Sow: perfection is overrated

When we first started the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm, I thought that I had to do everything just right or my garden wouldn’t grow. I tried to mix up the soil and compost just so. I tried to line up the transplants so they would grow neatly and symmetrically. I tried to make sure that the little signs were lovely and durable. I tried to be very organized with my tracking.

Flash forward to Spring 2014. After a very disappointing winter growing season, I didn’t have a lot of patience or time for perfection. I bought mostly seeds, not plants, although I did buy herb and pepper transplants. I bought organic compost from a local Boy Scout named Kyle, not the fancy garden center. And I literally threw seeds into the ground and hoped for the best. Well, I did use a tool called a Garda Dibble which probably helped a lot:

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Garda Dibble: a fun and brightly colored garden tool

 

So how does the Spring 2014 garden grow?

Just fine. Well, better than fine. Our weekend guests from Toronto said how pretty it looked. (That made me very happy.) It is very green and lush, soon to be even more lush after two super ugly north Texas rain storms over the past 5 days.

Best of all, it’s supplying us with veggies a plenty with lots to give away. Our guests enjoyed many yummy meals filled with ultra fresh veggies from a kale/chard salad to spinach omelets to bok choi stir fries. And of course, lots of raw radishes!

Want to see? Here are some of my views from yesterday:

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malabar spinach growing like weeds

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beautiful rosette bok choi with a two radish photobomb

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baby bell pepper, all shiny and new

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more bell peppers, a bit bigger though

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pole beans have doubled in size since last week and are climbing away

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wacky spiky lettuce!

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yesterday’s harvest: bok choi, salad greens, kale, chard, more radishes (although they are almost done), the first jalapeño, spinach. it’s an amazing abundance!

In the fruit department, the little peaches look plentiful. And there are figs happening too! The teeny tiny figs are so small you almost can’t see them. Time to get some bamboo stakes and bird net so I can see some of them through to maturity. And maybe there will be fig jam this fall.

One of my favorite quotes for 2014 is “all great changes are preceded by chaos.” The Spring 2014 garden’s chaos is teaching me an important lesson: not only is it clear that perfection is overrated, but also sometimes what happens is just a happy accident that works out even better than you could have ever imagined. So go with the flow! Here’s to my 2014 goal of more imperfection and more happy accidents because life’s just better when you chill out.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo:

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Gidget enjoying a weekend morning belly rub.

Sow: mort

These days, with North Texas temperatures headed back up to the 100°+ days, early morning is the best time to head out to the raised beds and stock tanks for a little harvesting, cleaning up, watering by hand, and digging before work. It’s getting closer to surface of the sun weather, by next month, it will be here and I’ll be devising shading systems for some of the raised beds. And even at 6 am, it’s still hot. But it’s cooler than at 6 pm so I doused myself with OFF, grabbed my buckets, garden scissors, watering can, and compost bucket and started to get busy.

It’s usually a good time to clear the mind and get focused for the day ahead.

Just not today.

While watering the tomatoes, I found something that made me very sad: a poor bird that looked like it died trapped in a bit of the bird net. The net covers the tomato plants but this bird was on the part on the ground. It’s the part that I pin down to keep the critters out.

I say it looked like it was trapped, because I have a feeling that it was dispatched by one of the Gs, most likely Godiva the Huntress, since she wasn’t coming near me or the garden. It didn’t look crushed or torn, but a little bit flattened, like maybe someone tried to de-squeak it. I’ve found dead birds before, killed by cats or other predators, dead on impact with windows or walls. But this one made me feel terrible as I wondered if the bird net wasn’t there, this little bird would have had a chance.

resting up for tomorrow

resting up for tomorrow

Death was a theme in the garden from that point on. As the weather gets hotter, the lettuce crops are on their way out. I pulled some that was going to seed and began to ready their bed for the fall tomato crop (yes, it’s almost time to start thinking about planting them). I noticed that all of the cucumber plants were toast except one (partially because of not getting watered while we were in Canada). I pulled out the dying and dried up pea plants. I pulled some of the brown bean stalks. I harvested the remainder of the 3rd crop of bok choi and put the stalks in the compost bucket. As the bucket got more full, I felt even more sad.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve gotten really attached to these plants. Yes, of course, I talk to them and encourage them to grow and do their thing. I know they have a lifecycle and that when they reach the end, they have to go to make room for new plants.

