Friday, June 19, 2009

Gardening with Dad

My parents moved several hours south a few years back. They used to live in Portland, so we could get togther quite frequently. Now that they are living in Pennsylvania, I just don't see them as often. Now, while my Dad and I respectively commute home, we have great chats about our gardens.

I've heard about his garden from start to finish and start again over the years. This year, he's had rich soil trucked in from a local mushroom farm (they sell it cheap after growing a batch of mushrooms) to amend his stony clay. He's told me about his garden spacing, how things are too close together, because he doesn't have the heart to thin the baby plants. (I'm not sure if that's learned or genetic, but I have the same soft heart.) He describes how the Scarecrow(R) I got him for Christmas squirts the mourning doves, but isn't set off by the little birds, and how its keeping the pesky but cute cottontail rabbits out of his garden. (Most of the gifts I've given to my folks since they moved south have been from Johnny's; we're lucky to have a generous employee discount.) I get to hear scary stories about the day he almost fainted while cultivating (didn't drink enough water in the heat). I also get to hear about things that make me jealous, like the fact that his tomato plants are already blossoming, or how he had a bumper crop of cucumbers, when I had only a couple of plants survive a rodent invasion on the seeds, which were then weakened by excess rain and little heat.

When I was a kid, my parents had a huge garden. They grew 100 tomato plants, along with cucumbers, peppers, squash, corn (which never survived the relentless Portland raccoons), and other veggies, and my mom spent most of her autumn time canning. It slowly tapered off - from about 1000 square feet, to 750, to 500, to 4 raised beds, to patio tomatoes. In Pennsylvania, my dad has created a fairly large garden (to my mother's chagrin; she thought she was done canning when they moved south, and I had to return a bunch of the stuff she gave me). Gardening keeps my Dad "out of trouble" and very busy. He loves working outdoors and watching things grow and change, as I do, and probably most of you readers, too.

I'm lucky to have my Dad a phone call away. I wish I could see him this weekend, but it's just not in the cards. So I'll give him a call and we'll talk gardening.

Here are some pictures of my own garden this summer. I've been busy the past few weeks, as I'm sure most of you have. I hope you like them!

My garden after tilling in April, photo taken 5/03/09. We spread compost last fall and tilled in even more this spring. Garlic planted last November was left undisturbed in the far left corner. Further back, rhubarb grows and bulbs bloom in the perennial bed.

Irri-Gator irrigation system laid out, tested, and ready to go!

View of garden covered in fabric (from kitchen window, 6/02/09). This was the second go-round of garden fabric; the biodegradable stuff was put down mid-May, and, in some windy, wet weather that followed, pulled up its stakes and blew all over the yard, torn up and inextricably tangled. It went into the compost bin, and I ended up buying rolls of non-biodegradable stuff at Agway, since the biodegradable type was so frustrating to work with.

Garden on June 18th. All seedlings have been put in, and I just need to plant a few other things, some sooner (lettuce, carrots, beets), and some later for fall crops (peas, spinach).

The potatoes seem to be doing quite well in their cans, so far. The cool weather and plentiful rain are helping them grow. Drilling holes for drainage in the cans was a must. I lined them with garden fabric, and added compost, potatoes, more compost, and let them grow. This picture is after they grew about 6-7", and I piled on more bagged Vermont compost. As the plants grow, I'll pile on the compost until it reaches the top of the cans, and the plants will grow out of them. These were planted on Memorial Day (5/25/09), picture taken 6/18/09.

From left to right - the edge of the tomato trellis (a few tiny tomatoes seen next to it; eggplant in that row in the foreground), a row with sweet potatoes in the back (those will be trained to vine toward the onions, rather than the tomatoes; I might even set up a trellis for them), tomatillos in the front, then rows of onions planted in slices in the garden fabric about 8" apart, 6" within each little row, shallots behind the onions, tiny baby leeks behind the shallots. The onions and shallots were planted 5/25/09. Garlic is in the back of the rightmost row, behind more onions. It looks great this year because of the compost we put in last fall - some of the plants are almost 3 feet tall. Scapes will be coming soon! Asparagus flowers in the background, behind the short stone wall. 6/18/09

Bamboo tomato trellis with "ringer" storebought tomato seedlings as well as the small ones I grew myself. Well, the ringers were free or very cheap, and we'll have tomatoes earlier as a result. And, with any luck, the Brandywine one (right side of the trellis) will actually bear fruit before October. Hopefully some July heat will give the smaller plants the boost they'll need - at least we know they're getting plenty of moisture this June! And yes, they probably are planted a little too close together, but I'm crazy for the different heirloom varieties. 6/18/09

Trellises for cucumbers, beans, and squash. Cukes and a couple of melons in the row on the left, beans in the two middle rows (I love my dilly beans!), vining squash in the trellis row on the right, and bush squash in the row to the right of that. Again, they are close together, but some will die. I actually thinned the beans, so, after I determine which cucurbits will actually survive being planted outdoors, I'll thin some of them out. I planted the cukes and squash inside this year, because, in the past, a variety of critters have stolen my seeds. Peppers are planted behind the trellises, closer to the house. The compost bin my husband built from free pallets is on the right in this picture (which is reversed from the rest). In the right foreground is a baby sweet cherry tree. I bought 3 peach trees, 3 cherry trees, and a plum tree (all dwarf trees) from the Arbor Day Society last year, and they all survived the winter; definitely a surprise after a stretch of -20 to -30 degree weather. I'm hoping for fruit within a couple of years, but I'll be patient. Taken 6/18/09.

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there!!


tj said...

...Oh you are so fortunate to have your father. My father died when I was four so I never got to know him nor do I remember him. My inspiration for gardening came from my mother and my strict German grandmother. I've always had a love for gardening and that love applies to lawn, trees, veggies and flowers - it's a never ending process as I'm sure you know that already! lol...

...Your garden and yard looks great! You have everything so organized - I love that. :o) I'm getting ready in a few days to put in my pumpkin patch with Johnny's Seeds of course. ;o)

...Enjoy your Father's Day and blessings too... :o)

Heidi said...

Your garden is VERY impressive Daria and make sure you tell your Dad how much you love him. I too lost my Dad, so you're very lucky to have him with you.

My mother wasn't much of a gardener, but my 93 year old Aunt and I share a special relationship with our gardening exploits. So much fun to share it.

Tim said...

Hooray for some pictures! Now if we could just take a peek at a few from Johnny's garden...

the webmaster at Johnny's Selected Seeds said...

Johnny's pictures are coming - our photographer had surgery but he's getting back up to speed.

Thank you TJ & Heidi - I do know how lucky I am to still have my dad. :) And I appreciate both of your praise. If only my house was half as organized as the garden. And sharing gardening stories is half the fun of gardening!