Friday, May 30

Gardening season

The weather has finally warmed up enough for gardening season. Here's a picture of my rhododendron blooming. Last weekend, I spent a lot of time outside weeding and planting. Even though I wore a hat and stayed out of the sun as much as possible, I still managed to sunburn my arms and the top of my feet. I'm so fair skinned that I freckle, burn and peel. Hubby turns brown. I've had to stay inside all week out of the sun. The sunburn is finally fading. Today, I bought some sunscreen.

Hubby has the garden tilled, the beds laid out, and started planting potatoes and other things. Then we have to get some mulch down to keep the weeds from coming back and taking over. I hate weeding! (especially when it's 90 degrees outside) Our next door neighbors are helping with the work for a share of the harvest. I don't mind sharing the work at all!

We garden organically. That means we use no chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers (not on our grass either). If we have a bug problem, we pick them off by hand. (I do it with gloves on.) :-) Our compost bin is where we put our grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, and egg shells. Done correctly, it doesn't smell at all. Over time these waste products break down into the most incredibly rich soil. We use it to enrich our garden. It makes our plants grow like crazy.

We order our garden seeds while the snow is still on the ground. Start our tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cabbages, etc. inside 6 weeks before the last frost date. We like to grow heirlooms or other varieties with great flavor. No store bought sets for us (if you can even find them anymore). Once the plants are hardened off so they are used to being outside, they are planted in the garden. Other things such as summer squash are direct seeded.

With so much wildlife in our area, it is a challenge to have a garden. Critters don't like to share. The deer ate 98% of our cucumbers last year. No fair! This year, I've planted them up by the house. I don't think they will bother them up by the house. We make tall wire cages to grow the cucumbers up. It is much easier to pick them and they take up a lot less space.

In the garden we cage our tomatoes and summer squash. Otherwise, the ground hog would eat them. He knocked over the cages around our brussels sprouts last year and ate them down to the ground. One of our neighbors has already had his broccoli plants nibbled to the ground by this hungry pest. We've found that caging individual plants works better than fencing the entire garden. Ground hogs dig under fences. With small cages, they don't do that. That said, we may put a tall fence around the garden next year. It would have to be tall enough to keep the deer out and fixed deep enough in the ground to keep the ground hog from digging in. We'd love to grow sweet corn again. You haven't had sweet corn until you've had it fresh from the garden. It's sweet as sugar! We can't grow it again until we have a way to keep the raccoons out of the garden.

I'm already dreaming of fresh summer squash -- zucchini, patty pans, crooknecks, etc. Over the years I've come up with or found a lot of good recipes to use them in main dishes, salads, and desserts. When we start to harvest them, I'll probably share a few with you.

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