As much as I love the outdoors and gardening, I don’t have the greenest of thumbs. I think this is partially because I haven’t ever lived with one garden long enough to really build the soil up, figure out what does and doesn’t work and learn about the particular region I'm in. It doesn’t stop me from trying, and this being the second summer with our garden I must say I’m rather proud of the progress we’ve made in two years’ time.
Our first backyard project upon moving in was building two raised beds in one corner of the yard. We used blueprints from an old book I found in a garage sale, the idea being that the beds can be easily moved (once the soil is removed) by just taking out the anchoring rebar. I was very disappointed in last year’s harvest (the cucumbers and sweet potatoes did well with all the rain, but the tomatoes hardly fruited and the beans and peas fizzled out early in the season), so we’re holding our thumbs and so far, so good. As luck would have it we came by some horse manure to till in with our compost, and the tomato blossoms bring me hope of mozzarella/basil/tomato tarts and tomato-bocconcini-basil sandwiches. Two healthy strawberry plants but no fruit, cilantro that for the second year in a row has gone directly to seed and a first sowing of sweet potatoes that never came up have me shaking my head, but the snap peas – oh, the snap peas have climbed the trellis and wanted more, so I gave them rope to hang themselves on and now the boys and I have something to snack on every day in the garden. The vitelotte potatoes are looking solid, the summer squash is already taking over, and the cucumbers and herbs are hanging in there. Oh, and the tomato I planted a tad too early that got scorched by frost, well it has bounced back and is the bushiest of the six plants.
One project this year was to convert a pallet into a wall garden. The salad I planted in the bed last year gave up way too early due to a combination of heat and digging squirrels, and our peppers never matured as they were destroyed by the squirrels my neighbor feeds. So far the pallet garden has proved to be an improvement, as we’ve been harvesting salad and spinach since our visitors were in town a month ago and it's only now going to seed. The green peppers are progressing nicely as well, and the only trick is to keep everything watered, as the soil dries out quicker than the raised beds.
The blueberry bushes survived the winter nicely, and we ate our first raspberries last Wednesday. It looks as if the black currant will still not produce fruit this year but I think it takes several years to mature, and although the plant is self-pollinating it has not yet produced blossoms. We tucked a blackberry in next to the house, just to see what it will do; there are dozens of places wild blackberries grow here in the Upstate, but most of them are roadside, trailside or in right-of-ways where herbicides are used regularly.
The rosemary and Anna’s lavender survived another season, but neither is thriving as I had hoped. My lovely neighbor has gifted me iris bulbs for the second year in a row that she has separated from her garden, and last year’s plants already flowered this spring – magnificent purple blossoms that have explained why Southerners tend towards irises and daffodils over tulips. My beautiful red tulips were predated this past winter, and those that the squirrels missed never flowered; I’m not sure if it’s the soil or the sunlight, but the irises are thriving in the same conditions.
The two chrysanthemums which returned with such vigor last spring weren’t hardy enough to make it through this winter’s temperatures, but the lily of the valley I planted two years ago finally made an appearance this spring, although it didn’t bloom. The mint my friend Sarmīte's mother planted for me is doing well, despite the various disruptions including two-legged (Mikus and Lauris), four-wheeled (the little John Deere the boys tear around with) and the shovel-bearing kind (Roberts in a well-meaning attempt to rid the garden of monkey grass). For now that monkey grass is the last thing standing between the mini-garden and wood chips, so it gets to stay…
Finally, a mystery. Upon moving in I was happy to find a muscadine growing along the back fence, similar to the scuppernong we had in our previous Greenville home. However it never fruited last summer, and upon doing some research I found that there are male, female and self-pollinating plants. My neighbor had a mature plant that produced like crazy, but she couldn’t reach the berries and so it happened that I did the picking in exchange for jars with freshly made jam. When she decided in the fall that she wanted to grow something else in that location I was over in a flash to help her dig it up, and we made space beside what I had decided was the male plant in our backyard. I must not have gotten enough of a root ball though, because the transplant landed on this winter’s casualty list. We’ve put in a supposed “self-pollinator” but now I ask you (because google images has been of very little help), if those aren’t immature grapes pictured above, what are they???? And they occur on both plants, the (supposed) male and the new addition!
Even as I’m working on growing a garden outdoors, I’m growing something else… we’re waiting on our newest addition this August. Roberts has promised me a girl, and I’m dreaming of my little “eggplant” even as I’m tucking marigolds into the flower beds. A thank you to Inese and Arianna for noticing last week :) I’m nervous entering my third trimester, mostly at how I’ll handle the Southern heat, but as we’re so busy with everything going on this time of year the pregnancy so far has seemed to flash by. And if it’s a boy? Well, I know several moms of three (and even four!) boys that survived – without losing their sanity….