Computer gardening?

When I was growing up, my mother had an enormous garden in the back yard – I remember tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers pouring out of it, and I only vaguely remember the work that went into it. Moving to Michigan and having space for a garden motivated me to give it a shot last year, and overall, it was pretty successful although I really did it blindly.

Over the winter I had time to read some gardening books and magazines (love Organic Gardening) and do some internet research. There are all sorts of fantastic resources out there for beginning gardeners, of which I list just a few:

Want to know whether something will grow in your zone? Check out EZGarden.com, an online vegetable garden planner which utilizes weather data specific to your zip code in order to determine if a variety is suitable to your garden plan.

Know what you can and want to grow in your area, but wondering when to start your seeds? Visit Organic Gardening online and check out their seed starting chart.

Getting ready to move your plants and/or start your seeds outside? Visit the Gardener’s Supply Company Kitchen Garden Planner.

The resources on the internet are endless, and I’m sure that as usual, some are better than others, but we all have to start somewhere….

This year, I’m planning on doubling my raised bed square footage (to 36 sq. ft.) and adding a bunch of new vegetables, both Asian and more traditional: cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, okra, broccoli (Chinese and western), eggplants, beets, delicata squash, green beans and zucchini (both bush varieties, with which I am not familiar?), spinach, okame, komatsuna, mesclun, arugula, carrots, and bok choy. Look for updates as things develop (or don’t)!

Garden News

As the cucumber vines die back after producing like champs through the beginning of August, the long beans are just coming into their own, and we have 1 (count it, 1) bitter melon on the vine. We’ve had 2 small harvests of amaranth and Japanese spinach, and it looks like we might get one more batch from the amaranthdespite the heat. Bunching onions and Chinese chives are coming along, but I think the heat is definitely disagreeing with them. The biggest treat has been okra, which is producing so that we might have enough for a dish every other week – I’ve never seen it growing before, and was amazed at how beautiful the flowers are! The tomatoes are coming in droves, but unfortunately most seem to have acquired a blossom-end rot (uneven water supply? damage during transplanting?). No matter – I’m madly harvesting, cutting out the ends, and cooking up a batch of sauce as I type.

We have a few more months to go in the garden, and I’m thinking of planting fall garlic. And I’m definitely inspired to try again next year – with a new, improved, and expanded set of raised beds! Ready to double the number to four 3′ x 3′ beds and experiment with more vegetables…. I can see how gardening becomes an addiction.

Garden update

We’ve harvested our first cucumber from the garden! It was fun to see the kids’ eyes widen with the first bite – even Nikolai ate it, and he is NOT a fan of cucmbers as a rule. I planted a longer, thin-skinned, less “seedy” Japanese variety and it looks as though we will have quite a harvest from our 3 plants, which I’ve trained to a trellis to take up less space in my raised 3′ x 3′ bed.

The one casualty in the garden has been my crop of pea shoots – some critter mowed each plant down at the base and then didn’t even eat the shoots! Instead of fulfilling my visions of a large dish of stirfried pea shoots, I had to satisfy myself with using what had been cut down for mixing with salad greens. From this I have learned a bit about what sort of plants can live together in a small bed – I should have relegated the pea shoots to the same bed where the spinach, amaranth, basil and onions are thriving, since I can keep that bed covered. Apparently the garden raiders consider my cucumber, bitter melon, and long bean plants too tough for grazing already, so when that bed was uncovered, they still left those alone.

Other than the rodent-type marauders, the garden seems to be suffering only from slugs, and they have been taken care of with a very low-tech solution: glass jars buried so that the lip is even with the soil and filled with beer. I comfort myself with the thought that at least the slugs die drunk and happy.

Garden update!

The seedlings I started a while ago have been traveling a lot recently – under the light frame in the basement, up into the garage, back downstairs, in and out of the garage, in and out of the sun and rain. I’ve finally decided that spring is here to stay in Michigan and have transplanted them into the raised beds by the house. Now the battle begins: critters vs. first-time gardener….

I’m not terribly optimistic – our first composter turned out to be too much of an attraction for the local wildlife, and after setting it up on a brick platform with mild success, we still decided to try out the turning barrel variety. That’s been successful so far, and we now have about 1/4 barrel of stuff that promises to eventually be of use in the garden. But I’m guessing all that dirt and composted manure I’ve hauled in the last week and the hours spent planting this morning will probably provide…a nice salad bar for our animal friends? Or maybe their taste doesn’t run toward Asian vegetables?

Garden update: sprouts & compost

The seeds planted a few weeks ago are happily sprouting under the light frames in our basement – in addition to the 2 flats of lettuce due to return to Growing Hope, I’ve planted a mass of herbs – not only for using in cooking, but to line the edges of my garden to give some protection against deer – and lots of Asian vegetables: Chinese chives, bunching onions, eggplant, okra, cucumbers, edible amaranth, Japanese spinach, and – for Katia – lots of tomatoes. Now I just need to actually get my garden plots figured out – with our deer problem, this whole project might be a dismal failure, but I’ve gotten lots of advice on how to at least try to stump them without putting up a 9-foot fence (which I’m sure our HOA would NOT be happy about!) And then there are the bunnies, a very large specimen of which is staring at me through my office window as I type…

On earth day, the kids and I assembled a composter, and both ritually tossed in their apple cores – let the composting begin! We’re lucky to have a patch of woods at the back of our property, so the “browns” needed for mixing into the “greens” from the kitchen scraps should be readily available. I figure we will use uup most of the fallen leaves by the time the next ones are ready to fall, truly a beautiful balancing act.

Gardening 101

Full disclosure: I am a complete novice at gardening. I think the last time I actually grew something was in one of those elementary school experiments, the seed in the Dixie cup sort of affair. So I’m very excited to be starting a garden. Well, sort of a garden – I think this year it will be limited to some large containers on the front porch. My gardening expert (aka my favorite [and only] stepfather) tells me that to have a garden in deer country I need a 9 foot fence. My boss and organic farming expert laughs and tells me that’s a minimum – a deer can clear that from a standstill…. NOT something the HOA will be excited about, I’m sure. So I’m wondering, will these deer actually walk onto my front porch? The brazen way one was staring at me through the breakfast room window last week, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least!

But I’ve decided to give it a shot anyway, so yesterday I visited Growing Hope, a wonderful organization in nearby Ypsilanti that is all about “helping people improve their lives and communities through gardening and healthy food access.”

Growinghope_logo

I signed up to become part of the “Seed Starting Squad,” which means I’m starting 2 flats of seeds for their use, but in the process I acquire some very necessary knowledge and a light stand, something I will certainly need as I probably will have to start a large number of my plants indoors.

Now I need to decide what I will grow for our family consumption. Katia, of course, votes for tomatoes, as many varieties as possible. Max and I are hoping to grow some Asian veggies – eggplants and greens, mostly. And Kolia will probably be happy with anything that’s not mushrooms or eggplants and allows him to get filthy and wet in the growing process.

So stay tuned as the Baker Tang gang tries their hand at gardening….