Gardening is something I started back in 1988 when I lived in Missouri. I used to just plant stuff and it grew. Since moving to Kansas, I have struggled with gardening and growing productive tomatoes. This was the first time I’ve planted tomatoes in April. Look! I have blooms already. I thought this was the trick. Since we’re further south, maybe planting earlier is how to keep the blooms from frying and dropping off. They bloomed early, but eventually, the heat got them anyway. My mom told me that fruit will not set on until the ground reaches like 55 degrees. I always buy indeterminate tomatoes because they will keep blooming. I got quite a few tomatoes early on, but by July it was too hot and the second round of blooms got fried.
In 2015, I tried a new watering system that seemed to improve them a lot. I set up posts, then buried a five gallon pail that I had drilled a bunch of holes into. Then I put up cages made out of old fence and planted the plants near the buckets. Since tomato leaves do not like to be wet, I fill the pails with water about twice a week and this waters the roots of the tomatoes, unless of course it rains. Odd, how they don’t seem to mind rain water. But it does no good to try and reason with a plant. I try to fertilize about once a week and time it with the rain. But when it starts getting so hot and dry as it usually does here in southern Kansas, I put the fertilizer in the bucket when I fill them.
Another thing I learned these last 10 years of trying, is that with gardening, tomatoes are fiends for sunshine. In our back yard, we have cut down four trees and that has really helped as well. Most of them were big old trees that needed to be taken out anyway.
Take a look at one of the BIG tree projects we did last Spring. It was a giant elm tree that was dying and it was in a very tricky place, between the shop, the fence and the house. We had to hire the professionals to come in and take this down. It took them about four hours. I put a ladder up next to the house and positioned my phone on it to do a time lapse photography. I thought it might be kind of cool. The black thing at the top of the screen is the crane. The man in the bucket is attaching chains to huge sections of the tree and cuts. Then the crane swings it over the barn, where a crew had a chipper and they were cleaning up about as fast as they were swinging those branches over there.
So getting back to gardening, another major step I took, was building a raised garden. We made this a few years ago. Yes, Holly and I laid the wall all by ourselves. We had some dirt brought in and Holly and her boyfriend shoveled it in. In the years to follow we have been tilling in peat, cow manure and various kinds of other fertilizers and mulches. When I was tilling it this year, it was the very best I had seen the soil since this thing was started. Just so nice, and not rock hard like it has been.I can do a lot of the weeding sitting on the wall, but I still have to weed between rows a little bit. Gardening in a raised bed also helps a lot with drainage.
Here is my oregano “bush”. We made a separate little place for plants that like to take over. I planted oregano there last year and it survived the winter. I wasn’t aware that oregano was a perennial, but apparently it is. So is sage. Mint is another plant that likes to take over. So I painted a sunflower on a milk can and put my mint in it. I have rosemary and basil plants growing, too. Unfortunately they are not perennials and I have to buy new plants every year. We’ve had some luck with cantaloupe, green beans, and jalapeno peppers, too. Gardening is a lot of trial and error. Some plants will thrive some years and other years not so much. One of the greatest gardening challenges is the weather. Too much rain is almost worse than not enough, because at least you can water the garden yourself if it does not rain. Not enough sun isn’t good, but in July it starts getting pretty hot and the plants don’t like that either.
My cousin, Becky, was my inspiration for a little bird garden. I was amazed at the stuff I had just lying around that I could use to create it. The door came from a house in New Albany, Indiana that Dave’s parents used to live in. He brought it back about 30 years ago and it’s just been collecting dust ever since. So I dug it out and painted it to become a centerpiece. Those birdhouses were taking up space on the deck, so I repainted them and hung them on the fence. The bird feeder is popular with the birds and they like the bird bath, too. This was kind of a dead spot in our yard and just this little bit of work really dressed it up. About once a day those blasted grackles swoop in and terrorize the song birds for a while. They eat the food, too; lots of it. Just part of the price we pay I guess if we want to watch the other birds come around.
But anyway, there is a lot you can do with just a small yard. One’s gardening doesn’t have to be limited to just things people eat. It can include lots of fun things. One of these days I’m going to start working on the front yard and try for Yard of the month, but not today.