On Tuesday, while outside tending to the yard as Spence and Juni played some ball on his lunch break, my sister in Seattle sent me a picture. I couldn't help but make a PicFrame comparison.
With spring practically here in Tallahassee, I was reminded as to how lucky us Floridians are this time of year! So, in solidarity of my Florida born sis-turned-Washington-snow-bunny, I decided it was time to embrace the season and turn those veggie beds.
This, of course, required a visit to the lovely local garden shop, Native Nurseries.
This store is like a little emerald gem tucked behind some old growth oaks and towering pines, with hidden pathways filled with tons of treasures to seek out: colorful songbirds, the random water fountain, mossy bench swings, ivy covered cement gnomes. It really is quite heavenly and a great place for the young and old imagination to run wild.
Juni loved showing off her bird watching skills. She correctly identified a mocking bird, male cardinal and black-capped chickadee! I think I even spotted a yellow tanger. Having those bird feeders on the front porch really has paid off in more ways than one.
After playing a bit of real life "Secret Garden", Juni and I got down to business – that, being picking out some baby veg plants, finding some low priced tomato cages (because I learned from last spring's "stake mistake"), and shoveling fresh dirt. I was so thrilled to hear from some fellow front yard gardening friends that a hearty peet and mushroom compost mix could be purchased for $1.50/5 gallon bucket! While the price tag was prime, the best part of the dirt was how you got to shovel it yourself.
After some sweat inducing dirt shoveling we were set. We got 25 gallons of dirt, two cherry tomato plants, two red bell pepper plants, one Black Beauty eggplant, a dill plant, three cucumber plants, and two tomato cages – all for $35! We will easily get 3 times that (if not more) worth in produce from these crops so I was delighted. Especially those cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers, and cucumbers. I can't wait!
So there you have our spring and summer crop set up. Our kale and chard are still going strong so I left those for now. Our last broccoli plant from the winter is seeding and I'm going to take a jab at seed saving!
Leaving those few plants be, I went about weeding the beds which took some time as Florida betony wrecked havoc on two of the three beds this winter. I had no idea what the weed was until it showed up in our herb bed and, oh boy, did I have my work cut out for me. When people suggest putting down a good barrier layer of cardboard, don't just assume you can put down a thin layer of cut-up brown paper grocery bags. It won't work. Speaking from experience here! Florida betony is a tuber, so even if you pull the weed, if you don't pull the tuber that is buried deep underground, weeds will continue to keep popping up in growing numbers. It's also referred to as rattlesnake weed because the tubers look like a ghostly white rattlesnake tail. It's a member of the mint family and, like all mint, is incredibly invasive which is why many suggest never planting mint in the ground but in a container, instead.
Lucky for us, Florida betony is a winter weed so it won't bother our beds over the spring and summer. After talking with the folks at the garden shop, I've decided to wait to put down a fresh barrier layer until I plant the fall garden. That will entail shoveling out all the dirt from the affected beds, putting down a new layer, then shoveling the dirt back in. In keeping with organic gardening and not using chemicals to control weeds, I'm hoping this will keep the betony in check next winter.
The shop had some lovely brightly colored vinyl coated tomato cages that I was just swooning over but at $18 a pop, I just couldn't justify it when the unpainted ones were $5 each and I had a can of spray paint at home. So there ya go: the layman's painted tomato cage. I have no idea how these are going to hold up but at $5 each, I won't be heart broken if they will need to be repainted for next spring.
I learned a few lessons from last spring's garden that I carried with me for this spring. 1) Two tomato plants right next to each other is not a good idea because these plants get huge. Solution: One cherry tomato plant per box, in the middle. 2) Tomato stakes are good for stability, not so good for containing the plant in a small area. Solution: Cages. 3) We don't eat enough zucchini to justify growing it. They also take up a lot of space. Solution: Don't plant it and just buy it local when we need it, which isn't often. 4) We don't eat enough eggplant to justify three plants of it. Solution: Plant one eggplant. 4) Organic red bell peppers and cucumbers are expensive and if they were more readily available, we'd eat both more often. Solution: Grow them!
I can't believe the spring equinox is next week! I'm sad to see the cooler days behind us but I look forward to the open windows, backyard bonfires, return of our hummingbird friends, and watching Juni run through the sprinkles.