Monday, September 10, 2007

A Garden Story

Some of my readers have indicated that they weren't familiar with winter gardening. I don't live in a climate where it is normally possible to have an active garden (with a few exceptions) between November and March. I think on average we have our first frost sometime in October give or take, and our last frost is usually around April 14 although we've had a late frost past that in recent years. The photograph above shows one of my newly planted garden boxes. On the left, you can see an orange cord which is actually going into a heating element underneath the soil. I haven't used that in a long time and probably won't but it's there if I need to. The heating element will warm the soil and two of my boxes have those.If you look at the top towards the right of the picture above, you will see a yellow cord which is going into the greenhouse. I can use a small electric heater in the greenhouse and I also have supplemental lighting if I'm starting seedlings for my spring garden, and I want to extend the daylight hours with the fluorescent strips. In terms of what I grow in the boxes in the winter, it's mostly cool season crops and during the day, as long as there is enough sunlight, the boxes get plenty warm. At the end of the day, I can put gallon jugs (I use old milk jugs) filled with very hot water inside the boxes. Then I put their lids on top and the plants are usually warm enough unless we have extreme lows. Usually by February, the plants have had it but by then I've had lots of fresh winter salads. In early March I can use the boxes to start cool weather seedlings. As I've mentioned before, I haven't had a winter garden like this in two years but I'm ready to start back at it. Below I'll talk about my garden past.This year I barely even grew any vegetables during the summer. I planted a few things in the spring but that's it. Above is a photograph of my garden which was taken in 1999 when it was bustling with a food crop. For comparison, below is a picture of my garden around 1994 taken before I had the covered boxes or terraced areas.
When my garden looked like the photograph above, I only grew vegetables during the conventional calendar which would be from around the end of April through the beginning of October. These pictures are all focused on one side of my garden. Below is the other side before I had the boxes. The pictures of my old pre-1994 garden are from when my daughter was still young and my backyard included play ground equipment.Then as she got older, a friend build the boxes, greenhouse, and terraced parts for me and parks and recreation turned into a large garden. The photograph below shows the rectangular shaped boxes built around the swing set and peas and beans can climb up close lines strung up vertically for them.
However, it's been two years since I've had a big vegetable garden. I've continued to grow a few things to eat but I've moved more and more to a wild habitat garden. That brings me to the present. Before I insert pictures of my wild garden, one more shot of of my 1999 garden. If you look on the left of the picture below, the tall tassels belong to my corn rows which provided a ton of corn. I think 2004 was my last year of growing corn. The white PVC pipes supported tomato plants and I've removed most of them, although a few are now covered in burlap which provides me with garden guards, or that's what I think they look like.So zoom ahead to the present and below is spring of 2007 and will give you an idea of what a wild and woolly secret garden I have now in the early growing season. Then below shows the early part of the summer of 2007, and if you look closely you can see the garden guards in their burlap shrouds. At this point everything looks pretty sad after a hot summer and long drought but hopefully next spring will have a resurgence of life. In the meantime I have newly planted boxes for winter salads. The last picture is another summer of 2007 shot and the rudbeckia, echanasia, and coriopsis seeds are everywhere so hopefully there will be a lot of new plants that arise in the spring.So that's my garden story. Some of these photographs may have been posted before but I thought I'd put it all together into one story. It's interesting in a way, to me, that when I was first diagnosed with stage III melanoma, I was determined to have a kick ass garden. I hobbled up the hill during the winter of 2005, after I had my groin lymph node dissection (early March) and started seedlings. I kept everything watered. I did have a so so garden but instead of getting better, I got worse. By the beginning of July 2005, chronic pain and neurological symptoms hit. I've told that story in a bunch of places on my blog. I don't really want to repeat it but anyone who is interested can go the my old post about the aftermath of my LND.
So onward and forward. I have not had a recurrence and I keep going to a bunch of doctors who are helping me as best they can. I'll probably have a medical update soon since all my routine follow up appointments are happening this month. I'm not expecting anything big though which is great. I don't want anything big to happen in terms of my follow up appointments. It's nice to be thinking about my winter garden and not obsessing about all the doctor's appointments.


sue said...

ahhhhh, you did have a manicured lawn at one time..I'm impressed. lol I love your indoor garden..hmm, I may have my husband take a look at all your photos and explanations...we've talked about doing that as well. We have a pumpkin story to tell. We planted pumpkins (Holloween type) in a planter box and it has yielded two small - very small pumpkins..the same as last year. They've had lots of tender, loving care so we don't know what the problem is except they may not like the boxes. The little girl across the street threw some seeds in a flower bed and hasn't thought about them since until now..she has huge, beautiful, I wonder why the difference. It really makes me laugh when my hubby comes in whinning about his pumpkins in comparison to a 6 year olds huge pumpkins. I'm glad you have so much to distract yourself during this time and I can't wait to see the photos of your winter garden.

Keep those photos. sue

Theresa said...

wow!!! Your backyard must bring you so much joy-looking at the pictures I now want to rearrange my whole back yard!

Carver said...

Hi Sue,

Ha ha about the manicured lawn. When the back yard first became more and more garden and less lawn, Judith was in middle school and she said, mom could you at least leave me enough room to toss a ball.

That's odd about the pumpkins. If the boxes are adequately drained and the roots have room to grow, they ought to be ok. Pumpkins like mulch and organic matter (well I don't actually talk to pumpkins but that's my understanding). All I can think of is light, drainage, water, nutrients. Maybe the little girl talks to her pumpkins. Next time your grandchildren visit, why don't you get them to talk to the pumpkins.

Speaking of your grandchildren, I hope you had a good visit. Take care, Carver

Shelby said...

very impressive :)

Shelby said...

very impressive :)

Carver said...

Thanks Shelby. I fear the mess in my garden is pretty impressive much of the time, but I'll try not to go there.

TopVeg said...

That is an interesting story, our gardens so often become part of us. Lovely pictures to show how you have moved along with the life of your garden.
Your winter boxes are clever, we will have to try some this autumn. You make them look not too difficult to make!
Thank you


Carver said...

Hi TopVeg, Thanks for stopping by. The boxes are pretty simple and before they had the permanent sides,they were open and I'd just put plastic sheets over them which I weighted down with rocks. I used the hot water jugs inside and I could grow cool season crops, including broccoli, well after the frost dates. The permanent sides and fitted tops make it possible to grow even longer but the other method works too.

jmb said...

The one thing about a garden is that you can always start all over again. When you are fit and ready you can make it just as you want to.

Carver said...


That is so true. I've always liked fresh starts in general. I think that's one reason I like growing plants from seeds whenever possible. Obviously that's not practical with some slow growing ornamentals but it's fun to see how much growth can come from scratch. Take care, Carver

Toni said...

This is fascinating. I want very much to start a garden but have been somewhat overwhelmed. It seems that each of my attempts have been interrupted by a move. Perhaps something as small as a single box would be a good starting place.

Thank you for sharing!

Carver said...

Hi Toni,

A single box is a great idea. They are much easier to maintain than other forms of gardening.