About this blog

With the generous help of my grandma, I am spending this spring and summer learning how to garden
by plunging in headfirst. This blog is a narrative of my adventures.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Allow Me to Introduce the Cabbage Family

My grandma and I decided early on in this adventure that to make things easier I wouldn't plant absolutely everything from seed. Grandma recommended I purchase cabbage family seedlings (the cabbage family consisting of cabbage, brussels sprouts, brocolli, cauliflower, and a few other things) when the time came (the time being mid-April).

Mid-April came and went and I had no cabbage family seedlings. I finally made it to the Minneapolis farmers market yesterday, and considering it was only the end of April I figured I hadn't done too badly. Except I walked through the entire market twice and no one had any seedlings. One stand had some Asian hot pepper seedlings, but I have enough peppers, thanks.

So today I went to Home Depot and picked up some red cabbage, brussels sprouts, brocolli, and cauliflower seedlings, as well as yellow onion seedlings for good measure. I know what you're thinking. I just put my coolness in a picnic basket and sent it over Minnehaha Falls for typing the words "Home" and "Depot" in the same sentence. But they have great prices and at least I tried the farmers market first.

It will be a few days before I get my cabbages and co. in the ground. I hope they will forgive me for being a little late. And I hope my organic, Seeds of Change plants don't shun them for being from a big box store.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Slow Week

I apologize for the lack of posts lately. I've been busy with work, job interviews, and applications and have been forced to put the garden on a back burner. I hope to get away from the desk more next week. Thanks for your patience.

I do have one bit of news, though. Grandma discovered a row of lettuce growing in the lower garden!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Visualize Whirled Peas

For the first time I am certain something is growing in the lower garden. Something I actually planted, that is. I saw pea sprouts yesterday. You can't mistake a pea for anything else. The "spinach" I saw the other day is beginning to look suspiciously like every other weed and Grandma's been out of town so I can't ask her about it. But the peas--I know those are peas.

I wish I could put into words how rewarding this is. I've been crouching in the garden for weeks, peering at the soil and hoping to see something good rising up from what I sewed. For a number of reasons I won't go into, I've been receiving lessons in patience this year, and for the most part I've been a poor student. It's nice to have a reward every once in a while. Like adorable little pea plants!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Please...Take My Seedlings

I have way more seedlings than I can possibly plant so if you want some, they're yours. I'd feel bad having to kill the little buggers. Even if you don't like eggplants or peppers, they're both beautiful plants, so you can just have them to look at. I've included a description (from the Seeds of Change catalog) for each type of seedling I'm trying to get rid of:

Vittoria eggplant: "Early maturing and productive...purple black, cylindrical fruits with mild flavor and firm texture. Great for slicing and grilling or pan frying."

Rosa Bianca eggplant (heirloom): "A...white and pink blushed Italian variety with a delicate, mild flavor, creamy consistency, and no bitterness. Considered one of the best by gourmets and gardeners alike."

Orion f-1 pepper: "Abundant, large green to red, blocky bells with thick walls...Widely adapted and BLS resistant."

Purple beauty pepper: "...Ready to eat when the fruits turn a stunning, deep purple with a green undertone. Crisp, succulent...thick-walled fruit. Very productive."

Let me know if you want a seedling or two!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Today I raked the rest of the Pro-Mix®, which was most of a bag, into the upper garden plot and smoothed out the soil. Then I got a row of carrots planted at last. I also planted another row of lettuce and spinach since the lettuce and spinach I planted in the lower garden (if it ever comes up) will all be ready at once and this row will provide a second crop.

I don't want to get too excited, but I think I saw two spinach seedlings in the lower garden. But no sign of any peas or lettuce as far as I can tell.

My lonely gardening buddy was back again today. Here's a better picture of him.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Transplantation Day

Yesterday we transplanted most of the seedlings into new containers--the ones I filled with Pro-mix® the other day. There are a few stragglers that don't have their second set of leaves yet, so we left those behind to grow a little more.

It was interesting to see which varieties are thriving and which are struggling. The orion f-1 peppers are growing like crazy. I transplanted them into three containers because they're so healthy. On the other hand, there were only three aconcagua pepper seedlings far enough along to transplant, and several of the ones I didn't move only have one cotyledon, so they won't develop.

It was cold and miserable so I didn't work outside much. My seedlings and I were both grateful for the greenhouse.

Monday, April 16, 2012


My neighbors' poor tulips after the storm.
Last night we got a magnificent thunderstorm, delivering much needed rain, along with a pummeling for defenseless plants. A few tornadoes even touched down west of here. I wasn't too worried since the only plants I have above ground so far are in the greenhouse, and the rain was a good thing.

This morning I looked out and had to blink a few times because, even though I've lived in Minnesota my whole life and shouldn't be shocked to see anything falling from the sky, I wasn't expecting to see snow. SNOW. Sometimes I wonder why I live in this state. We've had the balmiest of springs and now on April 16th it snows. Well, you know what karma is.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Preparing the Upper Garden

I don't know if I've made this clear in previous posts, but I'm really working with two gardens: the fenced-in plot where the lettuce, spinach and peas are supposedly growing (though there's no sign of them yet) and a smaller plot at the top of the hill in the middle of some annual flowers, herbs, and ornamental trees. The peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes will go in the upper garden because Grandma has always planted them there and they seem to like it. I hope to get some carrots in here as well before too long.

The newly spaded upper garden.
Today I got to do some of the spading I had been hoping for. It wasn't feasible for me to tackle the lower garden since the prairie had overtaken it so thoroughly, but the top of the hill was in good enough shape for me to spade by hand. I turned the soil in preparation for the seedlings which are still growing in the greenhouse.

