Well readers, it is above 35 degrees here in Chicago and it is actually sunny on this lovely Mother’s Day Sunday, which means it is now officially time to get started on the garden! YAY! YAY! YAY! One of the things that I love about spring and summer is working in the garden. Yes, we live in the city, so it is small. Yes, we share our yard with other neighbors, so our plot space is even more limited. But that does not stop me from claiming my share of the yard and heading outside to work in the sun and grow some vegetables and herbs that we will enjoy throughout the summer and fall.
Last year, we definitely learned some lessons in our garden — the cucumber plant needed WAAAAY more room than we were initially told. It choked out the smaller pepper plants around it, but when it yielded the cukes, we had a ton. The poblano plant was on steroids. It grew to about 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, but we were blessed with poblanos through almost November. Once that plant started to bloom there was no stopping it. The bell peppers were great, but needed a bit more room, and I was thoroughly unimpressed with where we planted the sage.
Over the winter, Patrick and I have talked casually about how we want to do the garden this year, what we liked about last year and what we would like to change up this year. I’ve consulted one of my most trusted tomes on the subject of gardening in Illinois, the book Month-by-Month Gardening in Illinois by James A. Fizzell, as well as my friend Tina’s blog, Squirrel Accorns. This year, we are going to try square foot gardening, as discussed in the book All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, and talked about by Tina on her blog (see above).
The biggest area that I’m using for our veggies is currently a pretty sad sight….we cleaned out most everything before winter hit, except for one sage plant that I left out of sheer laziness. Ironically, it has started to bloom again, but it’s going to get the chopping block for now. I’m almost embarrassed to share the picture of the current state of the garden, but hey, at least it will be a nice “before” picture. I also plan on turning the soil a bit so it is getting primed the way I’d like it to be and ready to have the new plants dropped in.
See what I mean when I said the last vestiges of winter needed to be cleared? Our shovel has been resting there since snowmageddon hit in February. Before I could even really start to ready my area, which measures about 26″ deep by 14′ long, I had to remove the shovel (better not need that for a long time), pull out the leftover sage plant you can see, yank the weeds out that had already started their infiltration and remove the debris and former little bamboo fencing.
It may not look like much, but that actually took a ton of work, as I also decided to rake the remainder of last year’s mulch to throw away, so the soil will be nicer for planting.
Next up, I had to measure the spot, precisely, for my wood so I can purchase the lumber and create the “outline” for our square foot garden bed. And last, but not least, I got the pitchfork out to dig out and turn over the soil. All of a sudden (or more accurately, after each backbreaking dig into the earth, beautiful, dark soil emerged, practically screaming for new plants.
Halfway point shot — I had to take a break to interrupt a fight between Oscar and a squirrel and decided to get a shot of the contrast…
Oscar was NOT happy that I physically yanked him away from the fence to stop assaulting the squirrel in the next yard. “But mom, that squirrel is public enemy #1!”
Finally, by the time I finished up today, the soil had all been turned, debris and mulch and last year’s sage is GONE, the exact measurements have been taken and I’m ready to hit up the lumber yard for my wood.
And no worries, those bricks are going to be a thing of the past as of tomorrow’s gardening session, too. They’ve been there “outlining” the garden plot against the garage since I moved in and in prior years I’ve just worked with them since I didn’t want to offend anyone by changing something. Unfortunately, the bricks are beyond crumbling, are in horrid shape and have seen the end of their useful purpose. They are also, in my humble opinion, an eyesore. Hence, I’m tossing them.
Many may be wondering what the Hell gardening has to do with me attempting to lose weight and get healthier, which is ultimately the point of this blog, and to me, it’s pretty simple. Gardening is great exercise, you use a ton of muscles, many of which you may not have known existed, and growing your own fruits, veggies and herbs is gratifying and a great way to ensure you eat healthy. One of my favorite things in the summer is a fresh tomato right off the plant from my backyard. Last year’s tomato crops fell pray to a disease, along with most people’s in northern Illinois, so we didn’t get much of them. However, we had a great season for peppers and cucumbers, the herbs were wonderful and aromatic, and the satisfaction that comes from eating something that you grew yourself is pretty amazing. Add in that for me, at least, gardening relieves stress, and it’s a no brainer. I truly enjoy being outside in the summer, eating the food that I’ve grown and hope to post lots more updates here as the weather warms up.