The Garden Experiment: week 2

The garden is growing pretty well so far. I got cages for the tomatoes and covered most of the ground with pine needles, except around the onions. Kent and I have added garden tending to our mornings, sandwiched right in between breakfast and Sesame Street. We haven't put in our 2-liter bottle system for watering yet because we're still drinking the stuff that's in the bottles, but we've gotten a lot of rain lately, so the ground has been nice and damp every morning and everything seems to be doing really well. The greatest threat to the garden right now is Kent, who keeps trying to pick the tiny onion sprouts and add more pine needles on top of the plants that are there. Despite that, though, the basil is taking off, one of the tomato plants is getting flowers, and all of the other plants are getting a few new leaves every couple of days.

Check out the onion sprouts! So far, there are 14 little shoots out of the 21 total onions we planted. I'm the most excited about these so far, because they were completely underground when we planted them, and the fact that they're busting through to the surface means I did something right. Minor victory, but for a beginning gardener, it's neat. I bought a package of 80 yellow onions for less than $2, which was the only size I saw at Lowe's at the time (and I hadn't seen any at our local gardening center), so I sent sets of 20 to Don, my grandmother in NC, and Ann, all of whom helped me a lot with planning and carrying out the garden. The next time we went back to Lowe's, I found their stash of Texas sweet onions, which is what I had wanted originally but I didn't think they had any. Oh, well. I'm not about to plant more onions, so I'll just wait until next year to try the sweet ones. Jack has also informed me that we have a couple of small patches of wild onions in the backyard, and they look and taste a lot like chives, so we'll probably be harvesting those and adding them to yummy things like baked potatoes with sour cream.

The extra plants I had bought that didn't fit in our raised bed have now found a home on the previously-ugly side of our house. I dug out most of the ground last week, though I needed Jack's help in digging out the part right next to the house since our ground is hard black clay and I didn't have the upper body strength to do that part. We put down a weed mat, then filled it with soil/compost, and Kent and I planted the plants the next day and covered them with pine needles. The level of it is a bit lower than the ground around it, which was unintentional, and I hope it doesn't affect the drainage too adversely.

While I was digging and planting, the best way I came up with for Kent to "help" was letting him play with the little shovel, a couple of plastic flower pots, and a small pile of dirt. I did show him how to put the seedlings in the holes I had dug, so he got to do that part, but I needed to distract him the rest of the time because he kept trying to step on and/or carry around the plants. He got very upset every time I took the shovel away to dig a hole, so I think I'll be getting him his own little gardening tools soon.

He's such a well-meaning gardening assistant, but I do sometimes want to pull my hair out. I comfort myself by remembering that he's learning important lessons here, not only developing an interest in things that grow, but also understanding the coolness of growing some of his own food. I was mildly interested in these things when I was younger, but I hated getting my hands dirty and being outside when it was hot, so I didn't spend nearly as much time gardening with my grandmother as I could have. I feel so good about finally learning this stuff now, though I wish I had started long ago.

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That's awesome! Gardening is an exercise in delayed gratification and patience. At least, I learn those lessons, so I imagine a toddler will too! :-)

In my experience, unless your tomatoes are the bush variety (they get thick rather than tall), those tomato cages you have may be quickly outgrown! Our tomatoes were spilling over the tops after a couple months, so I staked some as well, but finally gave up and just let them be viney and wild.

You asked on facebook whether we had started yet -- kind of! Indoors, we have seedlings of 6 types of tomatoes, basil and parsley. Outside in the garden plot, we have some stuff that does well in the Pennsylvania cool-ish-ness of March and April: micro-greens, mesculun lettuce, spinach, carrots, red onions, radishes, broccoli rabe and snow peas. We haven't gotten anything to harvest yet (and we're only taking up about 1/4 of our plot so far!) but we're hopeful. :-)
Yeah, it's funny, I had no idea what size cages to get. I thought those might be too small, but it seemed insane to get really huge ones unless I knew for sure. I guess I'll learn for next year!
I had my little potted garden out front, and it was really great to watch everything grow. Louisiana has some nasty and hardy bugs that eat things, so be watchful for that. They especially love tomatoes and seem to know when your tomatoes will be ripe before you do. They even ate things I didn't even think bugs ate, like one of my asian plants that insects in Thailand don't even bother!
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