The garden: year 2

I'm scheming about our vegetable/herb garden already. We've been having warm, sunny days lately, so even though it's only January and we're not past the danger of frost yet, I'm ready to get started. The raised bed had been completely overgrown this fall, and then when it was so cold in December, everything turned brown or grey and died except for two red peppers that were overrun with bugs by the time I noticed them. After taking a good look at the bed on Saturday morning and tugging on a couple of dead vines, I decided that Kent and I could clear it out pretty easily while Jack had some rest and study time, so we started pulling vines and piling them in our yard waste bin (an old trash can, which just makes it easier to drag stuff to our compost pile). Kent had a wonderful time tossing sticks and vines into the bin, and then he started playing with our sad, bent tomato cages (way too small for the plants we ended up producing). He lined them up and rearranged them in various ways while I finished the last of the pulling. The dirt underneath all of the dead vines is in great shape — dark and rich with lots of happy bugs in it — so we shouldn't need to buy too much soil or dig through our compost heap to find what little bit of compost might be in there.

After chatting with my grandmother yesterday about various options, I decided to go check out the seed packets at Lowe's and get some ideas of what to grow. I'm going a step further than last year, attempting to start everything from seed instead of waiting to see what plants I can find at the market or gardening stores. I feel like I have a lot more choices this way, and I'm excited to start the process earlier and have more ownership over the whole thing. Plus, if I fail miserably and nothing comes up, I'll still have plenty of time to buy plants and get them into the ground. Now, I just need to find a spot in my house where I can start the seeds that need to start inside. Hmm.

Tomatoes are a definite yes, probably 2 or 3 hybrid varieties, since our hybrids did well last year but the Brandywine plant (an heirloom variety I was really excited about) got some sort of horrid disease last year and we were never able to eat a single one. The onions never grew very well, I'm lukewarm on bell peppers, and I'm not interested in doing eggplant again even though it grew well last year. It's just so hard for me to get excited about *that* much eggplant. But what can I get excited about, day after day, week after week? Okra. I'm 100% sold on trying okra this year. Green beans are also high on my list, and my grandmother suggested the little French beans because their vines don't get as unruly as the regular large beans. I was briefly tempted by the packet of sugar snap peas I saw at Lowe's today, but then I read on the back that they're sensitive to heat. Ha. I think I'll skip those.

I'd love to have dill and cilantro, but they were so hard to keep alive last year that I think I'll just buy those fresh from the market like usual. The dill got fried and turned brown pretty quickly when the summer hit, and once the cilantro started producing flowers, I couldn't get it to make any more leaves no matter how much I trimmed it back. I have no patience for fussy plants. The basil and Italian parsley grew like rock stars last year, so I will happily invite them back, and I may try mint again, too. It's probably just as well that I keep the herb selection low so that I have more space for veggies.

I'm waiting until the weekend to get seeds, soil, and tiny cardboard planting grids that I can just break apart and put into the ground after the seeds germinate, but I couldn't resist getting Kent a couple of $1 Dixie cup gardens to get started today. He grew an awesome sunflower last year, and once it started dropping seeds late in the season, we gathered several of them in hopes of growing more this year from his original plant. The company that makes these little Dixie cups with seeds and a dirt pod also has watermelons and pumpkins, so even though it seems almost ridiculous to have either of those growing in our yard, we're going for it.

Since I won't be smacked over the head by first trimester nonsense this summer, I hope I'll stay more motivated and involved with the garden and all the veggies it produces than I was last year. I have images of my two boys digging around in the dirt year after year as our family learns more about gardening and we expand our efforts, and they're nice images. Dean will probably lie on a blanket or hang out in a carrier strapped to my chest for his first gardening summer, but next year, when he's toddling around, I expect him to be throwing himself headlong into the whole project. And Kent, of course, will be a master by then.




Ooo, that sounds awesome! I love the image of kiddos learning about the world through gardening and experimentation. Whenever we have a little one, I'll be consulting you on how to get them to keep the plants in tact!

I've never had much success with cilantro, by the way. It's a shame b/c I LOVE it, but it has never grown back for me once I cut it. RE: snow peas, you might still be able to get a good crop before it gets too hot. Last year we planted some in late March (so: around now, where you are) and got TONS of them before it got too hot for them in late June. They do need a trellis to grow on though, but it's fun to see how fast they grow! Finally, RE okra, we tried to grow it here last year too, but we had an exceptionally cold June and it died. Unlike snow peas, it LIKES heat, so Louisiana should be a perfect place.

Have fun and post pictures! :-)
Your garden plan sounds great! We are looking forward to getting ours going soon as well. Just wanted to mention that you might look into ordering seeds from Stark Brothers. They have a great reputation and we are always pleased with their products. On anoter note, can't wait for Dean to join you outside of the womb! Send/post pics! Love, Heather
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