Careful watch.

Buddha is happy to remind traipsing bipeds of the budding asparagus.

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Slumber parties.

Their first night in the ground always leaves me apprehensive. Lone beacons of fresh greens in an open plain. The earth is awakening and there are empty bellies roaming.

Their pot homes become cloches. Their new beds make up an anchor for their hats. Sleep well, little starts.

Until the morning…

Now where to plant the 18 or so tomatoes still in pots…

7-11 tomatoes.

They used to be saved Sonic cups. Then we stopped going to Sonic.

They used to not pot up larger than my hoard of 4″ pots. Then we didn’t harvest much.

Last year, I ventured into the nearby 7-11 to buy 24 Big Gulp cups. $2/sleeve and I was set. Then my one baby wrecking crew prevented saving them to this year.

Today:

“Hi, I’d like to buy a sleeve of big gulp cups, please.

– Um. Let me get the woman who can help you…

(It’s the same woman!)

“Oh, hi! We did this last spring, too. I’d like to buy a sleeve of big gulp cups, please. Actually… two sleeves this year.”

First Woman – Can I ask what you do with these?

” I pot up my tomatoes.”

Second Woman – They’re on the house this year. Be sure you bring any extra tomatoes this way. There’s a donation jar for the food bank down the counter if you’re so inclined.

“Will do!”

They were overdue and hungry, hence the yellow here and there. Maybe ten more days, maybe three weeks. Then they’ll be potted up to their necks for the third and final time, getting their roots a good 12-18″ deep to weather our hot, dry summers for a second harvest come fall.

August, nearly gone.

Things I find hard to believe these days:
– August is nearly over
– How mild this summer has been
– How envious (and grateful) I am of (for) other people’s gardens and the fact that they share
– What starting from scratch looks like with this much space

I’m sorry, summer is almost over? When did that happen? And what kind of “summer” has this been for Texas, you ask? A ridiculously mild one. Here’s a graphic from last year around mid-July.
100degrees
Keep in mind, that was mid-August, and by the end of the summer in 2011, we had had a stretch of 100 or more degrees that lasted 27 days, with a total of 90 days over 100 degrees that year.
By the same time in July this year? Zero 100 degree days. It was glorious.

Other people’s gardens (and farms) have been keeping us in delicious squash, peppers, tomatoes, melon, peaches, greens, beets, and various other goodies…like blackberries.
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And so the planning begins in earnest. Trying to recall through the fog left behind by our adorable sleep thief which fall veggies to sow when and wondering if I can push things around to fit into the timeline of still needing to actually build the beds. I pull out my fall garden seeds to see what I want to sow this year. Of course the answer is “all of them.” We’ll see how that goes. Also, I don’t think I can justify buying any fall garden seeds this year…
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But I can read through one of my favorite gardening books while I plan how to maximize space, balanced with aesthetics, keeping in mind that a 5′ wide bed was wider than I could reach to the center of at the last house.
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And try and make it to the library for a book on monarch gardening (unless one of you clever folks knows of a useful website on the topic?) After listening to a piece on the radio about their continued decline due to Round Up (and other chemical) usage on GMO crops in the Midwest taking out their larval food, I’m reminded that not only do I want food for the bees, but for the butterflies as well. I’ve seen a tiger swallow tail or two, and we have about 25 resident dragon flies practicing maneuvers each evening in the backyard, but no Monarchs. We’re in their migratory flight path, and every species I know of likes road trip food. Just because they can’t knock on my door and ask for food doesn’t mean I shouldn’t feed them.

Hopefully there will be some “breaking ground” posts in the next month or so. In the meantime, thanks for keeping up on your own blogs to keep me excited for y’all and inspired for the work to come.

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

Making space

In February of 2011, I cleared out my 100 square foot garden. I ripped the grass, dug three feet down removing weed seeds, grass roots, and June bug larvae. DH built the edging to keep the crawling St. Augustine and Bermuda at bay, anchoring the edging with posts with which to anchor shade cloth and bean string.

In January of 2012, I rented two plots in the local community garden. My 100 square feet in which to garden jumped to 500 over night. By May of this year, I realized that community gardening, or at least gardening with that community, wasn’t for me.

Even with my stark lack of gardening this year so far, dropping from 500 square feet back to 100 was a bit of a blow. So what’s one to do? Whine and lament the attitudes and personalities of those who made it necessary to leave the extra 400 square feet behind? Nah. That doesn’t solve anything. Unless there’s a complaint quota necessary for being human that I don’t know about…it would solve that.

One makes space.

Shannon over at Dirt ‘n Kids has shared her success with a similar climate to mine using Lasagna Gardening. August is not the time to be digging 36″ down through clay and pebbles to make a new bed. I wanted to grow more seedlings of self-saved broccoli seeds (Green Early Heirloom) and Amazing Cauliflower. I wanted to try my hand at some Ruby Moon Hyacinth Beans and Sugar Ann peas. And then…you get the idea.

