July 24, 2008

Not Bad for a First Time Gardener


I've had some requests for updates to the garden. "How does your garden grow?" Remember those sprouting baby seedlings I showed you last time? So I thought I would share the latest back-yard views that are making the bees around the block very happy folk indeed. My son has come to know all the bugs intimately and we are enjoying the Texas Bug Book and The Natural World of Bugs and Insects as field guides for getting to know our garden foes and friends. So far the delicate balance of bumble-land has not been upset (although there have been some close calls near the cucumber vines). We all love wandering in the yard, observing the plants and critters, but we know when to leave well alone.


My husband's pet has been the corn. He wanted to plant the whole durn thing in corn. He would have if I would have let him. He got so excited recently when the tips started breaking out of the tops of the stalks. I have yet to see any evidence of an ear of corn, but I have found quite a few freeloading caterpillars.


Interestingly, we found a few bean blooms the other day while inspecting the vines. They are aiming for the clouds and had us feeling rather useless after building the trellis screens only 4 feet tall. No beans to speak of yet, but a few pretty purple black eyed pea blooms are hiding under the foliage. We planted blackbeans, too. I haven't seen blooms on those, but they are markedly taller.


Ah, the king of the garden. My precious first tomato. I'm so excited to bring it in and eat it that I can hardly watch it grow. We have six tomato plants that we got from Wal-Mart when they were yellow and half-dead. A little Miracle Grow, some good dirt, and water has been a real blessing. Not to mention that we pray for the garden all the time.


Beside the towering tomato plants is a tiny plant that is not even half the size of his cousins. We took some juice and seed from a cherry tomato we ate at dinner out to the garden one night after our planting spree began. We burried it right off the chopping block and look at it now! Dinner for one night has become a plant that will hopefully supply many dinners in the future with juicy-sweet red tomatoes. We did the same with some bell peppers and the baby seedlings are in the garden near the squash. My next dinner table/chopping block addition is going to be the pablano peppers we ate a few days ago. We have seeds on the window sill waiting for transplant.


The chocolate mint and oregano are doing swell. The heat nearly killed the mint off after we brought it home and transplanted it in to the flower bed near our Vitex tree. It has come back thriving. It tastes so dreamy I have been itching to find some recipes to use it in. The oregano beside it (to the right) was planted as seed in a clay pot and transplanted to the flower bed. I'm going to keep adding herbs every time I can get them to sprout. We haven't had as much luck with seeding things as we would have hoped... but we are praying that September's plantings will be more bountiful.


The kids are dying to pick this big guy. Since I took this photo - in what seems like just one day - the largest cucumber we have so far (the one pictured) has nearly doubled in size. We planted about ten cucumber seeds and they have nearly taken over the entire garden along with their watermelon cousins. I am not sure what seedlings came up under the cucumber leaves, but they have smothered them out, whatever they were. I think they might have been the lettuce and pablano seedlings. I vastly underestimated how much room they were going to need. Cucumbers are a bed-hog. Next year, I'm planting them along the fence!


Another interesting plant is the squash. It is much more cordial about sharing space. It has let the watermelon vine run through it and hasn't minded much. Since I took this photo we noticed a 2-inch dark green zucchini growing amidst the yellow trumpets of blooms. Finally - a reason for the kids to eat squash! I wish I had taken a photo of the sprawling watermelon vine. We have at least ten melons begining to bud. One is the size of a quarter and looks so cute with its little white stripes. It has taken up the most space of all the plants... and the neighbors might even get a few watermelons if it keeps creeping through the fence and their dog doesn't kill it.


Every garden needs a focal point. Ours has a few. Some of my favorite things in the back yard include this interesting cedar stump that holds a few plants in pots as if begging for more water on their behalf. Most of the pots are just in transition, but we like the way they look there. I think I'll get some prettier pots and maybe plant some pot-loving plants in the stump to stay. Eventually I'm going to put this handsome fellow in a xeriscape bed with river rocks and drought-resistant grasses, native desert trees and cactus.


