Are you familiar with "the grass is always greener" syndrome? Where we think someone else is having a better time elsewhere and we make ourselves miserable by constantly thinking about the unknown in an endless quest to find happiness? Well, that was my gardening experience last season. I'd lie awake at night torturing myself over what I should do next and feeling as though I'd wasted my time and energy not doing something better. I had to consistently remind myself that...
The grass is never greener on the other side of the fence, and as many will tell you, sometimes there is not even any grass. The grass is only greener where you water it.
If you happened to follow my few posts from last season, you know that this was also a huge problem for me literally. It was HOT last year, and making sure the garden got enough water became a major challenge. I found myself constantly envious of the other beautiful plots in our DUG community, none of whom had started from seed but instead used starter plants.
Yesterday, determined to make this years garden a success, I decided it was time to turn over the soil and puts some seeds and starters in the ground--my first time using starter plants! I did some reading, again, to make sure I turned over the soil correctly and was laying fresh top soil and fertilizer on the plot. I found myself at Home Depot buying Sheep and Peat, organic seeds for cilantro, spinach, carrots, beets, and eggplant (which I either have been able to previously grow without a starter or are supposed to be easy to start from seed), as well as starter plants for Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and basil.
When we arrived at the garden it appeared as though no one had been there yet this season. I'd assumed I was late planting and decided to get to work on my plot anyways.
My boyfriend and I did some proper maintenance on the plot getting rid of rocks, weeds, and grass (and I joked that so far it looked better than anyone else's). We'd turned over all of the soil and chopped it up before adding several bags of compost and Sheep and Peat and raking it to create a mixture with the soil. To make sure all the hard work we'd done didn't just blow away we wanted to water the plot and ensure it stayed. I went over to the closest hose only to realize that the water for the DUG hasn't been turned on yet. So, ironically, today I sit and pray for rain while the starter plants hang out on my office balcony. I'm waiting to hear from the garden manager about when the water will be turned on...
If gardening has taught me anything it's patience, but I'm so anxious to get started this year!!! I'm brought back to a sense of time pressure and urgency because I feel like I'm already running out of time and should be doing something greater or somehow I'll fail. For now, all I can do is find peace in the sights, smells, and sounds of my plot, take each day as it comes, and most of all, stop thinking the grass is greener, because it never really is.
Total Expense So Far: $65
Seeds, Starters, Compost: $30
DUG plot: $35
Our potager has had me underwhelmed this season. I like the challenge of trying new things and wondering whether it's going to work for me or not. So far, this growing season proves to not be working for me. However, I am trying to take this experience in full to learn something from it. As Bean and I began, we had to learn how to coordinate our schedules for watering and weeding. The heat quickly escalated, growing more intense every day and we floundered a bit. This showed in our garden, surprise, surprise.
In terms of planting seeds properly, we did do a better job than I did last year. Last year, I simply threw seeds in the ground, watered every day and waited for something, anything, to sprout--this proved to be extremely fruitful despite my complete lack of knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, this year, any plants that did sprout soon wilted and died due to heat exhaustion, the number one weather-related killer in the United Sates. Disappointment followed. So, while I was away for a weekend in June, Bean attemped to replant. Mannie, who I'd consider to be the most experienced gardner in our Sandoval DUG community, was keeping an eye on Bean as she was replanting. He approached her, hunched over, digging in the dirt and asked, "What are you trying to do?"
I laughed when Bean told me this as he might as well have said, "Novice, much?" He ended up helping us out quite a bit. I returned to the garden to find walkways and more clear distinctions of what was planted where. Out of everything we'd initially planted, the sunflowers, cilantro, beets, rainbow chard, radishes, carrots and jalepenos are growing. Bean planted more beets, and put a tomato plant in a neighboring pot. But, nothing is flourishing near as much as it did last year. To compare, by this time last year, I had so many beets and carrots I didn't know what to do with them. Right now, I can count on two hands how many beets and carrots are in the ground, and they don't even look good enough to take a picture of.
A cantaloupe plant, perhaps? Eggplant? We just don't know. Occasionally this summer, in watchfulness, the thought has crossed my mind, "Is this more work than it's worth? Am I even going to gain anything from this growing season?" Watering and wondering this morning, something brought an immediate smile to my face: a bright green jalepeno.
I was reminded me of a quote my Mom used to tell me, a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." Although it's been months, and only a few jalepeno's and tomatoes have been eaten, I've learned each year in the garden is surprisingly different and growing pains can be painful.
