow for you and then you just yank them out of the ground!  But we can’t let everyone grow in one spot, or they won’t grow at all.  The broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage gets down to one plant per eight inches.  You could throw the seedlings in a stir-fry, but I forgot about mine after working the rest of the garden and they will just decompose back in the earth.  Give the ones standing some encouragement!

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#2 I use a hoe or trowel to make trenches down rows.  This doesn’t work in all the rows as they are so tightly planted this year but between corn rows is a real time saver later.  When the corn is so tall and the pumpkins are spread all over, it is nice to fill the trenches two inches with water with a hose from one end of the garden and its done.  A mindful use of water and quick.  Though, quick isn’t always the goal.  It is so nice to be in the garden.

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#3 Harvest your delicious radishes as they get about one inch wide.  Not too big or they get woody.  This allows the radishes next to them to spread out as well.

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#4 Replant what is missing.  I am missing a lot of corn.  Not sure if the package wasn’t good or the birds around those parts love corn in the soil, but I planted a few more for good measure but really, we only have a four month growing season so they probably won’t make it.  Faster growing plants can be seeded still.

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#5 Water daily, pick weeds, but don’t get stressed about it.  Cherokee roses are in bloom!

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#6 Spend time in your garden this week just sitting.  Or reading.  Or daydreaming.  Doug caught this picture of me in the garden.  I love that garden.

Enjoy the week because next week we thin carrots!  ugh!

Farmgirl Gardening Series (First Week of June Checklist)

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One thing to remember while gardening in the high plains is that one needs to add a full 2-4 weeks onto the supposed harvest date on the seed packets.  I have never had a radish ready in 21 days.  I’ll tell you that much.  So, when planting seeds make sure you add an extra few weeks to the math.

#1 Acknowledge disappointments.  I started crying, I’ll admit it, when I saw that the plots next to mine had been rototilled.  I cried because six inches of their dirt was now flipped upside down on my rows next to theirs.  6 inches of upside down topsoil.  Once the seeds that I had planted came up they were all bunched together in a softball sized circle.  Once I thin them I will have 4 plants from an entire envelope of seeds.

These things happen.  The term “One for God, one for nature, and one for the gardener” is very, very true.  You can count on one third of your seeds coming up and surviving.  The good news is we can always replant!  There are many life lessons in the garden.

Not a single soybean has risen from the soil surface.  I will assume they will come up next week.  If not, I’ll plant something else.

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#2 Note where there are empty spaces.  Only half of my zucchini seeds germinated.  I didn’t use as much space as I thought I would for tomatoes.  There is a strip of empty soil along the south side of the garden that I didn’t plant.  I can save them for the second round of cold crops (we’ll plant those in July) or plant annuals, another type of seed that looks intriguing, or more of what we love to eat best.  No space unused!

#3 Check your mulch.  Right now it is to be a light covering, thicker on the paths.  The mulch over the plants is not for weed suppression right now, or the plants won’t come up!  It is just lightly covering the soil so it doesn’t dry out or erode or blow away.  We’ll mulch thicker as the plants get up and stronger.

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#4 Water each day if is no rain.  I will never forget my lessons with my friend, Deb, years ago in which she would have me water then ask me if it was watered.  I would say yes, she would have me check the soil and it was dry!  Three times I watered and directly beneath the surface was completely dry!  So I check the soil with my finger.  Wet up to the second knuckle and it is watered.

#5 I weed on my hands and knees this early in the season.  It helps me not accidentally hoe a vegetable seedling.  It helps me see what is coming up and what is not.  I can be more intimate with my garden this early in the season to get a better idea of what is going on.  I do wish the red ants would move out of the north garden!

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#6 Take a few minutes in your garden each day.  Even if just to enjoy a few sips of water and watch the birds.  Talk to the plants.  Encourage them.  Sing, hum, sit in the sun.

Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 6 (Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplants)

Well, it’s Memorial Weekend.  If you are following along, this is what your garden might look like:

  1. Potatoes, onions, garlic are shoving through the straw.
  2. Kale, chard, collards, mustards, lettuces, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, pak choi, and spinach are about an inch tall. Don’t try to thin them, let them be!
  3. Peas are 2 inches high.
  4. Sunflowers and pumpkins are all beginning to pop out of the soil.
  5. Morning glories have sprouted.  Looks like we might lose one or two herb plants, but the rest look like they are hanging on despite our cool nights.
  6. The other seeds are still under the warm soil working.

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Now, we put in the summer plants.  If we started these from seeds right now they would never make it.  Best to find a good source (I like Kevin at the Parker Farmer’s Market right as you walk in.) and let them get the nightshades up and going.

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In the book, Wisdom of a Radish, by Lynda Hopkins all of her tomato starts die (as they do often) and she had to go buy plants to put in the ground.  She mutters to herself, “Only f#@k up farmers have to buy starts!”

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Now every year when Doug  and I buy our starts we chant that.  We don’t mind.  Sometimes a farmer has to rely on other farmers to ensure success.  No shame.

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Dig the holes 1 1/2 feet apart for peppers and eggplants, 2 feet for tomatoes.  Then walk back down rows and pop in starts complete with labels.  Then walk down aisle with a bag of organic garden soil and fill the holes, patting around the plants so they stand up nice.  Water well then add straw around the bases to keep them upright and allow less moisture to escape.  Put snazzy looking tomato cage over.  Or not.  I am still saving up for the other 28.  I planted 20 tomatoes, 12 various peppers, and 4 eggplants.  That may seem like a lot but we want tomatoes as deep into winter as we can get!

