Slugs in June.

“I’ll make you a deal,” I plead, cheerful optimism forced upon each syllable. “You go to sleep and stay asleep before the sun sets so I can have some garden time, and I’ll give you three extra kisses.”

It’s dim, but not dark. Just before eight o’clock. I rush outside. I want to dig the rest of the garlic before it rots where it’s buried. I see an ant sipping the wine of the Mexican Oregano.

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The fading light leaves a squash blossom alit.

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I check on the carrots, long shaded by last year’s hidden sweet potatoes.

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And the leek’s getaway is complete.

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I hear the backdoor creak open. My heart sinks.

“He’s asking for you. Do you want me to bring him down or do you want to go back up?”

I go back up. The irrational emotions flare with each step. I take a deep breath, lower my shoulders, and swallow them down until I’ve softened.

It’s nearly nine o’clock. I haven’t finished my dinner. I nearly sprint out the door, snatch up my trowel, and make a bee line for the garlic. Surrounded by liquefied chard leaves the garlic is doing its best to thwart the hunger that crawls around it, along it, but hopefully not through it.

I send the blade deep into the soil and pry. Each root gives one by one and at once. The soil clings heavy. The roots ching greedily. Tap, tap, tap – some falls. I drape the shoot over the edge of the bed and move on. Another. Slice. Pry. Tap.Tap.Tap. Drape. Again.

The pill bugs scatter. The slugs hold tight. An earthworm seemingly launches from the earth and frantically races toward blind freedom. I watch it a moment. Dropping soil gently down its length, I bury it.

It’s dark now. Ration has yet to return. Dinner is three hours cold. I’m depleted. Unable to find enjoyment in the moments of daylight spent outdoors, alone, I step past the dinner bowl discarded to feed others, tend to others, love on others.

An apple, a knife, and a jar of peanut butter usually does the trick. Here’s hoping.

A leek’s scape escaping.

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A leek’s scape escaping!

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Beans have been busier than the bees.

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Serranos sliding into first in the pepper bed.

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Lemon trumpets over bolted parsley.

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Curious lavender looking into the path.

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To find…carrots! My carrot sowing helper was quite zealous in her seed sprinkling.

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I hope to have a copious amount of coriander soon.

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Let the window ripening begin for the year!

Sideways shift.

My main duty these days is laying on my side and not doing things. At least two more weeks of cooking are ideal and my body and this baby appear to be plotting their own plan.

A slow soak of sunshine is necessary to keep the stir-crazies at bay, during which I plot my tender snail’s pace loop about the gardens.

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Somethings are larger than they appear…

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And sometimes I’m glad I have more weeds.

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The carrots are looking more carroty.

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The garlic are a tangled tussle.

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This leek came up all on its own. Having never successfully sown leeks, I can only marvel at its persistence in overcoming my interference.

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A kind neighbor gifted us some fig twigs.

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And in their ancient wisdom (the seeds are well over five years old and have yet to survive my best attempts) the Alyssum has joined the party.

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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…

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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?

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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Summer hasn’t quit yet.

The peppers have slowed down, but aren’t done yet. Just the other day a purple bell pepper joined some carrots and other veggies for a lunch saute.

In making room for new fall veggies, it was time to pull some old timers.

Of course, once I sowed the next round of carrots, it started raining. Forget rain dances, if you need it to rain at your house just have me over to sow some carrot seeds! (The last four times I’ve sown carrots now, it’s rained long and hard within days.)

I didn’t pull all of the carrots though. Some are still small enough to make a late appearance on my plate, and others I’ve let go wild to both see what happens and collect seed. Like these two: