From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Friday, June 09, 2006

My Vegetable Garden

The Rural Life... My Various Hobbies...



Vegetable garden

The photo above is of one of the gardens I've had in years past. It was taken as the sun rose one steamy July morning while the leaves were still dripping with dew and the bees were just beginning to stir.

The trellis at left supported a tangle of pole beans and scarlet runner beans. As I stood on a stepladder to pick the beans that summer, I was often within just a few feet of hummingbirds who were visiting the red bean blossoms.

The trellis at right had a climbing rose on it. I had dug up a few sprigs of a rose from another part of our yard. It had grown down a bank where we mowed it with the grass. "Poor things," I thought, and made a teepee in my garden for the sprigs to climb. Envigorated by the garden soil, they threw out 15-foot thorny canes that rooted where they touched down. I finally cut it down to the ground and used Roundup on its stumps.

I see cantaloupe, tomatoes, some sprigs of dill, corn in the back, a sunflower, gloriosa daisy, marigolds, iris, other flowers -- that was a good garden. I think this was my 1996 garden.

I have downsized my garden quite a lot in recent years. One reason is that I haven't done any canning for several years, so I don't need to grow more than we can eat fresh. Another reason is that we have one less person eating at home now that Keely is in college.

Another reason is that I've never had my garden plowed and I've never owned a rototiller. I just dig it up myself. It is not that difficult, but I am not quite as enthusiastic about digging nowadays as I was 10 or 15 years ago.

Of course, there's no sense in digging up pathways and other areas that aren't actively growing anything, so I always put a mulch on them and cultivate the soil only where I plan to plant.

For the cucumbers I planted today, I dug up an area about 3 feet in circumference, worked some compost and manure into the soil, and made a "hill" to plant the seeds in. Then I covered the entire area that I expect the vines to grow with black plastic. I laid an 8-foot pallet (salvaged from a junk heap once upon a time) over the plastic, and cut an X over the hill of enriched soil. Last, I planted the seeds. When the vines grow, they will lay on the pallet not the plastic. This is better for the health of the vines, in my opinion.

I like to put mulch around all the plants to keep down the weeds and hold moisture in the soil. My favorite mulch is five or six sheets of newspapers covered over with straw. I sometimes use black plastic as described above, but I prefer the newspaper/straw combination because it is equally effective and it biodegrades, adding humus to the soil. (Plastic has to be removed in the fall.) I prefer to keep hoeing and weeding to a minimum, so I work hard to mulch the entire garden and after that, a minimum of maintenance is required.

About two weeks ago, I planted six tomato plants and six pepper plants. Only Dennis and I eat them. A few days ago, one of the neighbor ladies brought me another seven tomato plants and three more pepper plants and I planted them this evening. I know we'll have more than we can eat -- maybe I will can some tomato juice again -- doubtful, though, if I get a job this fall.

I am actually giving myself a little pep talk with this post because I hate to be lagging so far behind with my garden. I was too "stove-up" in my shoulder to do much in my garden this spring, so this year I have my latest garden ever. I'm not even done planting it and it's mid-June. Fortunately there's still time for it to grow and produce before frost! And in the meantime, I'll be visiting some of the many produce stands along the roadsides.

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2 comments:

Wrkinprogress said...

I'm jealous of your beautiful gardens, past & present! We grew some chives and basil in the kitchen windowsill, and then transplanted them to large terracotta pots on the deck. That first night outside, raccoons promptly dug them up, and that's the end of our deck garden. lol

WIP

KennethF said...

Hey Gene:
You put this post over the top... again! We are a little behind on things this year, also. Tomorrow is a catch-up day and I will be digging quite a few holes for garden adjustments and new. The weather is right but the peonys are done and the irus is to soon gone, too. Our roses and lilies are coming... very strong.
later, KennethF ~(:-_))-kfh
ps: fog/photo most excellent!

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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