One of the first memories I have as a little girl was playing in my grandparent’s garden. My mother and two older sisters would go off to Campfire Camp and I was privileged enough to have my grandma and grandpa take care of me for an entire week. My grandpa was known throughout the community for his wonderful torpedo onions, but I knew him as the Olallie Berry King. For me, those berries were “black gold”. I would help grandma and grandpa pick the berries, gently placing them into those iconic green plastic baskets, but of course at the age of four or five I wasn’t very fast. Later, when I was older, Grandma told me that I would actually say out loud “one for me, one for the basket, one for me…….”.
Fast forward fifty years: The backyard of our home in the valley is the perfect place to practice our gardening skills before we move up to our future homestead. The grass in our backyard has never looked very good because our neighbor had given us some free seed to plant the lawn, but the seed turned out to be pasture grass! Sure, when it has just been mowed it looks great, otherwise……
So Ray scraped up the top layer of grass, then rototilled in one hundred and fifty gallons of free compost we obtained from our local garbage recycling facility. I began studying up on a lot of methods of backyard gardening and decided the best method for such a small space would be just to use the old fashioned raised bed with ditches approach. Ray replaced the automatically timed sprinkler heads with drip lines so that the vegetables would be watered during our absence.
I ordered seeds from both Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, then started some of the seeds in a seed starter kit (with it’s own little plastic “greenhouse”) that I had purchased at my local box retailer.
I won’t buy one of those paper and cheap plastic seed starter kits again. Some of the seeds came up faster than others, and by the time the first of the cantaloupe were starting to peak through, the zinnia and tomatoes were already too tall for the plastic “greenhouse” cover! The paperboard trays also started getting mold on them, which I can’t imagine is a good thing for seedlings. When I tried to use less water, the trays seemed to dry up overnight and I lost my cantaloupe seedlings because of it! 🙁 Next year I will start each variety of seed in individual containers so that if one variety needs more or less water, it won’t subject the others to over or under watering. Into the seed kit I planted 3 Romanesco tomatos, 3 Golden Sunray tomatos, 3 Schoon’s Hardshell cantaloupe, 3 Ananas D’Amerique A Chair Verte melons, 3 Anaheim Chile peppers, 3 Italian Pepperoncini, 3 stevia, 3 sweet basil, 3 Black Beauty zucchini, 3 Straightneck Yellow squash, and 6 zinnia. I had to transplant the tomatoes into the garden much sooner than I wanted to because of their quick growth, but they seem to be doing alright despite the wind and cold weather we have been having this past week. I also planted the squash into the garden a bit early because of the mold problem, but they are also doing well and have really taken off, already developing another set of leaves.
Directly into the garden I planted two hills of string beans and two hills of bush beans. Directly behind that I planted four rows of corn. Right behind the corn I planted four sunflower seeds that were given to me by the nice wine tasting lady at Barra Vineyards. Across the walkway from the beans I directly sowed lettuce, beets and carrots. Tomorrow I am going to directly sow the cantaloupe seeds into their hills in the garden because the ones in the starter kit rotted. It also looks like I will have to try getting the pepperoncini peppers to germinate again – they never came up. But the seeds that I saved last year from the Anaheim Chile plant my son gave me seem to be thriving! 🙂
A few days ago my grandson, Caden, brought three sunflower seedlings he grew in his first grade classroom, and asked that I plant them in the garden. They were a bit “leggy” and were propped up to little sticks, but I figured I would baby them a bit so they would take off and grow. Since all three seedlings had their roots in one huge ball, I decided there was no way I could tease the roots apart and they would have to be planted together.
I can’t wait for Caden to come over again soon so that he can fertilize and weed around his sunflower plants. I certainly hope that he will gain an appreciation and love for gardening from me as I did from my grandparents.