Today it was a little like saying goodbye to old friends. The lettuce and all of the leafy greens have done so well for me. They’ve looked so pretty and brightened up the Urban Farm. And for just $2.50 a seed packet, they produced tons of green stuff since January. An excellent return on such a small investment. But they’re done.

today's leafy harvest: bok choi (right), lots of lettuce (left)

today’s leafy harvest: lots of lettuce (left), bok choi (right),

It’s really taking me a while to get used to the garden circle of life. Just when I get used to a rhythm and a routine, something changes. That’s life though.

But in the midst of all of this death, life. A small toad hopped by as I was doing my thing. He startled me out of my funk. I’ll take him as an omen of unexpected goodness to come.

Sow: purple bean dreams

It’s only Thursday. I’ve wanted it to be Friday for three days now. Is that bad?

First of all, I’m not discontented, just really tired. Our lovely stormy weather, lots of physical labor, moving at work, moving stuff at home, dinner guests on Tuesday night, and a variety of other things have made me feel drained. Wiped. Exhausted. More so than I’ve been in a long time. Weird thing is many of my local friends are feeling the same way. Maybe it’s allergies too?

So last night, I went to bed at 9:15. I was done. And I knew bed was the only place I should be. I was asleep pretty much instantly and probably could have slept until 9:15 am or longer this morning. (Hence no post: too tired to form sentences.)

However, my eye’s on a prize that’s keeping me energized: the three day Memorial Day weekend, a three day work week next week, and a four day traveling weekend after that.

I’m giddy about the Memorial Day weekend for more than sleeping. While we have a number of house DIY projects that need to be worked on, three days off from work should give me plenty of time to play in the dirt and enjoy the bounty of the Urban Farm.

Tuesday evening, I saw these babies starting to form:

Purple beans!

Purple beans!

Aren’t they pretty? I love growing stuff I’ve never seen before. They look positively Dr. Seussian. Their flowers are also purple. And yes, the baby beans are very easy to find amongst the green leaves. Like the packet says, they seemed to be easy to grow.

Don’t worry, they turn green when you cook them—but wouldn’t purple beans be a cool thing to eat? Or a mixture of green ones with the purple? Maybe throw in some yellow tomatoes for fun. Or red peppers. You could have a purple veggie plate with eggplant, purple peppers, purple kale, purple cauliflower, purple potatoes, purple carrots, purple beans, and purple tomatoes, garnished with some purple basil. Who wants to come over for that dinner?

So much good stuff is happening — tons to harvest, tons to check. Heck, maybe I’ll even do a little bit tonight. After I ripped out the cilantro that was on its last legs, I picked up some beautiful basil that due to the crazy weather has not yet been planted. The basil I planted with the tomatoes has been dwarfed by the tomato-zillas and now with the bird net up, it’s also harder to get to for a handful. If this new basil grows like the stuff I planted last summer, it’s going to be amazing.

It’s been a scary weather week, but the plants appear to like the extremes. Everything that’s supposed to be green is vibrant. The young veggies seem to double in size every day. And the sun plus the humidity seems to make everything thrive (except for people, who complain about getting soaked when they go outside). It’s a hopeful time and it gives me a boost just thinking about what’s going on.

I leave you another beautiful thought:

Saw this beautiful image on Pinterest.  It is a typeface called Fruitcake designed by Jacqueline Wong

Saw this beautiful image on Pinterest.
It is a typeface called Fruitcake designed by Jacqueline Wong

So: cleaned up

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It’s a dog’s life at the Mortroski Midcentury. Much of this weekend was spent outside, going for long walks, riding in the truck, rolling in the grass and dirt. It did, however culminate in the dreaded Sunday night bath, so there are now three pouty, but clean and fresh smelling hounds in the house. Brushing will commence in the am post walk.

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It was also a weekend for getting things back to what is normal around here. The living/dining room is now fabulous with trim and a new bamboo floor. All it needs is a bit of white paint on the trim and we are done.

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As you can see from Bruce’s photos we are not afraid of color. Yet it’s all working together like we planned it. Ok, Bruce planned it.

Speaking of Bruce, he decided that the composter was not a sufficient birthday gift for me so he got me some trellises that I admired but didn’t buy. I had been talking about them for a while…

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I think the peas and beans will enjoy the pretty trellises and they will add lots of interest to the garden.

I planted the plants that Lisa gave me and shared some of the extras with my neighbor who enjoys gardening. She was pretty excited that I was sharing and I know she’ll take good care of them.

And I got the taxes submitted!

A great weekend all around.

