Try as I might…

I cannot make spinach happy. I try sowing it in the fall with the chard and kale…nope. I try with the winter lettuce. I try with the spring beans. It doesn’t take. I still try, but have nearly started to think of spinach seeds as a soil amendment.

And then there’s this guy. This guy can came up in the shade of a Thai basil and I didn’t even notice him until the basil wilted in a freeze months ago. Since then he’s grown, greened up, and gained a richness to his sheen.
image

I last sowed spinach in this bed two autumns past.

And they say seeds don’t last long!

A royal surprise…

I’ve been waiting, less than patiently, for months. Any progress? Any change? ANYTHING?

Then, three days ago, DH calls to me from outside, “Honey, you need to come here!” (I can’t tell from his tone if he’s found something really cool in an on-purpose way, or something really cool in a strangely-unexpected way.) I go outside.

He’s not by the main garden bed. He’s not by the compost or pomegranate or mulberry. He’s back by the grills (yes, two) standing in a large puddle of water.

“Did something burst?” I ask.
“No no, I was just watering. Look over there,” he soothes with a nod to the back corner bed.

Before I’m even there I can see what it’s going to be… Broccoli peek

Singing with color, prancing in illuminated drops of water, the broccoli has made broccoli. Purple broccoli

Even the little runt of the bed is basking in the sunlight. Little broccoli

I hope they’ve survived the freezing rain we had yesterday under their blanket! Tomorrow will warm up enough to uncover them and survey the damage.

DH has been busy(/ier)

A bit ago, a house in our neighborhood got a new deck. Their old deck wasn’t so old, and yet was left completely disassembled on the curb for pick-up. Well, DH didn’t mind lending a hand to the collection crew that week and picked it up.

What does one do with old decking? Apparently, so many things.

Work station
You set up a work station in the beautiful weather.

Wire
You might even unmake my unsightly “compost bin” (also known as “that ring of fencing in the middle of the backyard held in place by two stumps.”) No worries. I can reuse the fencing as trellis later in the season.

Compost bin
And make a more incognito one…

Composting
And even turn the compost, fill the bin, water it, and top it with leaves!

I often say aloud in the real world how very lucky and spoiled I am, and I do mean it. In so many ways, I am spoiled rotten and ever so grateful for DH.

And then, he keeps going…
New garden bed

And going!
Second new garden bed

A new compost bin and two new garden beds…I am even more excited for spring than I was before. Especially since his construction came out a lot sturdier (and more square) than my lasagna bed I built. Now if only I could decide where to put the new beds, or if I’d remembered to bring home some cardboard…

Tools Needed:
Box of screws
Free decking
Saw
Drill
Measuring tape

Bill the Sunbird

Bill, the lime tree, comes inside each winter. Most years, he serves double duty as Christmas Tree and air freshener. This year my folks gifted us with a noble fir from their neck o’ the woods and Bill was off the hook.

He spends his winter days dropping leaves and making buds. I don’t know enough about lime trees to know if this is normal behavior or not, but it’s worked for him these past years. He’s a Persian Lime, so his fruit is less tart than some varieties, larger than store limes, and on occasion it is sweet enough to simply eat. Usually we relish his hard work by adding it to drinks (fresh juice, sparkling water) or squeezing it atop Pad Thai or grilled chicken.

He is still working on one final lime from the fall season, and has gone bananas (or would it be limes?) getting ready for this year.

Lime nectar

Each flower bud starts ever so shy and tiny and then swells like a popcorn kernel. Before bursting forth into a five-pointed snowy star, a single droplet of nectar forms to attract any willing pollinators.

The nectar shines in the sunlight with hope and promise.
Bill nectar

Although with no pollinators in the house, I’m not sure it’s a necessary function for harvest as he has already set a few dozen limes and more buds are breaking.

What, if anything, do you bring indoors for the winter months?

Beginning…

Folks are posting this week on the theme of beginnings. Anywhere their minds may wander from there is allowable. The word “beginning” sure lends itself to mind-wandering on my part…or perhaps that’s the ninja dance party in my belly these days causing the wandering…

It is the beginning of a new year, after all, and the beginning of a new season’s garden plotting. The mail box has shifted from holiday cards to seed catalogs. My drool-inducers have shifted from mac ‘n cheese to photograph after photograph of plant porn. (Ok, I lied, I will still drool over homemade mac n’ cheese…) My dining room table has let go of the wrapping paper and ribbon station and moved on to the inventorying of current stock.

