Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hands in the Dirt

Some of my earliest memories are of my little fingers in the dirt, "helping" my grandmother in her Vermont garden. To me, helping consisted of picking strawberries right off the vine and cramming as many as possible into my greedy little mouth. Or shelling peas into a star-patterned tin colander, watching the mound of tiny green orbs grow bit by bit.

My grandmother, now 96, still gardens. She freezes and cans a good portion of her harvest and eats it all winter long. This is something I'm still in awe of, yet I've never become very knowledgeable about gardening. We did some container gardening last year that was moderately successful, but I can't really tell you why certain plants succeeded and others failed. The arid climate in New Mexico means anything I did know about gardening doesn't really apply anymore anyway. But finally having our own space, along with my longing for green things, has really motivated me to do it big this year.

Part of what attracted us to this house was the backyard, which has a mature fruit tree (plum, I think), several rose bushes, grape vines, lots and lots of wisteria, and some herbs and flowers. We saw everything last spring in full bloom and it was love. Now that it's spring again, I want to make sure I don't kill off what's already here. I'm attending a rose care workshop held by the local horticultural society this weekend and am hoping to learn a lot. Last year the only "rose care" I did was to carefully feed them a mixture of organic rose food, egg shells, and coffee grounds, only to have the dogs dig everything up, eat it, and fart it out all night long.

I also started seedlings a few weeks ago, anticipating that I'd be able to plant them soon. However, we've had an unseasonably cold spring (it snowed yesterday and this morning), so now I'm hoping that the seedlings don't get too "leggy", as my grandmother would say, and collapse before we transplant them.

For posterity's sake, here's a list of seedlings I've started. We'll be using a raised bed and containers for the vegetables and herbs, and many of the flowers were chosen because they'll attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.
  • sweet pea (These seedlings already died. One morning we were commenting on how great they looked, and by the afternoon they had shriveled up. Strange.)
  • Bells of Ireland (sprouted)
  • Dahlias (sprouted)
  • Broccoli (sprouted)
  • Bell peppers
  • Yarrow (starting to sprout)
  • Echinacea
  • Gloriosa daisy
  • Victoria Sage
  • Columbine
  • Foxglove
  • Zinnia (sprouted)
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Chives
Currently, we have garlic and shallots in the raised bed. We planted them in the fall and are hoping to harvest them in a few weeks, dry and braid the bulbs, and use them in cooking throughout the next couple months.

Later, these will go directly into the ground/containers:
  • Sunflower mix
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Edamame
  • Swiss Chard
  • Spinach
Looking at this list I'm a little a lot worried that I got overly ambitious, but the idea about eating the literal fruits (and vegetables) of our labor really excites me. I didn't plan on doing so many flowers, but we have a lot of beds where I don't want the dogs interfering with anything we plan on eating, and hummingbirds are so fun to watch that I'm hoping to attract them to our yard.

So this is the list so far, in the hopeful days of early spring. I'm looking forward to documenting everything as it develops!

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