I dug in the garage for a box. I must’ve had this same urge ages ago when I first stumbled upon Shannon’s blog, because there was a large cardboard box containing untreated brown packing paper, a neighbor’s discarded leaf bag, and smaller segments of lesser-chemical-ed cardboard eagerly awaiting the day.

I needed boards and screws. DH had gathered a neighbor’s discarded decking for my compost bin and had some extra pieces. I found some excess ends of 2″x4″‘s left over from his saw-horse project. Exterior screws were shelved beside the drywall screws, eye hooks, and other fasteners. I had to choose – 1″ 1/4″ dry wall screws or 4″ exterior screws. I knew the 1″ 1/4″ were too short to bite in properly, and may not weather the outdoors very well. I grabbed the 4″ exterior screws.

I didn’t feel like measuring. So many things in life must be weighed and measured, exact and equal. I find gardening to be good practice for my (slightly obsessive) need for accuracy and organization to let go and see that the world doesn’t collapse. The earth and the bugs and the microbes know infinitely more about what they’re doing than I do. The practice of letting them do what they do is soothing in a culture that glorifies busy-ness and demands constant multi-tasking.

I made thicker sides by putting two boards together, locking them in place with cross boards. The 2″x4″s were to serve as the corner anchors. I started the assembly…and learned that while too-short screws don’t work well, neither do too-long screws. I didn’t mind that they stuck out. I rationalized the tops would be great places to lash string ends. What I didn’t know was that a too-long screw won’t pull two boards together, it will leave them with a gap. Frustration set in. I went inside and was done for the day.

Letting the frustration go, armed with my new knowledge, I picked up a box of 2″ exterior screws and went about the business of removing a 4″ screw, replacing it with a 2″ screw, and repeating my way around the box. The boards cinched together and the box was square. I dug four quick holes to sink the corner posts into the earth. One full of pebbles, one blocked by a concrete over-pour, the other two easy. The bed lowered into place, it was ready for soil-making magic.

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I had already saved up some trimmings and egg cartons, some hay and compost. I’d even saved it in layers (you can see it behind the bed frame.) It was as simple as cutting loose a strip of layered goodies, carefully lifting it off the ground, and nestling it in the wooden frame.
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So I’m not sure how much square footage I gained. I’m ok with that. I’m also ok with the fact that the stump of the maple tree we had to cut down in the front yard has finally bit the dust. Giant sponges of carbon to start the fungal map off right made themselves available the very evening I needed them. The creation of a suburban forest floor.

I put up the drill and the skill saw. I wrapped and tied the extension cord. The shovel and buckets in hand, it was time to go in. DH had made some grass-fed burger patties and Cinderella squash discs on the grill.

And there it was. A forgotten carrot lost beneath the returning basil offering up spring’s sowings.
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Nervous…

I sowed squash indoors weeks ago. They bloomed the other day. The Books say it’s ok to plant squash now. The Books are often wrong.

The Books reference zones based on frost dates. Based on frost dates, I should be able to grow anything grown along the valley of the West Coast of the United States. This is not actual truth.

What The Books fail to account for in their Zone System is temperature, and daylight, and precipitation. I can grow many things all winter that would not survive in other areas of the same zone. Why?

Well, for starters, it’s still hitting 100 degrees fahrenheit regularly here in my version of Zone 8a/b. In other areas of Zone 8a/b there are highs in the 70s. They are also dropping into the 49ers at night. Me? Maybe as low as 75 if I’m lucky. My tomatoes are barely alive (mostly due to my frugal watering) while theirs are done (due to their chilly nights.)

Next we have the concept of chill hours. Peaches grow beautifully and plentifully 90 minutes west of here, having just enough chill to fruit. Citrus grow outdoors three hours southeast of here, with the lightest of frosts being the rarest of things. Neither would be happy here.

As for daylight, the fluctuation is just as wide. Summer in Seattle as a child taught me how greatly the curve of the globe changes the daylight in rotation to the sun. The sun sets in June at nearly 11pm. We top out at just after 9pm. Winters in Olympia were miserable for me with the sun setting at 4:30pm. We don’t really set before 6pm.

Never mind the other oh-so-important water. Days with rain here? Maybe a third of the number of days up there. There are irrigation options, but that costs money and doesn’t change the surrounding soil so much.

And not that the Zones claim to say anything about soil, but clay is not clay is not clay. I’ll save that for another day.

So today, I put eight seedlings of squash out. I’m nervous. I held eight back. The Books also say I can sow beets and put out my cauliflower and broccoli starts. I won’t be listening to them on those counts just yet.

And just for fun, some pretty clouds.

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