The beginning ebbs and flows. Is the beginning the seed catalogs arriving? Or when I begin drafting on graph paper? Or when I pour the seed starter from the bag into the trays and smooth out the surface?

For today, let’s say the beginning is pulling out my seed stock and reacquainting myself with old favorites and rekindling excitement over new experiments to come.
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Things I learned from this beginning? For still not liking to eat tomatoes (I try to like them every year, I do!) I sure have a lot of tomato seeds…*cough* twenty-three varieties…*cough*

A winter’s promise.

The same day we put in the starts, we kept going. I couldn’t very well leave more than half of a newly turned bed empty! Now there are a lot of options out there for labeling your plants, marking your rows, and otherwise organizing what-went-where in such a manner that you can recall what’s what when it comes time to evaluate who is a Re-do and who is a Poo-poo for next year. My favorite methods are generally simple, geometric, alphabetical, cheap, and biodegradable. If you didn’t guess already – I use sticks.

Why, what do you use?

Stick borders
Sticks marking out different planting areas for different seeds to be sown.

A lot of my gardening enjoyment comes from this very stage of the process. Sprout identification is fun for me. As soon as the first sprig of green appears, I’m guessing what it is and holding tight to the knowledge in my memory banks from past sowings. Part of it is pure nerdy pleasure, and part of it is not wanting to pull a “weed” that would actually be a beautiful, productive, or otherwise enjoyable volunteer. That, and surprises and mysteries are fun!

Lettuce mob
A mob of lettuce sprouts. I sowed maybe…five? varieties of lettuce this year. Some Cimmaron, some Little Gem, some others I’ll remember when they grow bigger…

Peas
There’s no mistaking a pea sprout for much of anything else. I’m holding hope they won’t die in a frost (or be nibbled) before finding the daylight required for a full-on growth spurt, but I’m also mentally prepared to resow during the “proper” time window awhile into the calendar yet.

Carrots
This year I’m attempting to follow conventional wisdom in more ways that rows. “Over-sow and thin” has always felt odd to me. A loss of preciously saved seed. A death of little plants that could grow into food. A waste.
After as many feast or famine years as I’ve had with carrots and lettuce, I’m giving it a go this spring. We’ll see how I feel when it comes time to actually thin them though…

Yarrow
The yarrow is alive! This is my third attempt to time sowing (and remember to water properly) to get these stinkers to sprout. Yarrow is supposed to be a wonderful attraction for beneficial insects, and I’ve sown a decent patch of two varieties smack dab in the middle of the bed.

Beets
I’ve honestly lost track of how old these beets are. I think they were softball-sized last spring? We’re harvesting the greens at this point, the beets having loooong ago gone woody. I’m curious when they’ll finally go to seed…

Beet
In the meantime, I have more (purchased) beet seeds making elegantly hued sprouts a few steps away.

Broccoli
And I think more broccoli…or it could be cauliflower. My brain has lost track of that memory and I don’t yet have the knowledge bank to differentiate between the two sprouts…if there even is a way.

What seeds are you sowing (or going to sow) for your first spring garden bites?

The difference a month makes.

With DH’s urging and assistance, we hit up our favorite local garden center (Green and Growing) for some winter starts. In past years, I’ve tried starting these myself in June, indoors, to have ready to put out in the fall. This year…was not so much a gardening year. No such starts were started.

We picked up five broccoli, five purple cabbage, five “dino” kale, five red chard, and five golden chard. We also picked up some onion starts, strawberries, thyme, and parsley.

In they went!
Greens
Left to right – golden chard and Tuscan kale (DH calls it dino kale), and red chard. If you look closely, you’ll see the garlic starts (volunteers salvaged from spring’s lazy leftovers) between each plant. Don’t mind the weed whacker’s contribution to mulching…

Cabbage and broccoli
Purple cabbage and broccoli. I don’t often do actual rows of things. This year for some reason, I thought I’d go a little more conventional in arrangement to show off the colors. (And then the broccoli rebelled and wouldn’t fit in a row.)

Then it froze, hard, and we covered everyone up. The sun returned, the sprinkler was reset to a weekly cycle (we’re still on restrictions – once a week maximum), and the holidays came and went.

Golden chard
Red chard and tuscan kale
Cabbage
Broccoli three

The garlic is more noticeable now and we may start nibbling on some greens soon.