May 6, 2012

A Little Backyard Garden

Week 1 - 5/6/12

Mother Nature's hustling in an early summer, her south breeze airdropping 80-degree May days.  Time to twist the spade and convert black soil into heirloom tomatoes, cilantro and sweet peppers. 

There's a decent chance a garden thread will put you to sleep, so I'll update this post as the garden grows rather than pushing out new pepper posts.  If you have a green thumb, check back every week or two to see if I'm able to chase off the greedy bunnies this growing season.  

Critter deterrent question:  Human hair keeps rabbits away or is it fox pee?  Or human pee fends off deer?  At any rate, the neighbors may see me spreading human hair and fox/human/monkey urine in the vicinity to keep my precious lettuce from getting destroyed.

Shopped the garden center this weekend, here's the damage:

  • Bradley Heirloom
  • Bonnie Grape
  • Better Boy Hybrid

  • Red Bell
  • Sweet Banana

  • Buttercrunch Bibb Lettuce
  • Moroccan Arugula

For the Kid
  • African Marigolds
  • Succulents
  • Calibrachoas
  • Sunflower Seeds

I might also snag a jalapeño plant and green bean seeds if we have room.

Rather than plowing the entire garden, I'll experiment with no-till this season:  dig a hole or row and loosen the soil only in the areas to be planted.  There's a 3" decaying layer of leaf/grass combo covering the plot, leftover from last autumn's mulching.  I'll leave that be and let it continue decomposing, hoping it helps choke the coming weeds.

I had time to prep the garden this weekend, but a rainy doubleheader stopped me from plunging plants into earth. 

Here's our spot in the back corner of the yard, it needs a little TLC.

A hoe, steel rake and spade are my shanks of choice, I don't use any power tools.

Turned the top 2" of mulch and raked it evenly to help break it down and decompose.  We'll see how it goes this year with minimal cultivating of the soil and keeping the shredded leaves intact to strangle the weeds. 

 If the rain holds, we'll plant in a couple days.

Week 1 - 5/9

The rain abated, so we got busy getting dirty the last two evenings.  Pigtails carefully troweled Marigolds and Calibrachoas into tubby terracotta crocks.  She did a fetching job jazzing the front stoop.

An empty IKEA clay pot's hanging from a rail in the kitchen, so I jammed a succulent in there.  It offsets the white subway tile nicely with a shot of green.

Sissy flowers put to bed, I headed out back to sink vegetables into soil.  The loam was damp and wormy, such potential lurks in the muck! 

Playing in a garden is more than just a relaxing way to reap fresh produce.  I tell Pigtails it demonstrates God working in action.  He provides the nutrients, water and sun needed to fabricate bushels of vegetables from dirt and tiny seeds.

Of course, God also built the pesky wabbits that mess with my greens, so there's that.

Next up:  Soak the soil and jot down in a notebook the number of days to maturity for each type of plant.

Week 2 - 5/19
Mapped out the vegetables and jotted approximate harvest dates.  The maps helps track where I planted so I can better distinguish evil weeds to be plucked vs. good plants.  The schedule reminds us when reaping's ready.



  1. That plot looks like it holds so much promise!

    We're heading into winter down here, I fear my forays into veggie gardening are about to be cut short.

    I will be back...

    1. "I will be back..."

      You sound like the Terminator.

  2. Anonymous5/07/2012

    Some of my favorite childhood memories involve the time spent with my Dad digging in a small suburban backyard garden. He too used no power tools - of course he never used a paint roller either only brushes, but I digress. Lucky Pigtails getting to grow some flowers. My dad wouldn't plant it if he couldn't eat it. Except for the marigolds because they kept the rabbits from lunching first. Good times. Those memories go back at least 50 years and he's been gone for 20 now. I still have a scar on my left knee from crawling around planting radish seeds and onions and encountering a hand trowel. To this day I don't walk through the produce section at any store without remembering those childhood gardening days.

    Its good to know there are still dads who pass along the joy of gardening to their daughters.

    1. I grew up in a garden too, I remember a lot of hot work pulling weeds under the July sun as cicadas groaned against the heat. My folks had some pretty impressive plots and grew just about any type of vegetable available. My garden is dinky in comparison, just big enough to play in but no so big it bogs me down.

      Hope you had some beefy tetanus boosters after your trowel attacked.

  3. My father would till and help plant, but all upkeep was Mom's. Dad sure enjoyed the fruits of her labor, though. :-) Living in a condo, we have just a tiny bit of space for gardening. I am planting red bell peppers and spring onions this year. Maybe a few flowers in a pot somewhere, but that's all we have room for!

    1. I'll try your dad's method with Pigtails this year (I like it), including enjoying the fruits of her labor.

  4. Heather Tinsley-Fix5/07/2012

    Beard, how does your cilantro grow - do you have any tips? I plant mine from seed, the whole row sprouts up, but as I use it, it doesn't keep putting out leaves. Or if it does, it puts out tiny, thin ones, like little gnat hands, while the stalks get thicker and tougher.

    1. Good question, I had the same problem last year when I planted cilantro. Google tells me to trim the budding plants every 5 to 7 days so the plant never fully matures. This should allow a half-dozen pickings before the cilantro gives up the ghost. We'll try it this year, here's where I got my info.

  5. Love your no-till approach.
    If you find the best deterrant - please tell me what would keep my Boxers out of my veggies and herbs...?

  6. Judith5/08/2012

    You could build some raised beds and put a low rabbit fence around the top. That should help with keeping the loot, and you could even experiment with the soil composition for better growth. Also, it's easier on your backs (once the beds are build, that is). Here's a tutorial for building them:

    I suppose the neighors would like that better than pee& hair as well ;)

    1. Raised beds look classy and surely protect better than donkey scat. Probably won't happen this year, I'm tapped out (single parents are crazy busy), I'll keep it on the burner for down the road, thanks!

  7. This reminds me I need to get a move on! This year, I'll be doing container gardening, as we've moved away from the house with the big sunny back yard... I think this year's gardening may be more manageable for me than last year's three huge beds.

    1. Gardens always seem so small, simple and promising when you plant in May. But they can turn into real monsters come July and August. Heat, bugs, weeds and rabbits conspire and make the thing feel huge, so I'm a fan of starting small.

      Let me know how the micro container gardening goes.


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