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Watching the edible garden grow

Peas I've been spending a lot of time at the worm's eye view, trying to gauge the progress of my garden's growth. From that lowly perspective, I can tell myself that the plants look big. But I worry that they are too small. On the plus side, they are mostly all still green. So that seems like we're heading in the right direction. I remind myself of that first time parent I once was, who would lurk around my sleeping baby, fearing she was sleeping too long. Should I wake her up? Was she even breathing? At least with these little green sprouts, I can't really wake them, nor hopefully do much damage from hovering so. Things we've planted so far: two tomatoes, some basil, lemon cukes, carrots, lettuce, spinach, peas, green beans. Over in the berry patch we've got strawberries, raspberries and blues. We've been taking out lawn over successive weekends to make room for our edible garden. I've got very mixed feelings about having the front yard give way for garden, but alas, it's where the sun is. It must be. Thank goodness for Michael Pollan and Michelle Obama. At least I feel I am in very good company, even though we don't live nearby. I'm trying to make my front yard garden look visually appealing, but also wondering what the neighbors think...

Oregon-strawberries

My strawberries look glorious. Big leafy green plants that have grown oh-so-much taller than when we first planted them last year! And filled with blossoms. I swear, I start to drool just thinking about this crop. Last year's crop was on the "eh" side of things. My berries did not get big and juicy and red like the ones we picked at u-picks. Oh well. If there's one thing the reading of Michael Pollan's Second Nature taught me, it's that gardening is a journey. Some hits, some misses. Lessons learned along the way. Oh, and that carrots need really soft soil -- not at all what we have here in clay-ey Portland. So the ones we planted are half-longs, and I put in a trench of some really soft soil for my row of carrots. I'm not sure why the strawberries are doing so well: right plant in the right place? in-ground composting? A mystery, but one I'm super happy to live with.

Otherwise, watching the garden grow right now is kind of like watching water boil. It does not seem like much is happening. The peas, which I probably got in fairly late, are slowly making their tendrils climb up the trellis. And my green beans, which I probably put in too early, seem to be getting a bit crispy and golden brown around the edges. Perfect for a cookie. Not so much for a green bean.

The coffee grounds seem to be doing their job, as the slugs have not mowed down any of the tender leafy greens. I'm also wondering if an entire ant colony has turned into java junkies, because they are all over our little garden patch, back and forth all day long. The chickens have been around a few times, but so far have not done any damage to our plants. They've left some little presents, er, fertilizer bombs, which I think is totally coo. Of course the kids just love to announce the poops: "Look, pumpkin pooped!' What is the fascination with bowel movements?

The kids helped plant the seeds, and have kept our little seedlings watered. We used our sunny front 'play room' for the first time as a green house, which worked smashingly well. The kids watered to their hearts' content, and most of our seedlings have done great. Except for when impulse control failed them and they plucked the leaves off some. Oh well. We also keep a big bucket under our front hose faucet, as it always drips, and they keep dipping in their little watering cans and have a ball keeping the plants and their feet watered. 

Without really planning to, I became the recipient of some bare roots purple passion asparagus. My husband was all gung-ho on it. Me, sort of passive-aggressive via leaving it in a bucket of composty-water for about a week before planting. A 25-year perennial scares the crap out of me. How can I get married, sign a 30-year mortgage, and have two kids -- but be afraid of the commitment required from a vegetable?

OK. Sorry for the long garden update. One last thing. For the past several years, we and two other neighbors have shared a big truckload of mulch. We went with the same vendor every year. This year we rocked the boat. We and the chicken neighbors felt it was important to be pesticide free, which the other vendor couldn't guarantee. So our two families went with Nature's Needs (note: their website is not responding as I post this). Our other neighbor went with the old vendor. Not sure the whole deal was as economical as in the past. But my oh my, it sure looks like some beautiful black mulch, or 'living compost' as they call it!!

I remember reading somewhere that the small amount of investment one makes in potting soil, seeds or starter plants can reap hundreds (maybe thousands?!?) of pounds of produce. I've never really tried to measure, but I just might this year. Given the crap state of the economy, it'd be rewarding to have some kind of positive kind of return on investment... Have you ever measured the results of your garden's produce? My older daughter thinks we should have a little farm stand at the end of the driveway. Now that's some refreshing, childlike optimism for you. I'm not ready to go that far. We'll just see how it goes... How does your garden grow?

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