By far the most busy and frequent visitor we have is the carpenter bee. I hope he's not burrowing in our house somewhere. I sure enjoy watching him munch on the lavender plumes of our Vitex (Chaste Tree). He has pretty much left us and the cucumber blossoms alone. The unidentified solid black bees have been the ones that stay in the cucumber forest. They are not near as friendly as their relatives.


I haven't been quick enough to catch our feathered friends in flight with the camera just yet. However, if you asked me what my favorite part of gardening has been, I would have to say that feeding the humming birds has been on the top 3. We have at least four or five locals that visit every day. Green mostly. They check the three feeders we have regularly. Kevin even saw one of them get a drink of water in the sky from the water hose as he sprayed one morning and came back inside laughing to tell us about it. They are a most entertaining garden friend. I will be sad when they go away. (note: see the jealous dying grass in the background?)


The garden sure has made us smile. Kaden said that it has "brought him so much joy". No science experiment I could have ever come up with would have compared to God's own handiwork. Getting down in the dirt and watching seeds become a masterpiece of green scuplted treasure in the southern sunshine has been educational therapy for our souls. There is just nothing quite like it. I think every kid should have a garden experience - even if it is in containers on the balcony of an apartment in the concrete jungle of a big city!

So concludes our garden tour. Whew - we should go back inside in the air-conditioning. I'll be glad when these 90-100 degree days come to an end and the September through December garden season begins! Here in Texas we have a nice fall garden stretch. I'm sure my tomato plants will be pumping out red goodness all the way up to Christmas!

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Dianne - Bunny Trails said...

Wow, Heather, that is so cool! Your garden has just done phenomenally well. That's so exciting. My son really wanted to plant a garden this year, but we thought we'd be moved long ago, so I didn't want to start anything here. If we get this house, there's a big corner already fenced off for a garden, though. :D

Congrats & enjoy!!

Anonymous said...

Um, I think that plant next to your chocolate mint is basil, or at least that's what my basil looks like ;o), give the leaf a rub and see!
Your garden looks amazing, I must admit I have a little "warm climate" envy, we're up in Canada, and watermelons just don't make it most years up here, and tomatoes don't have enough time to grow from seed outside in a single season, lots of seed starting inside in April.
Looks great! Enjoy all the fresh food.
Kayla - a homeschooling mom in the great white north

Shell in your Pocket said...

I love you blog and garden We are new to gardening too but yours looks professional! I am new to blogging at

Donna-Jean Breckenridge said...

Beautiful pictures! I really enjoyed them.

Erin said...

These are delightful photos! I just love gardening, and looking at what others have done with their own gardens.

My favorite line was your bit about the jealous, dying grass in the background. The game changes once you've got veggies and flowers to tend to doesn't it? Take a back seat there, ya ol' grass!

And I agree with you that gardening and homeschooling go hand in hand. Just can't beat the outdoor classroom.

Anonymous said...

Heather -- Your garden looks great!!! Very nice!!!

I have problems loading your page so I won't try and post comments in two places.. wanted to also say that I love the pop between the colors of the weave art and the wall, too.

God bless,

TexasTanya said...

I'm so jealous! Wanna come make a garden for me? :)

Sprittibee said...

Dianne - Yeah, I highly suggest the garden when you move.

Happymama - YES you are right. It is basil! Silly me. We planted it in a pot with 5 different seeds and had no idea what it was. Thanks for telling us!

Mom of three - Thanks! I'm blushing. If you are new to blogging, come by and listen to our Blogging for Dummies session on Friday at the Homeschool Conference!

Donna Jean - THANKS!

Erin - :) Thanks Erin! Yes, that grass is just annoying now. I'd rather my whole yard be path and boxes! Outdoors rocks.

Sallie - :) So you like my blue, eh?

Tanya - I bet you wouldn't want to know how much money we spent to put this garden in. Let me just tell you it is the most expensive veggies I'll ever eat!



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