As the Pointer Sisters exclaimed, I'm so excited and I just can't hide it! Last Saturday, April 28th, was the Sandoval DUG's opening work day and meet and greet. As always, there is a lot of excitement in and around the garden, and I'm thrilled to become more involved in this great community. As I expressed in my last post, what became apparently obvious to me about gardening is how it is such a community driven effort, meant to be shared. Since last years plot far exceeded my growing expectations, I have recruited the help of my dear and lovely friend, Stephanie Clark of Lale Floral Designs. Steph, who I fondly refer to as "Bean" partially because she looks like a beautiful string bean, helped me a bit last year, but I am stoked to be sharing my plot with her this year. Steph not only has what I like to call fabulous native instinct but a keen eye for design, and has been gung-ho about our little love plot! Saturday we eliminated weeds and got the soil ready for flowers and vegetables by putting down some organic compost. I was ecstatic to have such a hard worker bee by my side and immediately felt more prepared than last year--neighboring gardner's also commented on this...
Here Steph stands, carrot in hand! I couldn't believed it survived the winter! There was also a patch of red chard hanging around from last season.
Both of us being busy and blossoming entrepreneurs, simply finding a time to buy seeds was hard. We finally found ourselves a two hour time slot from 8-10PM last Thursday, however the only place open for seed-buying was Home Depot. Not our ideal seed-buying location, but beggars can't be choosers. We started gathering seed packets before I realized none of the packets we were picking were organic, a priority for edible consumption. Bean stopped what she was doing and helped me search for organic--the only organic brand around happened to be one of my mothers very favorite brands, Martha Stewart. We went a little crazy, and then narrowed down our choices:
Today we plant. Stay tuned...
Total Expense: $67
DUG plot: $35
Well, what do ya know? It's officially been 4 months since my last post--understandably so considering some fantastic changes have taken place. In July, my plants had just begun to really show growth. I wasn't sure what to expect, in my garden and in terms of where I wanted to take my business. I was having so much fun in my garden I hardly wanted any responsibility outside of myself. By the end of July I was continuing to see personal clients but decided to pick up a fun and simple job at the Savory Spice Shop to further expand my palette and make some extra cash. Besides sneezing a lot, I learned a lot, and my cooking definitely improved! My favorite spice quickly became Za'atar, with it's main ingredient being sumac berries, a reddish hairy fruit belonging to a small tree of the cashew family, which are ground into a powder and used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Za'atar is amazing on everything--from mixing with olive oil and dipping with bread (gluten free, of course!), to scrambled eggs, kebobs, or sauteed dark leafies. However, I wasn't at the spice shop for more than a month before I was hired at The Healing Center as the nutritionist on staff.
Very quickly, I was thrust out of the garden and into the work force. An exciting, yet different, change, and I did miss my garden a lot--and ohhh how quickly it grew, especially considering how close together everything was planted and the sparce amounts of love it received. My garden was so plentiful I could barely believe it--and the berries! They just kept coming and coming--raspberries and spectacular blackberries; I even made a few blackberry peach pies!
Above is a picture of my final harvest--chard, beets, carrots, and some way too early composted tomatoes :) AND there was so much more to gather, only further proving that an inexperienced underachiever can even grow a garden and reap it's harvest. I had more kale and more beets than I knew what to do with. By the end of the summer I was practically gagging on kale I'd been eating so much of it, and I'll just say it's a good thing I really love beets!!
Working a plot is not a one person job, which isn't to say that one person can't do it alone; but, in terms of planning, tending, harvesting, and (most importantly) EATING!---it's more enjoyable with company, whether that be with family, friends, or a loved one, because a garden requires a lot of love.
Above is a picture of my infamous kale chips, made with the help of Savory's Supreme Shallot Salt--nom nom nom nom nom!!! Many thanks to all of you who helped me with my first garden plot, I certainly couldn't have done it without you!! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Fortunately, every day over the 4th of July weekend I was able to make it to my garden to water and weed. For the holiday weekend, I did some camping in Nederland and visited friends in Aspen but was happy to come home to Denver in-between stays elsewhere to nurture my roots. Wanting to eat my very own vegetables, I grew anxious and I actually started talking to my plants, also nuzzling them gently with my fingers, encouraging them to grow...
By Tuesday I could barely stand it any longer and (lacking motivation to go to the grocery store) I decided that while the kale could probably use more time, some of it could definitely be up-rooted and eaten! I know I am going to have so much of it, I don't see any harm in having some early.
Looking around my plot I noticed several lady bugs basking/ nibbling on my cilantro. I started to weed the four plentiful patches of cilantro and realized most of it looked ready, some of it was even going to start flowering soon. In the past week I picked approximately three cups worth, there is so much ready still and lots more still growing. Over this past weekend, while browsing a bookstore in Highlands, I learned that cilantro works to reduce bad insects (like the Colorado potato beetle) in your garden and attract beneficial ones when planted near other vegetables. I haven't read any information on how to pick cilantro--I know it's supposed to be clipped just above where the stems join together, but not sure if this is because it regrows?
