The Benefits of Organic Gardening

It’s alive!

OK, not really. I mean, they are alive, but not in the Frankenstein’s monster kind of way. Just the botany oxygen and carbon dioxide if-you-peel-back-the-bark-and-see-green type of alive.

We have plants. Edible ones. And they’re growing!

Even though our compost wasn’t quite ready yet, we went ahead and started our garden. In a 13-by-13 section of our back yard, near our south-facing neighbor’s fence. My husband dug up four, 5-by-5 plots for planting and a 3-foot cross path. Because I’m involved in this project and me and Murphy’s Law are BFFs (best friend forever…haven’t you seen the AT&T commercial?), naturally the day we picked to start all this was cold and blustery. And of course, I mostly just played with a jolly baby while my husband did all the hard, sweaty work. He loved it and we had a lot of fun watching and waving from a window and occasionally going outside to visit. My inexperience thought this planning, plotting, digging, and planting wouldn’t take any longer than two hours, tops. It’s a lot more hard work than I thought!

When you see a garden of beautiful flowers and yummy vegetables and fruits it’s easy to think only of the pleasant results and ignore how those results came to be. I know I glorified the work and thought oh how much fun it will be to weed and plant and transplant and dig and … get sunburned and bitten by ants and stung by mosquitoes and feel your shirt stick to your back. Somehow, I “forgot” about all those times I was encouraged to go outside and help keep the flowerbeds looking neat while growing up and I hated it. All I could see was the negative side of things. Sticky sap, hot sun, dumb plants. Strangely, somehow I almost enjoy it now.

In early March we planted carrots, garlic, mesclun mix lettuce, cilantro, and garlic. We already had a pumpkin (due to lost seeds somehow mixed in the compost that sprouted. Now there’s a tale: When my husband shoveled out compost to fertilize one of the plots…surprise! There’s already something growing!) and a sweet potato started before we began digging the garden plots. My husband measured and dug the four plots we’d be using for our garden, three non-perennial (annuals and bi-annuals) plots and one perennial, and then laid newspaper down to act as a mulch and …

Monster Garden

You are arrogant.

This definitive statement blesses my email with its twinkling wonder on my cracked smart phone. The note is from my friend, and I should say, my only friend. Please know this about my friend. He is unstable and remarkably simple… bald, full figured, degenerative. His words reflect that, but you might not agree with me-yet. Allow me then to offer some proof.

This is how it is. I have a garden. Pure, simple, bliss. You’ve read the clichés, sun kissed and peaceful. There are no hidden agendas or buried treasures in my garden. I worked with just plants and damp soils that surge up an aroma of sweet serenity. My garden has no monsters like many other gardens do. And my garden has a use. I use my garden as a social affair both while I am in it toiling with regrettable plants and while apart from it, say at the store or church, places where pleasantries overshadow purpose.

“You’re tomatoes are dead,” my friend says while wiping a speck of dirt from his unnaturally clean hands. “You didn’t maintain them or water them. You’re a fool out here. Little wonder your wife is dead.”

“I don’t see the relation between those two things,” I explain slowly so that my friend can absorb the words correctly on the first try. “Besides my wife is not dead, she simply left me. You know this and you know it’s a painful subject.”

“As your only friend, I am telling you plainly-you are lying. Your wife is so dead not even Jesus can bring her back.”

“You’re a terrible friend, why do you keep showing up in my garden. You are worse than my enemy.”

And then, as if a plot point changed gears, in to my garden enters this person who all knows to be my clear enemy in life. I welcome my enemy though. At least I know who is arrayed against me without wavering. If only a friend could be so steadfast. My enemy is discolored in the mind, disquieted in the head, and disfigured in attitude. My enemy promptly tramples my thriving tomatoes spilling out the drenched dirt, still damp from the morning dew.

“Your tomatoes are really dead now!” Laughs my dim friend.

My enemy smiles weakly at me, tapping its chin thoughtfully, its menacing countenance hidden under the guise of humanity.

“Sorry. I didn’t …

Plant a Children's Garden This Spring

My three-year-old daughter wants a garden.

Last summer, she loved helping me water the flowers, and it was a special treat to pick one. (Although, she was just as happy with a dandelion out of the lawn.) This year, she wants to grow her own. The more I think about it, the more excited I am to plant a children's garden.

I don't have a green thumb. But even if the project fails, the basic materials are simple and inexpensive: Seeds, dirt, and water. And, I am not above sneaking out to the garden center one evening for some imposters, if we end up killing everything. Here's my plan for planting a children's garden, plus eight gardening activities your kids will enjoy.

Why plant a children's garden?

If she has her own garden, my daughter will be out in the sunshine, enjoying nature while she learns how it works. The project will last all summer, unlike a trip to an amusement park. And she will have to be patient while her garden is growing.

As my daughter helps water and weed her plants, she'll learn responsibility. She will also learn how to care for something besides herself. And I can't wait to see the smile on her face when her flowers bloom.

Where to plant?

You can plant a children's garden without a flower bed, or even a yard. A long planter on your porch or deck, or a couple big pots inside, are almost as much fun. Check at a garden center to see what kind of plants grow best in the containers you will use. We're going to plant our children's garden in a small flower bed beside the garage.

What to plant?

Pint-sized gardeners do best with plants that have large seeds, sprout quickly, and grow fast. Avoid plants that are fragile, prone to pests, and have thorns. Don't plant anything that is poisonous when eaten, since your kids may not care whether it's meant to be salad.

Besides flowers, your children's garden can include foods your child likes to eat, such as beans, tomatoes, strawberries, or pumpkins. (Okay, kids don't like to eat pumpkin. But they'll like having one for Halloween.) Of course, you have to pick plants that will grow well in your space and light.

Beans have large, fast-sprouting seeds, as do sunflowers. And both are very tough. Kids like to grow big things, …

Adventures in Gardening: Part 6

This is a series. You can read parts 1-5 on my profile page, found here.

Dang! Has it been another two weeks already? There's something about doing a scheduled series that really makes me aware of the passing of time and how quickly the weeks fly by. Summer is winding down already. If I hadn't planned on doing this, I doubt I would have written much at all this summer. I have just been so busy with the garden and house projects. Anyway, enough whining about time and on with the updates for weeks nine and ten:

First of all, like I mentioned last time, our pumpkin plants are having issues. We sprayed them when they were smaller, but I didn't want to spray when I was harvesting the pumpkin blossoms. I was also worried about the bees. Unfortunately, some sort of bug or wilt disease killed about half of our plants. It was so disheartening to go out and see yet another plant just shriveled up and completely dead. It wasn't just a water issue, because one plant would be big and healthy and the one right next to it would be dead.

I finally broke down and let my husband spray Sevin again, at night, when the blossoms were closed. I picked a bunch of blossoms before he sprayed and still had plenty of bees after that. I wish I could avoid chemicals, but sometimes you have to choose between having no produce at all or having some that has been sprayed a little. This was quickly spreading all over the garden. I'm sure there are more natural ways to grow things, but I just don't have the time to commit to that right now. I'm lucky if I get out there once or twice a week other than picking a few things. I think it helped stop the spread of the problem. I really hope I don't lose all the good pumpkins, squash and gourds that are growing. That would be a major bummer. I set out saying that as long as I got some pumpkin blossoms, then I would be happy, but now that I see all the pumpkins and other things growing, I don't want to lose them. Hang in there, plants!

It has been really dry in our area of Northwest Ohio. We hadn't really had to mow the yard in months. The grass …