Sow: tomorrow’s planting

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I like red Solo cups. Toby Keith song aside, they remind me of good times with good friends. College parties. Housewarmings. Barbecues. Beach parties. You get the idea.

Well, today I loved those cups and their blue brothers even more. You see my coworker and fellow urban farmer Lisa used them to bring me seedlings!

Lisa repurposed containers from catered work lunches to make mini greenhouses for her seeds and nurtured the baby plants for good long while.

Today, she brought me some of her bounty and made today like Christmas! Or my birthday again (seems to be a 2013 theme)!

Here’s what’s in the red and blue Solo cups:
Spaghetti squash.
Round zucchini.
Yellow crookneck squash.
Black Diamond watermelon.
Thomas Laxton peas.
Pickling cucumber.
Marketmore cucumber.
Straight 8 cucumber.
Tender green bush bean.
Clemson spineless okra.
Burgundy okra.

But best of all, my most favorite veg in the whole wide world: green globe artichoke! Lisa, you are the best!

18 precious seedlings in all. An awesome and thoughtful gift that will hopefully turn into a bounty I can share back with Lisa and her family. Lisa’s as crunchy as me (perhaps even more so) and gently reminded me to please reuse or recycle the cups (party people: always put your recycle bin out when you use these cups).

Don’t worry, it will all get planted tomorrow. And as you can guess, there will be photos of their growth and development.

Stay tuned!

PS: You’ll want to stay tuned to the blog next week. There will be a Bruce guest post, plus I’m going traveling for work, so you never know what will happen next. I certainly don’t.

Sow: flowers

Look! Little yellow blooms!

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They will be delicious tomatoes by June. All the tomato plants even the ones that got frosty and black are getting bushy and taller. And flowers mean it’s time to give them some fertilizer.

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These will be orange pepper flowers soon. Once they bloom, it’s the same fertilizer treatment for the peppers.

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While those leaves don’t have flowers yet, they’ll be quite pretty soon when they’re covered with flowers. The purple pole bean leaves are lovely though.

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The peas are getting big too. They’ll be blooming soon.

And I’m really looking forward to seeing the okra flowers when it gets hot. They are purple and white.

You may have guessed that I’m impatient tonight. We are expecting unsettled weather tonight. Lots of wind and rain. I’m hoping that we don’t get hail.

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Sow: photo essay

Not writing much today because the urban farm looked so pretty this morning. So I captured it for you.

Enjoy the views:

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dePierre spinach (heirloom variety)

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Purple pole bean seedlings

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Spinach

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Arugula flowers

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Mixed lettuce

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Ladybug on chard

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Chard

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Snow peas

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Zucchini

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French breakfast radish

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Gratuitous 3G photo (thanks Bruce)

Sow: spring back?

It’s 58°F at 5:30 pm.

In North Texas, this time of day, not midday, is usually the hottest part of the day. I’m just glad to have the temperatures climb back up to a place closer to where it should be. I’ve been a bit of a nervous wreck worrying about the plants.

The entire Urban Farm stayed covered all of yesterday underneath the frost cloth. Hopefully it was all warm and secure enough.

I’m hoping to see happy tomatoes, basil and peppers when I return home tonight. Bruce uncovered them at midday today since it was still only 35°F when I left for the office. Still, that’s three degrees warmer than when I woke up this morning. Brrr. It’s been toques, snowboarding jackets, and gloves weather since Sunday and it’s felt even colder because it was so warm a bit earlier this month.

I’m also hoping for warmer temperatures that stay around. On Friday, I’m going to be putting down sod in parts of the backyard where we need it. It’s mostly to keep the Gs out of the mud truthfully. Yes, we’re buying grass for the Gs. Well, and me. Despite any required labor on my part, it will be a big timesaver if for nothing else than cutting down on the dog towel laundry. Godiva and George are my worst culprits, although I have caught Guinness trying to sneak back on to the couch muddy.

Tomorrow I’d better do a little reading to remind myself how to plant grass. Don’t worry, I’ve done it before. The first time, however, was a really long time ago. When I was a little girl living in Savannah, our whole family spent a weekend installing plugs of grass in the yard of our new house. In no time at all they spread and we had a nice lawn.

With this North Texas lawn planting, water will be the key. (It seems to be a common theme down here, doesn’t it?) But if we water well, the grass will be established prior to our surface of the sun summer temperatures and will survive.

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April showers?

My fingers are crossed for plenty of April showers, not for the May flowers, but for the plump tomatoes, sweet peas, snappy beans, crunchy peppers, bountiful salads,  juicy peaches and plums, and well-established grass!