My trips to the garden this past week have been brief--a little watering (it's been raining every day here), with a little bit of weeding. I realized I accidentally weeded the zinnia's and that my could-be-eggplant was just a weed. I finally weeded the broccoli only to uncover a Rolly Polly Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, I don't think the broccoli is doing so well; it really doesn't look so hot and is always sagging on the ground. The bees are no longer attracted to it either. Yesterday I put some square wiring up around it so hopefully it stays tall and reduces my knack for constantly breaking the broccoli stems. I am fervently waiting for the carrots and the beets to grow, and I rest in trepidation of making a salad with beet greens, which I very well could do and know that I should. While beets are growing underground, you have the ability to trim the leaves growing above ground; these are edible and often used in salads or smoothies, and the beets will continue to grow underground unharmed.
But most of my time at the garden has been spent picking raspberries... Last week I filled 3+ mason jars with golden and rose raspberries. The raspberry bushes are community bushes, there are maybe six of them and they are rather large, bordering four plots alongside the metal fence that harbors all the plots. Yet no one seems to be picking any of them?! It appears as though people are simply skimming raspberries off the tops of the bushes, and when I get down on my hands and knees, push my way into the bushes, raspberries gracefully shake right off its limbs. There are so many raspberries they are even going bad--and there are more coming! Honestly, I'd never heard of or seen golden raspberries before, and I had to google them to find out if they were real or I was just eating un-ripe fruit. I thought they had to be real because, to me, they taste just like Colorado's best honey-wine. I do believe I'm in love.
So what did I do with my produce? I crafted a few new recipes. I gotta admit, it's been awhile since I've really been in the kitchen cooking dinner. Summer seems to be a time where I'm camping a lot, which means I'm grilling a lot (even if I'm not camping), and it also seems people like to go out to eat more during the summer--you can sit on patios and drink white wine ;) Anyway, I always try to use as many of my ingredients as possible in one dish. Sometimes this works better than other times, but it certainly forces you to get creative in the kitchen. This week I made a few different dishes... All of these speak true to my personality, I hope you like them as much as I do! Click on the title for the actual recipe.
Raspberry and chipotle is a scintillating combo! This recipe is gluten-free, vegan, quick & easy, and packed with fiber and antioxidants!
This delicious summer dish is gluten free, optionally dairy free, and perfect for a rainy summer brunch!
Unfortunately my camera pooped out for this one! This is a great rendition of your average, boring sloppy joe with healthy, zesty, mayo-free coleslaw. This recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free and the coleslaw is vegan.
Happy 4th of July weekend y'all! PHEW! It's been nearly a month since my last post and a lot has happened--I turned in my thesis on Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and shortly after I graduated from the Nutrition Therapy Institute. I gave myself a significant brain-break afterwards, but spent quite a few hours bent over getting sun-burned weeding! I had no idea that there would be soo many weeds!!! A lot has changed in my DUG in the past month.
My folks came out for my graduation ceremony June 17th and I thought, instead of doing touristy things we've already done, we'd have some family fun time weeding my garden. My garden desperately needed my attention and, perhaps selfishly, I wanted all the extra hands I could get! My folks and I rode some of Denver's shared B-Cycle's over to the garden from downtown--they were not amused when we arrived 4 miles later to find an overgrown plot that my Mom was convinced needed to be roto-tilled and started over. I was offended. Yes--lots of weeds, but I could see some vegetables in there. Below you can what a weed patch my plot developed into; you can also see the nice clean plots just beaming perfection behind mine :)
MAmy (Amy & Mom squished together) and I spent maybe 30 minutes working on the area most clearly recognizable and developed (the kale/ chard) before it started raining. I let her use my gloves and I got my hands in the dirt. I felt like we put a good dent in the plot; I felt good about our time there. Clearing away that much space made me feel like I could successfully weed the whole plot and find hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered. I had a better idea and feel of what was a weed and what wasn't. Well the garden really exploded within the next week. By June 26th everything shot up at least twice its height and I ended up spending a good 5-6 hours tearing weeds up and getting dirty with the rolly polly's! I had a blast discovering what was underneath--cilantro, broccoli, carrots, beets, butter-head lettuce, and (maybe) eggplant. I also found some sunflowers. I think I weeded the zinnia's and unfortunately no peppers sprouted. However, I am currently swimming in vegetables.
Three days later...
