...if you have a backyard and a kitchen, this blog might be for you!

a chronicle of tips and recipes on everything from gardening to canning and baking your produce, even if you're planted in suburbia...in fact, especially if you are planted in suburbia.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Around the Edges

...of both the garden and the blog.

First of all, one of the blogs I follow posted a book recommendation I want to pass along, as well as some photo-illustrated advice for my bee-keeping friends, so here's a link to her blog post. Follow her if her blog applies to your interests:


Secondly, I I did a little research and learned which plants fare well even in high pH soil like mine. This garlic I planted last fall, for instance, is growing happily. In fact, many of these alkaline-soil tolerant plants are "spring" plants so my gardening season is already actively running.

Garlic growing from last fall's planting.

I titled this post as I did because for many years, I, like many other novice gardeners, was a summer gardener. I tilled in mid-April and planted "after the danger of frost" or near Mother's Day. But I knew more was possible. I knew that some gardeners planted early crops around the edges of their gardens so the later tilling would not disrupt them.

The first garden that ever sprang from my own hands grew next door to one of these extended-season gardens. It was tended by a retired couple who had been gardening for years. While I was still building fires in the fireplace and scraping frost from my morning windshield, this old couple were already working their plot...and things were growing! That's when I knew to expand my gardening vision to include a whole other season beyond the one that yielded tomatoes and watermelons.

I now know that Brussels sprouts are fine with this time of year, as long as I cover them on a night that brings a hard frost.

And lettuce grows happily in a movable planter--as long as I'm willing to move it indoors on a particularly chilly night.

For two bucks, I got a seed starter fashioned from biodegradable, recycled products. This is where the loofah seeds as well as the summer squash and zucchini plants are hopefully getting a start. The loofahs I'll be growing here, but the other squash I'm donating to the garden at the homeless drop-in center where I volunteer.

Speaking of recycling, once you get past the start-up expenses, it is easy to find cost-cutting ways to bring gardening adventures into a reasonable budget. The seedling pots that brought me my first crop of lettuce (the next round is starting as seeds in egg shells) and Brussels sprout plants are now filled with starter mix. They are providing a starting home for various herbs, peppers, and sunflowers. Even the planters where I"ll put flowers later serve as a temporary home for starter seeds that will move to the garden about the same time those flowers need a home.

Working across the seasons like this is called succession planting, and it offers so much more food than does a garden limited to just the one season. The best part of all, however, was when I realized I had taken the baton from that retired couple years ago, the ones who gave me my first few gardening pointers, and now I carried it myself. I know this because today Garden Helper's homeschooling friends came over to lend a hand as we put "the spring crop" out. One broke up the soil, another sprinkled fertilizer and powdered egg and nut shells. A third planted vidalia onion sets and the fourth helped start various seed pots.
All the while, the oldest one, a boy of about twelve, asked questions.
"How do you do get your zucchini plants to work, because ours never made zucchini last year."
"Do you guys have problems with cicadas? We think maybe it's the trees around our house."
"How do you know your sunflowers are the kind that make seeds you can eat? We grew the wrong kind and didn't get any seeds to eat from them."
I prowled around in my seed basket for a pack of sunflower seeds that promised edible-seed sunflowers. We planted six of those sunflower seeds in a little tray of peat pots which I sent along with them as they went racing and laughing home. And, of course, I promised Garden Helper could come and help them when they were ready to put out their own garden.
The edges get softer in all the best ways when you share both the knowledge and the work.


  1. I think you can plant potatoes and sugar snap peas now too.

    I can't stand it. I'm going to have to start planting some seeds. I wasn't going to mess this year, but I think I'll grow some loofah (I have some seeds from a year or two ago) and some gourds. Too fun. Maybe a few tomatoes. I'm really too busy to mess with it, but it's just in my blood.

    Cindy Bee

  2. PS - Thanks for the shout out. I do hope everyone will grow just one edible item this year.