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I have gone without and had a brilliant crop, they just run all over the ground and tempt animals and black spots.  Anything could work that has a little strength.  We have a week to think about it.  In the meantime, enjoy your garden and your Memorial weekend!

See you next week!

The Entertaining Farmgirls Supper Club

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We Entertaining Farmgirls had such a good time at the last dinner party.  I love hosting farm to table dinners and though I don’t have a farm to host it on, I sure do have a beautiful place with views and a great kitchen to hold them in!  The next one is Sunday, June 12th and I have some spots left.  Wouldn’t you like to join us?

Shyanne and I are creating a four course beautiful meal with all the bells and whistles.  Organic, local, our own homegrown from the community garden, a blend of amazing culinary treasures.  An amazing late spring meal complete with drink pairings, enchantment, and new friends.  The stragglers can enjoy the sunset on the balcony with us.

We love the element of the surprise menu.  (If you have food preferences, whisper them to me and I will tell you which dinner to sign up for!)  The nice table settings, the glasses clinking, homemade comfort food, and fun.

Contact me for more information, for the donation amount, and to save your spot at table! 303-617-3370

Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 5 (Jalagi Adusgi, plant markers, and weeds)

 

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Cherokee Garden

Welcome to our Cherokee garden.  Maryjane loves to garden.  She likes to play in the back of my truck, then come over and plant some seeds, then water, then relax in the sun.  “This is too fun, Grammie!” she squeals.

This last week the nights (and frankly some of the days) were too cold for summer plants.  This week I will plant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

This week we made signs denoting where everything is.  Selu-corn, Iya-Pumpkins, Nunv-potatoes, Sahlol– lobelia, Jisdu unigisdi– what the rabbit eats, or rose hips.  I even labeled the “weeds”.  Plant markers are notoriously impossible.  They shed their lettering by mid-season.  This time we “laminated” them with packing tape.

 

My garden is already beginning to flourish.  All the cold crop seeds have germinated.  Potatoes, onions, and garlic are just peeking over the soil, there are more to come up.  Mustard, kale, chard, lettuce, peas, radishes, cauliflower, beets, cabbage, carrots, pak choi, spinach, broccoli, herb seedlings, all raising up in song to Nudah (the sun) and to another beautiful day in the garden.

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Maryjane in the sun

A note on weeds:  Heavens, weeds will be there from the beginning to the end.  No use trying to eradicate them.  Mother Nature is a smidge savvier than you and I.  I go through the garden nearly every day and pick wayward, tiny weeds coming up.  That is the best we can do.  No worries.  The plants will still grow.  Plants want to grow!

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The Little Farmgirl

I hope your seedlings are up, your weeds are down, and you are watering each day if it doesn’t rain!

See you next week in our Jalagi Adusgi!

The Balcony Garden

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I love that seeds want to grow.  That Mother Nature is so efficient and that life wants to be.  That one could plant corn seeds in a five gallon bucket and it will grow.  I love the option to farm in pots.

I feel so blessed and so happy when I am digging in the soil of the community garden.  A place of therapeutic bliss while in between farms.  I know that I can grow in pots as well.  My balcony garden is a place of respite.  I opted to grow more herbs and flowers than vegetables because I have the three plots at the gardens.  I did include a raspberry shoot I rescued, and transplanted sunchokes, which are doing great.  A rose garden adorns my third floor balcony.  Roses are so easy to grow in Colorado.  We have few pests and it loves an east or west facing balcony or garden spot.  I had a vision while we were in California of the rose garden I needed to create.  I have roses growing in the community garden as well as home.

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The six year old geraniums left the shop (against their will) and have joined the balcony.  They think it’s autumn presently, for the nights are so cool, but they will flourish.

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Pots of herbs, and petunias, and lavender, stinging nettles, and the poinsettia from Christmas line the walk and new table.  Bird feeders and a saucer of water entice the birds (when the kitties aren’t around).  I am planting tall sunflowers in each pot to create an enchanting privacy fence.

This is the perfect space for morning cups of coffee and writing.  For lunches alfresco with Maryjane.  For dinners with friends and laughs, the view of the mountains beyond.  It is a nice balcony farm indeed.  Just goes to show, one can grow anywhere!

Memory Seeds and Morning Glories

I was so moved when I read an article in Martha Stewart Living this month about her planting seeds that had been in a desk drawer for some fifty years that belonged to her father.  When she planted the lavender seeds and they flourished she created her own memory garden by seeing that same lavender that scented her childhood yard in her own present yard.  Her remembering her father so proud of that lavender in their sweet home, the scents and colors taking her to home.  How plants can become a part of our very being.

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I was overjoyed while digging through a box that we had been toting with us from place to place this last year.  A box of seeds.  Some no longer good, some gnawed by mice, some spilt, many, many ready to be planted.  I held up a small sandwich bag with little black diamond shaped seeds and knew instantly what they were.  The first seeds that I saved back before I had a green thumb were morning glories.  They grow easily and then offer up the gardener a well packaged bundle of crepe paper surrounding seeds to take on one’s journey. I planted them in my community garden plot.  I cannot wait to see their smiling faces again.