Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day Tomatoes

I took charge of this crazy garden this weekend. Last night I sat out on the lawn and just thought about it, sort of like Peter in the tub after the Snowy Day. I thought about the lasagna. I thought about gardening with people in the community rather than alone. I thought about our space and investment in it. I thought about how much we loved all the tomatoes last year.

And the decision became clear: fuck the lasagna for now, dig a new trench for all the tomatoes, make room for neighbor friends to plant as they wish, and enjoy this thing. It felt good. I got out the shovel and just started turning earth. It’s not the kind of sustainability-minded practice the lasagna is, but it’s practical and realistic and I want space for tomatoes!

I’m taking courage from Natalie’s advice to just let the lasagna be what it is for now and move on. The kids helped me. Idris wanted to jump on the spade as I was digging. “Todos juntos!” he said. Io and a friend got down and “helped.” (You’ll see the line gets a little wiggly there. I’m sure it was my fault.)

I didn’t want to stop working but nightfall came.  Then this morning I was able to go get my tomato seedlings.  After a few years of this I now know how much I love the Sweet 100s, and how poorly most of the big tomatoes do.  I figured in my new trench I’d be able to plant about 16 (although I always space too closely).  The store (Fragers, not Gingko Gardens) had exactly what I wanted.  Ridiculous prices, but oh well.

Ken took the kids to a neighbor’s field day party, leaving me with four hours (!) to do as I pleased.  Because there has been some talk of a fence on the north side of the garden, I figured I better actually measure the trench against something rather than eyeballing it next to the already eyeballed lasagna.  While I got out the measuring tape and dug the outer edge 135” away from the fence, two dads and their kids played in the most charming way in the park to the west.  The digging went fast and was quite fun.

Since I come from North Dakota, I am full of shame as I admit that I had to buy dirt for this phase of the project.  I’ve been adding compost for years, but because I’m doing this trench late in the spring season and the lasagna is such a handful, I just broke down and bought dirt.  The ground is VERY rocky, so I spent quite a bit of time digging rocks out.  Then I added the compost, stirred in the top soil, and voila:  a pretty place for my tomatoes.

I also decided to do a couple other things.  First, I dumped the trench soil—grass and all—on the lasagna.  I’ll deal with the fallout from the grass later.  It just felt good to get some dirt on that sucker.  I covered the area down on the west side where the sad, sad little greens are (I feel like a bad steward having let them get so sad).  We’ll see if that brings them back.  And then I dumped the rest over on the east side no-grow-land.  I have no idea what I’ll do with that space.

The other thing it that I made the east and west side edges parallel to the things closest to them:  the building on the east side and the park fence on the west.  I measured, again, and cut the dirt to reflect the new angles.

And then I planted!  (The thing still doesn’t look very straight, does it?)

Two Beefs.

Six Sweet 100s.

Two Sweet 'N' Meat Yellows.

Two Romas.

And two San Marino somethings.

Stay tuned to see how they do.  I mostly didn’t follow any best practices, which is really dumb.  I planted them in the middle of the day in full sunlight.  I dug up the soil the same day and conditioned it with compost and top soil the same day.  I didn’t add bananas or egg shells.  I didn’t modify the soil in any other way, despite the fact I know it’s short on nitrogen.  So they probably won’t make it!  But it’ll be fun to see what happens.

I’m also very happy to report that the Zambian Green stalks I chopped off are sprouting just like I hoped they would!

And the peas are doing wonderfully, getting bigger and staying hearty each day!

Happy Mother’s Day to me. 


Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I finally dared to plant the peas on May 3rd.  Two and a half rows, with Io's help.

Look what I have by May 7th!

Pretty little pea shoots.

Hi, little worm.

Io and I also dropped some zinnias in the sprout box about a week ago. Sprouts!

The potatoes continue to do okay in the lasagna.

Hi, little ladybug.

Neighbor gardener friend has added a couple tomatoes to the mix, along with a superman bean (that seems to have met its fate.

Rogue arugula from last year, with peach babies dropped from the tree above.

Peach baby tree.

Saturday (day before Mother's Day):  TOMATOES!

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Saturday, April 21, 2012


Thanks for your good advice and tough love, Natalie.  You're right -- the Zambian Greens have bolted.  Pretty yellow flowers though! 

I'm reminded of all the fields of a different variety of this plant in North Dakota (and maybe right across the border into Canada, yes, Dad?).  I think the fields smell bad, but the mass of yellow is very pretty.  If I'm not wrong, they make canola oil out of some part of the plant.  Dad, I'd love all the corrections you may have to my lies.

