6.27.2011

Come tooooo my gaaaarden . . .

Sorry, having a Secret Garden: The Musical moment. Ahem.

In an effort to rack up the number of plants I've killed in my life, I decided to try a garden again this year. I've got some good east-facing exposure and figured I could do some container plants. So I started seedlings and housed them on my dryer, where I nursed them with eye-droppers and bed-time stories and lullabies and found them babysitters for when I was out of town and every other thing.



Death toll: All the parsley, most of the basil, and all but 3 of the tomatoes (1 Early Girl and 2 Jelly Bean).

Turns out that "hardening off" does not mean "go stick your tomato babies outside for 18 hours on the first sunny hot day of the year." As I now know, this does not agree with them. Also tomatoes can get sunburned. Did you know this? And when they do get sunburned, it's much better if you can recognize this for what it is and get them back inside to recuperate, rather than shrugging your shoulders and leaving them out for another day of to-a-crisp-burning. See how I'm learning?

Planted sweet peas inside until a coworker told me you're supposed to just put them outside from the beginning. Thanks, coworker! My sweat peas thank you too:



Did y'all know how pretty sweat peas are? And how great they smell? Now instead of catching whiffs of Dumpster when I walk out my back door, I get to smell these fragrant little babies. It is a vast improvement.


After receiving my Mother's Day flower at church I got smart and Googled "How to not kill an innocent petunia." The Interwebs came through for me and look how great mine is doing!


The biggest thing happened once I thought I was done. Was chatting with an upstairs neighbor about the disgusting state of the landscaping around our complex. I mentioned that if I were here next summer I might think about digging out the small area on the back side of the building that is currently growing rocks and hip-height weeds and turning it into a garden.

Neighbor: That's a good idea! We'd need to ask the manager for permission, though.

Me: Seriously? You've seen the spot I'm talking about. Nothing I do could possibly make it look worse than it already does.

She liked the idea of turning the rock/weed/bush bed on her side of the building into a garden, though, and the next thing I knew, my neighbor spoke to the manager, who spoke to the owner, who said we could have gardens if we want. His caveat, which just goes to show how long it has been since the sweet man has visited, was this: Please ask them to take good care of the area because we wouldn't want it looking like a big weed patch at the end of the summer.

Ahem. You mean something like this?



Not lying, there are some parts of the complex where the weeks are the size of small trees. They come up to my shoulder and have probably ensnared and digested a few stray cats and/or children. But this is what it looks like now, after a butt-load of work, compost, and fertilizer:


I went to Cook's Farm & Greenhouse in Orem on my neighbor's recommendation to get the plants, and oh my gosh I could have spent all day wandering around in there. A sleepy Dark Lord was with me, though, being hauled around in the little red wagon they provide, so I had to be speedy. I got starts for roma tomatoes, basil, zucchini, squash, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and mint. The prices were good--from $1.00 to $2.50 per plant, which I'm sure would add up if your garden was big but in a tiny one like mine it was pretty great. If I'd known about this place earlier I might have chosen to just skip the 12 weeks of intensive seed-coddling and just let someone else do all the eye-dropper work.

The mint is so I can replicate this fresh limeade I had at a Farmers Market in Park City a few weeks ago. It was $4 per glass, so my s-in-law and I got one to share. When it was gone we ran back and bought another one, it was that good. Watch this space for the recipe once I get it figured out!

Have to say, though, the best part of the whole plant-buying expedition came when we got back to the car and I opened all the windows and fed Little Lord Voldemort in the back seat next to our new baby plants. The sun was shining, a gentle breeze blew through the car, and I had my sweet contented boy in my lap, who looked up and gave me milky little grins even though his diaper was so full it was probably disintegrating. Like I said, it is not the life I've been used to, but moments like these remind me of just what a sweet little life it is.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go Google "tomato leaves curling brown." Has anyone else decided to be brave and plant something?

21 comments:

AmandaStretch said... [reply]

I killed a cactus last year, a cactus!! So, when my friend gave me one of her centerpiece orchids for helping out with her wedding, I was more than a little frightened of it and convinced that it was going to die and quickly. I definitely haven't watered it as often as I should have, and while I've read some things about orchid care, I'm not employing any tactics. I was not surprised when all the blooms fell off, except for the very end one. I considered it might still be living, and watered again. Then last night, I was at a different friend's house, who also has an orchid from the same wedding and hers looks exactly like mine! I'm not killing my orchid after all! While high DC-area humidity and no direct sunlight did nothing for my cactus, my orchid seems to love it. Thanks bottom of the rainforest dwelling plant!

Kelly said... [reply]

I love that you're planting at your apartment complex. You'll have to post progress pictures. Watch out for the mint, though - it spreads like crazy once it gets going.

I have managed to drown my sugar snap peas in a container that didn't have enough drainage. Sad. But I have tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and cucumbers going, plus various herbs. Also, my farm share keeps giving me plants every week, and so far I've planted a calendula and hollyhock plant in our yard. Yesterday afternoon I found some zinnia seeds I forgot I bought, so I sowed those along our front hedge and am excited to see if they grow. And I have two miniature magenta-colored dahlia plants that are blooming like crazy in pots on our front stoop.

It has rained most of June so the vegetables are a bit small, but I do have a few blossoms on my zucchini plants. Now I just have to make sure the rabbits don't eat them!

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

I started singing Melissa Etheridge when I saw this title.

I kind of wish all apartment complexes would replace gross areas with gardens. What a fabulous idea! I have not planted anything this year, but I have fantasies of having an entire acre to plant (and subsequently kill). Also, I could raise baby pigs.