Speaking of those seedlings, I got them all ready for transplantation too. Grandma showed me how that's done, the most important part being that one should always handle a seedling by the cotyledon (the primary leaf), never by the stem. And she uses a chopstick to finagle the roots out until it comes up.

We didn't do any transplanting yet because most of the seedlings aren't quite ready. But I filled containers with Pro-mix® and put them in a water-filled tray so they're set to go as soon as the seedlings are.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Nasal Woes

I had planned on planting carrots today but I have a cold and, while I feel fine, I can't be more than an arm's length away from a Kleenex box. The carrots will have to wait. Check back in a few days when I'm free from my bondage.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Watering Day

It turns out those promising seedlings I found yesterday are in fact not lettuce. They're "way too enthusiastic" according to my grandma. So it looks like nothing has sprouted yet. I hoed away at a few grasses and things that are clearly not plants I want, avoiding what I hope are my rows.

Since we haven't had rain for a while, the garden needed watering. Because it's situated at the bottom of a hill it stays well irrigated and I didn't have to dig very deep to find damp soil, but it's been a dry spring.

During my work today a very persistent song sparrow (I think) accompanied me with a lovely tune. He was singing from the same spot last week too. Must be lonely. I hope he finds his girl soon.

By the way, I've made it easier to subscribe to posts, if you'll be so good as to check out the subscription bar on the right-hand side. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Today I learned what happens when you don't mark your rows. Being without row markers when I planted my lettuce, spinach, and peas, I blithely assumed that my faulty memory and the disturbed ground would be enough to tell me where everything was.

I went to the garden to see if anything had sprouted and discovered that not only had the rows of uplifted earth settled to look just like the surrounding soil, but also all kinds of random bits of grass and other weeds had begun to sprout, disguising any desirable vegetables that might be growing among them. I know what creeping charlie and dandelions look like, but I don't trust myself to distinguish rouge de grenoblouse lettuce from crab grass.

Several of these guys (at right) were growing in a sort of row-like fashion and look to be the right color, so I'm hoping this is lettuce. I might have seen some spinach too, but that's just a guess. Grandma wasn't home, and I seem to turn as helpless as a beached jellyfish without her, so I'll have to wait until she's around to identify things for certain.

On a more positive note, the peppers and eggplants continue to grow like weeds, but happily, they're not weeds at all.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Imposters

Happy Easter!

I haven't actually been over to the garden for a few days, but my grandma told me at our Easter family gathering today that the first seedlings to sprout (those cute little guys you saw in the picture in my last post) were not peppers at all, but weeds. I probably should have realized this immediately since they were growing in a clump rather than the rows in which I planted them, but I guess I just assumed I dropped a few seeds too close to each other. No matter. The actual aconcagua peppers are sprouting, along with both eggplant varieties, the orion f-1 peppers, and even our "mixed pepper" container, which is planted with a variety of mostly hot pepper seeds that Grandma had left over from previous planting years. We weren't sure those would sprout at all, but they seem to be holding their own.

So all is well in the garden today, despite the weeds' brief movement to occupy the strawberry containers.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Early Pictures

You guys are due for some pictures, so I took a few shots today. On the right are the strawberry containers with pepper and eggplant seeds. Grandma says this is the best way to start the warmer season plants. They're on a heating mat in the greenhouse right now. The reason we haven't started tomatoes is because Grandma gets those from the Edina Garden Club (or something like that) so I didn't buy any.
Here are the aconcagua pepper seedlings, a "non-bell sweet pepper" that is "mildly peppery at both the immature green and ripe yellow stages," according to Seeds of Change, which is where I bought my seeds this year.
Below is what the garden looks like from the top of the hill. That's where I planted the peas, lettuce and spinach yesterday and where most of the other crops will go. The eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes will be in a separate, open garden at the top of the hill.

And this is the inside. It's not much to look at yet. We're saving the aspens in the corner and hoping the weedkiller takes care of the mulberries and the box elders. That strange greenish mound in the middle is a currant bush. But everything else is soil just waiting for seeds.
My next set of pictures should be more appetizing, or at least less brown.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The First Planting

It was a big day in the garden.

Some friends of the family who have a landscaping business, Mike and his son Dylan, came over on Sunday and tilled about two thirds of the garden, only skipping the areas covered by quaking aspens and currant bushes, which are somehow still alive after being half suffocated by prairie grasses. This left me with ample space to plant today. But first I had to make sure the weeds wouldn't storm the place.

Grandma mixed up the weedkiller, which neither of us was thrilled about using, but without it I would be fighting a losing battle. I sprayed the perimeter and a few stubborn patches of grass and some box elders within the garden. The sprayer wasn't very happy about the whole situation either and leaked all over my hand, but my skin hasn't turned strange colors so I think I'll be fine.

After that unpleasantness I got to plant the first seeds in the ground--lettuce, spinach, and peas. I think I completely messed up the spacing of the lettuce seeds because the instructions on the package confused me and Grandma wasn't nearby, but I figure the rabbits will sort that out for me by eating the majority of it. They have no idea the fence around the garden was put up to keep them out, not to give them a cozy place to live.

The spinach and the peas went in just fine, but Grandma didn't have any row markers so I have to remember where I put everything until I can pick up something to mark them with.

On a different note, some of the seedlings in the strawberry containers are beginning to come up. One little vittoria eggplant and a few aconcagua peppers are sprouting.

Now we watch the seedlings until they need to be transplanted, and keep an eye on the weeds...and the wascally wabbits.