This is the only plant that hasn't gone to seed, and I suspect it's because it was accidentally chopped off sometime last year.  So my strategy was to chop all the rest of them off too (I couldn't quite bear to dig them up, Natalie!  My constitution isn't strong enough for all this.)

And speaking of Dad, let me mention that the potatoes seem to be growing, however humbly.

Quite a slug.  (Right?)

I still haven't planted the peas or anything else.  My structural arrangement isn't set up quite right, meaning:  I lost my key to the storage shed where the pea seeds reside and I keep forgetting to ask Ken for it on days when I have time available to plant.  Those days have been few and far between, so maybe I really am just a summer/fall gardener and not a spring gardener after all.

I also want to dump a bunch of dirt on top of the lasagna so I'm trying to figure out how to make that happen with both good dirt and cheap dirt.
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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Setbacks, Disappointments, and Fears

I acknowledged to myself this week that I hate the lasagna garden.  (Sorry, Melanie!)  It stresses me out, it's turning my gorgeous Zambian Greens into sad, pale, lifeless weeds, and it makes me sort of scared of the garden because I don't know what to do with it.


I'm also not sure what to do with my long-standing greens from last year, which are still producing but seem to be going to seed.  I keep pinching the seeds off, but somehow they keep coming and I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing.  I think I might actually chop down all the stalks and just let them be little again.  How in the world do gardeners make decisions?  I'm bad at making decisions in general, but this trait seems to be magnified in this garden.

Other setbacks:  we had a very windy week, so all the Zinnia seeds Io planted blew over and likely died or blew away.  Back to the drawing board.  (This after I actually first sowed seeds in the front lawn where the seedlings will ultimately be placed, but I sowed them one hour before the management company came and plowed over them with a big industrial mower.)

And finally:  neighbors.  I have great respect for my neighbors and I've felt bad all winter long because of the eyesore I created with the lasagna.  But frankly, my neighbors are very nice and they've stuck with me.  All but one:  the lovely gentleman in #101.  This is the guy who never liked us to put the stroller under the stairs in the hallway on the first floor when Idris was a baby, so sometimes when I would have to park it there and carry Idris, sleeping, up to the third floor to our apartment, and I wouldn't be able to move it until Idris had woken up from his nap, this lovely neighbor would carry the stoller up the flights of stairs to the third floor so he wouldn't have to look at it.  So then when I'd need to leave--with the baby--I'd have to magically carry both the baby and the stroller back down to the ground floor.  It's lovely living with this man.

The most recent example of our wonderful relationship came on the day I finally took the Colleus plants my other neighbors (thanks, you two!) and I had been keeping alive all winter in our apartments, and transplanted them to their outdoor hanging pots along with some new Creeping Jennies.  I did this at about 5pm and it was supposed to get a little chilly that night, so since transplantation can be a little traumatic for plants, I brought the two hanging baskets inside for the night.  One hour later, when I had to run out for a minute, I noticed that the pots had been hung up outside.  That's strange, I thought.  I had half an idea it was my lovely neighbor not wanting them to be under the stairs, but I figured he must have just misunderstood what I was doing, so I took them back inside and put them under the stairs again.  The next day when I got home from work I noticed that they weren't under the stairs.  And they weren't outside.  And they weren't anywhere.  So I banged on Mr. Nice Neighbor's door.  And I didn't realize he's a Vietnam Vet so he must have freaked out when he heard the banging and he called the cops.  So the cops came to question me about the banging but they found Ken and Io outside instead, so they all had a chat while Mr. Nice Neighbor hurled cuss words about me at the cops in front of my daughter.

Did I mention that I'm simply trying to make this ugly little shithole look a little nicer?  Damn me.

So this is what my hanging baskets look like now.

[sigh]  Tomorrow is a new day, and I'm going to dare to plant the peas and maybe even some spinach or something in the dirt part of the garden so that I can refocus on life and growth and beauty, and I can get over all the negativity of my week!
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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring Yard, March 23

The yard and all the trees (and even the weeds) are looking very pretty.  We even found time to put up some new house numbers.

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Transplanting the Zambian Greens, March 23

They lived over night! Plus a random weed or spinach plant popped through the burlap.

Since the first eight lived, I'm going to transplant eight more today.

So first I cut through all the layers of the lasagna.

There's straw and leaves and compost and who knows what else in there.

Then I find the one I want to transplant.

Dig it up.

Lift it out.

And carry the clump over to the spot I cut.

Then I just peel back the top layers and plop it in.


I did seven altogether (would have been eight but I left room for the rogue weed/spinach plant).

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