Monday, September 1, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Well, Sports fans, today is not your day, because this post has nothing to do with running, but instead focuses on my other hobby: gardening! Yep, no mountain vistas, race reports, or running advice in this one. But this month, not one, but TWO people actually told me they like my gardening pictures on Facebook and since I have been doing a lot more gardening that running this month (I still don't seem to have a single quadricep muscle fiber that is functioning properly!), it seemed like the time was 'ripe' to write a blog about plants!

Mac and I both grew up in the suburbs of L.A. but we both have Iowa farm blood in our heritage and I guess that came out when we were looking for houses. We ended up buying a home on 3.8 acres nine miles from downtown Salem, OR. The house was "top of the line" for 1979 standards, but it hadn't had anything done to it for 25 years and it was a real blast to the past (think orange linoleum, fuzzy and foil wall paper, and mint green toilets!) and needed A LOT of work. Not to mention the yard was totally overgrown. Mac wanted to run away screaming, but I had a vision. That wasn't enough to convince Mac, but the view was.
Kitchen and deck view
In the first year (2005) we tackled the house. Oh my god was there a lot of wall paper stripping that year! But by the following summer we had a deer fence and we started tilling up parts of the upper pasture.
We have a garden...sort of
We had chickens in Portland, but when we moved to the country, we got more!
 Eventually, the ginormous junipers were removed and we did some landscaping.

The pond and steps actually came with the house, we just put in a retaining wall for more grass and added plants.

And the garden got a massive expansion and some raised beds. 

The garden 2012. The cows are on our property but they are not our cows. We just let the neighbor use the pasture. Our beef is truly local!

Which brings us to this year. The garden is a now vegetable breeding monster! I definitely have a love/hate relationship with my garden. I love to see it and I love being out there, but the To Do List often gets overwhelming and ultra training doesn't leave a lot of spare energy. Mac scolds me to have a smaller garden every year so I don't get stressed about it, but it is like telling me 100 milers are too long and I should stick with marathons and 50k's! I mean, look at me; I was gardening before I could even walk! 
11 months old. My Dad was obviously a little excessive in his gardening, too.

Our Garden 2014
Cabbages, kale, tomatoes, peppers eggplants, and two pear trees and amazing (finally!) asparagus
The vine trellis is a monster! That's a rogue squash growing at the front of the cabbage and tomato bed in the bottom right. I have a soft spot for the gourds and squashes- something about the big smooth round fruit starting from just a little seed- so I let a lot of the volunteers live. For some reason, the volunteers always do better than the planted squash. This one has over 20 spaghetti squash on it. I have been giving them to everyone I know! The corn is just above the squash.

The jungle! The corn is all on the right. The sunflower forest and the planed squashes are on the left. These are all volunteer sunflowers! The trellises had a huge climbing rose on them, but it literally stretched the entire 20 feet of the walkway and involved all three arches. It was collapsing them and making it hard to walk down the aisle. I tried to whack it back the last couple of years, but this year it finally came out. There are a couple of new roses planted and then some beans just to fill in.

The bean teepee. Liam asked for a bean teepee this spring. I ignored him because I thought a bean teepee sounded lame. But he kept asking me and my ignoring him didn't make him stop, so he got his bean teepee. His verdict, "It's not very good. It's kind of small." In other words, it's lame. But I have plans for a bean cabin next year!

 The chicken coop. Seriously, this is the most manly thing Mac has ever done. Nine chickens currently call this home.
Some of the girls
"Cukes and Zukes" - I think this one is self-explanatory. My zukes are always out of control. My cukes kind of suck this year. Not sure why, but we aren't hurting for produce! That is a pathetic rose garden behind that. My plan is to raise it up next year and put them in some good soil. Even with amendment, the roses do not do well in our clay soil. Along the fence there are 17 blueberries and 4 grapes (with room for at least two more - the grapes are new this year). The upper left has a bed of strawberries but they also need to be replanted got ripped out this weekend (it is "Labor" Day!) and the strawberries are now thinned and replanted. See what I mean about an overwhelming To Do list. (Notice how there is a wheelbarrow, a pot, a trashcan lid, a stool, etc. in practically every picture - pretty much everything is a work in progress!).

One thing I did get around to this year was further elevating some of the raised beds and fixing up the soil. Ok, mostly Mac did the work, but I supervised! (thanks, Sweetie!) Of course, every gardener knows you are supposed to plant in compost for the best results, but composting is insanely frustrating. Mine pretty much looks like a pile of grass and leaves no matter how long I leave it. But I have had good results with what I call "in situ composting". Just put all the partially composted grass and leaves where you want them to be and cover with some good dirt. You have to plant seeds (not starts) for a season or two, but then you have a bed full of super awesome dirt.
Bed with pathetic compost and the start of the cover dirt layer. That's another rogue spaghetti squash in the upper right!

I just got my winter planting in this bed (and one other) last week. And, yes, I totally planted that broccoli just because it looks so weird! Some of the seeds are already coming up, so hopefully we'll be eating home grown veggies late into the fall.

My garden easily has as many failures as it does successes. Some are out of my control - like the past super cold winter killing the artichokes. Some are mysteries, like the dearth of cucumbers this year. Some like the roses, I know why, but I lack the energy to fix. And sometimes I am just plain stupid! Actually, gardening is kind of like ultra-running in regards to problems! This year's brainfart was my annual flower bed. Why would anyone plant the cosmos in front?? When you are actually looking at the front of this bed (instead of from the side like this photo) you can't even see the nasturtiums and calendulas. I have been growing these plants for at least a decade, so it's not like I didn't know. Even my seven year old son could've told you which of those seeds would get the tallest and which the shortest! But the beauty is that it all starts over next year!

And then just because I don't have enough to do, I have an herb garden behind the garage. All of the woody herbs died (or looked sickly) after our cold winter, so it's got a lot of holes this year. New rosemary, lavender and sage should cover all the bare spots by next year. Besides, even Martha says you should replace your woody herbs every 4-5 years!

The garden is definitely a labor of love. In fact, Liam has said to me,"You love your plants more than your kids!" 

"Yes," I explained to him, "that's because the plants never whine and they only need to be fed once a month." ;)

So I am pretty sure no one will ever ask about my garden again! This past month I have kind of felt like Kyle Skaggs: like I have given up running for farming! But I am way too addicted to running to give it up for good!


Olga said...

I can vouch for your garden insanity, awesome land, and local eating. Oregon is fantastic for that, even with me not having a green thumb, back in those days I would throw some seeds in, forget which ones and where, and stuff grew (and surprised me). But your garden takes a the crop. I only knew one other family up close and personal, back in Portland, Maine (go figure) with 3 acres and that much love. These photos remind me I'd love to visit not for a race, but just for a normal life:) Love your baby picture! Thanks for sharing this post.

Unknown said...

Love it! Keep the garden posts coming. There are definitely similarities between gardening and Ultrarunning.

David @ Captain Speedypants said...

That is an amazing garden. I am so jealous. I live in a Californian desert and it takes extra work and time to get anything to grow.

RTP said...

Your "gardener" dad has not harvested as many as 20 spaghetti squash over the past 2 years....only I was trying to grow them. Hope you won't give them all away before we get up there to claim a couple.

trailmomma said...

I am in love with your property! I wish I had a green thumb! Lord knows I eat enough plant-powered foods!