Bridget said... [reply]

That is SO cool. What a good idea to use that space for good.

I have a basil plant in my kitchen. That is all.

Breanne said... [reply]

You just described my entire spring/summer planting efforts so far. Except it was my fennel that committed suicide in my little identical plant-starting pods. I guess it couldn't take anymore Baby Einstein. Just think how I feel, fennel!

Ana said... [reply]

Get yourself a companionship planting book - they. are. AWESOME. - speaking of which make sure you plant the mint next to your pumpking (if you haven't already) cos ants will be all over your pumpkin flowers and they HATE mint!! Also mix in flowers with your veges - there are a good range of flowers that are not only edible but will clear off animals and bugs with their pungent odours - marigold, calendula, PETUNIAS, and nasturtiums to name a few :)

Ana said... [reply]

arghhh - just saw that I typed pumpking - yes, I DID actually mean pumpkin - as opposed to some aerobic workout Lord ;)

Amanda said... [reply]

This year I killed off some tomatoes, broccoli, sunflowers, chives, onions, basil, some peppers, and the carrots never came up. A few sunflowers and some romaine lettuce survived.

I second the caution about the mint: a few years ago, mine spread into my strawberries and created minty strawberries, which is not a good as it sounds.

HAH said... [reply]

My cucumbers and melons did not survive, but the spaghetti squash has some lovely blossoms right now. I planted Japanese eggplant for the first time this year, alongside the usual suspects of tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions. Looking forward to garden tomatoes!
I also planted lettuce and spinach for the first time. Give that a try next year -- as soon as the ground is thawed enough to scrape the top layer aside, throw down seeds, and cover them up. The garden greens are wonderful.

Anonymous said... [reply]

PLANTING MINT IS A REALLY, REALLY, REALLY BAD IDEA. REALLY. I can't say it enough. I would dig it up immediately. My mother planted mint in her garden and it is taking over everything. It's roots grow horizontally (and very deep) and individual plants sprout vertically out of the deep horizontal root, making it extremely difficult to remove. We've dug out the entire garden TWICE to try and get rid of it, and it keeps coming back with a vengeance. You should only plant it in freestanding pots. Google this for confirmation. You will thank me! :)

Now that my Debbie Downer moment is over, good luck with the rest of your garden!

Anonymous said... [reply]

P.S. Please forgive the misspellings in my previous post. :)

MBC said... [reply]

Good on you!

We're way behind on planting this year and have also been sadly neglecting our allotment since moving across town from it, but I still have high hopes that the fennel, strawberries, Sungold tomatoes and hard squash will live. Everything else can die if it really wants to.

amelia said... [reply]

i love sweet peas so very much. mm.

emandtrev said... [reply]

I am so proud of your efforts! Look at you go!

I have to admit that I've killed much more than I've nurtured. I still haven't really attempted my own garden, but this summer I'm growing some tomatoes that haven't died yet. That seems like a success already. Ha!

I have plans (plans!) for next year, but for now I'm content to grow the tomatoes and a few flowers out front. It seems that I'm doing well most days to get out and water those! (Baby steps...)

pianochick said... [reply]

I am currently on year three of growing the 'impossible to grow' pin oak (which I was determined to spend my years gazing upon out my kitchen window) out here in EM - haha all you pinhead nursery specialists who said it just can't be done! IN YO FACE! But seriously - it is taking a lot of special love and some OCD calendaring (to be sure I don't miss it's monthly iron supplements) - it's worth it, though - I love it so. I, too, suck at growing plants - I visit that good ol' Cooks every single May to grab up their .....zinnia (I won't share the variety, as it is so so so hard to find and, of course, the very best, and I am, yes, that selfish) - and try to keep the little critters alive in my laundry room for a few weeks, just long enough for the warm weather - and, inevitably every single year, I lose about half of them. So, oh well - I buy double what I need. Love that Cooks. Can't wait to see the finished product of your labors. Your landlord is one lucky guy.

Anonymous said... [reply]

I know what lime drink you are talking about and it is heavenly! I bought two, just for my self at the SL Farmers market last year. I've been stealing my neighbors mint to replicate the drink as well and so far not a ton of luck, but it still makes for a good drink. I use 1/2 water, two fresh sqeezed limes, 1 tbls of Agave, bunch of mint and ice. Stir and enjoy. Good but still trying to figure out the FM version, maybe I should try regular sugar. Can't wait for your recipe version.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Anon, I saw the bag of sugar the guy was using and it was an organic sugar with larger, coarse grains. I asked if he made a simple syrup with the lime juice and he said no. But that's ALL he would say. Meanie. But thanks for the start!

Missy W. said... [reply]

While you are googling your tomato problems, can you figure out how to bring back a shrub that my husband may have accidentally poisoned with RoundUp ? :(

liesel said... [reply]

mint is good and yummy, but it is a weed. really. I second the warning and call to dig it up and plant it in a container instead.
I'm doing a container garden myself, and have half killed/sunburned most of my plants as well. Inside they looked so promising.... hmm, maybe some will survive. good luck!

Me again said... [reply]

Mint is really an ok plant. But not in a garden with all of your other plants.

Dig it up and plant it in its own pot. Not in the ground.

Bebe McGooch said... [reply]

I started my first little herb garden this year. Never planted anything in my life. They all died. Too cold, and then too hot. And I did little to educate myself before I jumped in. Sadness all around.

I gave in and bought another basil plant. Gorgeous, lush thing. I hope I don't kill it. Please don't die, little basil.

Glad I read your blog though, and next time I try mint I'll keep it in a pot. I'm dying to see this fresh mint limeade recipe. Sounds like all sorts of awesome.

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