Sunday, February 22, 2015

Our Ever-Changing Landscape is changing locations!  I hope that you will come visit me at my new webpage:

A lot of gardening is going on!  I hope that, like me, everyone can look forward to a happy Springtime of planting.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sowing Seeds on Top of my Head

I hope that everyone enjoyed a wonderful and bountiful Thanksgiving. 

I'm not sure that "bounty" is a relative term, but it can certainly seem so in the eyes of the beholder.  And what we behold often -- usually(?) -- depends upon our state of mind.  Can you recall a time that you were not as thankful as you should be?  How about distinctly ungrateful and graceless?

I wish I could say that I've spent the better part of a year struggling with a bad habit.  I've spent an entire year doing so!   It's the habit of "whys and what-ifs".  For me, the problem with this habit is that I do not find it entirely without merit.  I happen to agree with Plato.  "An unexamined life is not worth living."

So, we moved.  A somewhat radical change of lifestyle does give cause to pause, especially if done swiftly and suddenly.  If you're an avid (obsessed) gardener, it's not necessarily fun to move from a generous, park-like setting to a postage stamp lot.  That's to say nothing of the difference in houses, not that the new house is entirely without its own charms.  But the what-ifs were fierce and plenty: what if we had waited until we had found something more suitable, what if we had selected a different property from the options available, and what if we don't stay?  Why did we choose this property knowing its limitations and our preferences and the great gulf in between?

I think it's okay to analyze questionable decisions.  But to never be satisfied with the answers, especially if they are reasonable ones and especially when we have so much to be glad and grateful for, is surely the sign of a restless, ungrateful soul.  That is not what I expect or accept of myself.

The uncertainty and constant questioning certainly put a different spin on my gardening.  Why improve a basically acceptable outdoor space if we are not going to keep it for a good length of time? How much time, money, and heart should we invest in the landscape?

Yet I cannot not garden.  It is part of who I am.  I love the outdoors, I love flowers and, if I am honest, I really do appreciate our new space for what it is.  But until very recently, I wasn't sure I could ever embrace it as my own. 

What's a gardener to do?  I decided early on that I would not lavish lots of money on this garden.  We would make basic, necessary improvements, I would treat myself to some favorite roses, and for the rest, I would mostly sow seeds.  There's been very little seed-sowing in my gardening life.  Why not sow seeds, I asked myself (acerbically)?  I should be able to keep an eye on them; I can see almost the entire back yard from the kitchen door. 

I did not realize, in my dejectedness, that I was beginning to experiment and learn in my new, little garden just as I had experimented and learned in my big one.  I ignored the voice reminding me that all gardens and our very lives are ephemeral and that we should make the most of our time and every situation.  I brushed aside every zen-like thought I'd ever had, every Christian admonition to be joyful and grateful, and, boy, oh, boy, did I sweat the small stuff!  It's funny, what the brain will allow.

This time last year, we hardly celebrated the holidays even though we were surrounded by loved ones, we were all in good health, and we could look out our windows and enjoy a parade of golfers in their struggles and victories.  We did not decorate.  Not only were we tired from our move, we were having improvements made upon a house we were already rejecting.  The golf course took on a brown hue.

I tried to write a few optimistic posts during the year, but I think we all suspected that I was still trying to convince myself.  I really didn't feel much like writing even though there was a lot I could write about.   I like to believe that most of us struggle with control issues every once in a while; it lessens my embarrassment at least a little.

After a full year with this house and garden, I am only just beginning to sincerely lighten up. Where did my sense of adventure go, my sense of humor, my sense of balance, my sense in general? What happened to my joy in the challenge?  It's just a house, after all, and a nice house with a pleasant garden at that!  I don't know how many days or years I will have with this garden any more than I know the number of my days on this earth. I would welcome plenty of both.  But I do understand that right now is the only time I can be sure of.  I've always known that it's not all up to me and I thank God for that. These recollections have finally washed through me.  I feel cleaner and lighter of spirit and can laugh at my own silliness.

I hope you are okay with this flat-out confession!  It does show signs of growth, doesn't it?  Much like those seedlings that now line my beds. . . . 

I haven't told you about the squirrels, the "yard guys", the hilarity of the golfers, of our oak tree fiasco.  But I will!  I'm back.

It's time to have fun.   Happy Holidays!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Creating and Awaiting Opportunities: Timing Counts

Isn't Autumn wonderful?  Here in the Houston, Texas area, as in many other warmer climes, it is not the harbinger of cold, dark days.  On the contrary, Fall is the herald of gentler, kinder weather, a time when heat and vicious insects are less intense.

We've been preparing for our fall garden.  My new planters box is finally filled with a rich mix of garden soil. 

We've also improved some of the existing beds, enlarging them and adding more soil.  We will probably add more soil to different areas of the garden.  We noticed that the beds we ignored suddenly appear lacking in comparison with those that have been tended to.  That's a life lesson, isn't it?  Fortunately, it's not too late (which is also true in life more often than we think).  We still have time.  It is yet awfully warm for planting or sowing seeds for cool weather plants, especially herbs and vegetables. 

A few before (top two) and afters of one particular area:



They aren't the best comparison photos; I realize that.  But I think they are sufficient to show that the beds are less skimpy, that the planting space is improved.

Some cool weather plants, like Swiss chard and radishes, will grudgingly accept warmer, though usually not hot, conditions.  But some seeds, such as lettuce, might not even germinate if the soil is even just a little bit too warm.  So I think I will give it another week or two in hopes that the temperatures improve for both the garden and the gardener!  In the meantime, we'll probably order that extra soil and draw up new plans for a little hardscaping.  There's never a dull moment in our ever-changing landscape.


Friday, August 29, 2014

A Short Vacation Break

I love the mountains.  My husband loves the coast.  But we both love nature and outdoor recreation, so any vacation that affords us rest and relaxation in the great outdoors is usually fine with both of us.  We just returned from a trip to the Florida Keys.  Alpine dreamer or no, I must admit that seeing avocado and mango orchards, coconut groves, sea grapes, and a variety of fragrant, flowering trees warmed this gardener's heart.  

I didn't take nearly as many photos as I should have/could have/might have.  We were just too busy snorkeling and fishing and were hardly ever on dry land during the day.  But I have returned from vacation with a renewed energy and interest in my garden.  I also have a new appreciation for its diminutive size; it affords us more time to enjoy other activities as well. 

I love gardening and gardens, but I am finding, to my surprise, that a small garden is plenty enough to make me happy.  I am sure that not everyone feels the same way.  In fact, I can well understand the opposite, that some would prefer to spend to spend most of their time working and playing in their own gardens.  But it is not a bad thing to understand our limitations, whatever they might be, and simplicity can be splendid.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

My New Planter Box

I'm so excited!  Finally, a raised vegetable bed!  My back is already celebrating!  I have realized that that it's north/south configuration isn't ideal.  I don't know what I was thinking -- even my last patch was east/west, which would have been the preferred option had it been available to me.  But I'm not worried.  It's so very hot here and a four or five hours of sun will likely go a long way.  I will try to plant strategically. 
Now that my "patch" is so convenient, I am eager to make it as productive as I possibly can.  I've been reading everything I can about intensive gardening.  I was glad to discover an excellent article by Linda A. Gilkeson on the Mother Earth News website, comparing Mel Bartholomew's square-foot gardening and John Jeavons'  biointensive method.
Gilkeson recommends "customizing" one's intensive gardening system.  The best approach is to employ common sense, of course, blending the two methods as necessary for what works best for the gardener and space.  Certainly that goes for gardening of any kind.
My concern for now is soil quality.  We are going to have a few yards of soil delivered to spread in the box and certain, needy areas of the garden proper.  It will be a vegetable garden mix and of course I should be able to see, smell, and feel the quality and texture  But while I would rather not take a soil test, I am worried about nutrients.  I have only just started composting again and have nothing "homemade" to contribute at this time.  Should I buy ladybugs?  Can I purchase earthworms?        
I will probably follow Jeavons' approach and use the soil I (will) have, as is, amending it over time.   As for the good bugs, I think I will hang onto the hope that they will find their way to the patch one way or another.  
If anyone has recommendations or suggestions, please, I'm begging you, speak up! 
As for flowers, we don't have too many right now in the garden. We have a long way to go as for as our ornamental beds are concerned.  That's not a complaint, by the way.  I love the challenge.  I have not yet planted many stalwart and fairly ferocious perennials.  Most of our plants seem to be resting for now, as is the gardener!
We do have some lovely purslane.  We enjoy it in both salads and the garden.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Small Being a Relative Matter

This was my vegetable patch at my old house.  It was pretty pitiful, considering the space I had.  It was too wide, up against the property line, right next to an open field.  Weeds were a nightmare!  But there was no way I would abandon it.  It had been created by a loved one as a surprise for me.  The grass and weeds had been painstakingly removed, the soil turned, and various edging materials placed.  I was happy that it ran North-South and that a pecan tree shaded it from the worst of the afternoon sun.  It was more than my husband or I had managed and it was more than enough space given my time constraints.  I had a lot of ornamental beds and an orchard to consider!  But I while I loved my little patch, I never particularly liked it.  

In my new garden, I have very little room for a veggie-specific bed.   The only space that seems somewhat promising is the very narrow strip between our house and the fence.  I've been debating for quite some time as to what I might do with that area.  The windows are those of our kitchen/breakfast area and I wasn't sure if I wanted to look out and see flowers and more flowers or a raised vegetable bed.



Another issue is privacy.  At first I thought that I just had to have tall ornamentals to at least conceal a part of our backyard from passersby.  But I think a nice, fairly tall cedar box and, hopefully, some healthy vegetables will suffice.  

I 'm looking forward to my new little vegetable patch!  I've always wanted a raised vegetable bed filled with rich, wonderful soil.  The configuration will again be north-south and now the plants will be protected from the elements.  It should be eighteen feet long and two feet wide, which I think will be enough for a nice, cool season salad crop.  I was reading about raised beds and one writer referred to a "small, raised garden of 250 square feet".  I started laughing.  Clearly, "small" is in the eyes of the beholder.  What would that writer call my thirty-six square feet?

If you're wondering if I mind, considering the space I used to have, I don't blame you.  As for my future vegetable patch, I can honestly say that I'm feeling very optimistic.  I will be able to gaze outside my kitchen window and watch my edible garden grow, which I've never been able to do in any house we've lived in.   I'm happy that it's going to be a raised bed in a protected area.  Since I'm not very experienced at growing a food crop and life has gotten rather busy, I have hopes that my little vegetable garden will be just right for me!