Tonight there was even more growth and it was even more amazing to me. I find myself gushing over the plants like pets. I'm honestly worried about going out of town for the next four days. I'll have a chance to water every day but I think it's going to be time to harvest some of the kale and definitely the cilantro! Out of everything growing, I've become the most sensual with the cilantro; I absolutely love the smell of it on my fingertips. The carrots seem to have a ways to go, as well as the beets. For me, something seemingly wonderful out of all this is how many bees are attracted to the broccoli--they're broccoli-philic bees! There are more bees gathering pollen from my broccoli alone than everywhere else in the garden combined.
Everything is really close together still, but whenever I have tried to move things they don't end up surviving. I feel like it will be important to pull up whatever is ready as soon as it's ready. I don't even know how I'll go about determining if the broccoli is ready or not... I hope I'll know when I see it.
--Kate, friend of the bees :bz
Last Friday was my 25th birthday and I spent it farmer's market shopping and hiking Mt. Sanita's in Boulder. I'd never been to the Boulder's Farmer's Market before, and I have to admit, it's probably one of the best I've ever been to--Iowa City, IA's still holds first place in my book (although it's been a few years since I've been). There seemed to be an overabundant amount of fresh produce and I found myself praising the heavens above for the ungodly amount of gluten-free options; I was thoroughly impressed to say the least! It seems that Boulder greatly caters to the gluten-free community. Anyway, I sampled a lot of goodies, but only brought home some Papperdelle's GF lemon-parsley trumpet pasta! Pappaerdelle's is actually a Denver based company that I heard of for the first time last summer at the Lafayette Peach Festival, however they didn't start making gluten-free pasta until very recently.
I haven't had a chance to try it yet; Denver weather has been hot and sticky so I stuck to some cooling foods over the weekend, but check back this week for a Lemon Parsley Pasta recipe with Capers & Kale in White Wine Sauce...
By the end of my birthday weekend, I knew the garden would be in dire need of water. I honestly didn't expect to see much more growth happen this week and wasn't overly excited to visit, but I trolled over anyway to fulfill my communal responsibility. The whole plot just popped right up, even despite much water this humid week. I'm pretty positive some neighbor gardener's were courteous enough as to water it a couple times during the week, but it looks nuts--especially when compared to all of my neighbor's orderly plots. I am the only plot that started from seed, and the results are prolific in comparison. It will certainly be a challenge to sort through the weeds and root systems if I wait much longer, but it's super sweet to be able to see the veggies in the making! Things are starting to look like they should!!!
Pictured to the left are three shots of broccoli, which has (again) significantly grown even more since last week. I was surprised to find how deeply rooted the broccoli already is after pulling up a single bunch. As with everything else in the plot, I'm going to have to do some serious sorting between sprouts and weeds. It's all kind of tangled up together, and as a novice gardener, I really have no idea what is actually a weed. That being said, it's a good thing the plants are starting to develop their personal traits.
As I was brushing through the broccoli I discovered some small beetles eating at the broccoli leaves... I need to look up and see what kind of beetle it is so I know how to prevent it--Anyone know what kind of insect it is and how to stop it? I haven't really given any consideration to pest control....
This week I finish up my thesis on Autoimmune Thyroid Disease, so garden time will be sparse. The following weekend my folks come into town and I can't wait to show them my endeavors--I'm sure my mom will have some constructive criticism for me... Hopefully I'll have a weeding knife before then. :)
Check out the pictures below--you can see chard, two different kinds of kale, and the cilantro all metamorphosing....
I'm about one third of the way through the growing process--I planted most of my seeds three weeks ago, followed by a rather brash and fervent decision to double up and plant more a week later. Moral of the story? Be sure to check the package to determine how many plants should go in each garden square--gardening book basics say to divide a 4x4 plot into 16 squares, each one square foot in measure. I'm going to have so many vegetables I won't know what to do with them!
Check out my brocco-rabe-sprouts (pictured below)! It looks like a clover patch, don't you think? These babies were planted in a significantly sized trench right in the middle of the plot, mid-two-week torrential rain pour. I was honestly concerned about the broccoli, but obviously they must have just loved it! I have more broccoli than anything else in the garden--however the entire plot is sprout-popping! I even removed the stones I laid down last week to find things pop'n up underneath where I hadn't planted anything. It's my belief the rain moved things around a bit as well...
I decided to read up--Every garden book advises to start "small," but small is never defined exactly. I planted ten different kinds of vegetables, two herbs and three types of flowers... I don't know if this is small or not, but you can tell (from the second to last picture of kale/ chard) just how many sproutlings are successfully stretching for sunshine. Apparently, according to Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work, it's important to follow guidelines on not only how many plants should go in each square, but also important to follow guides on how far apart each plant needs to be from others. For example, since broccoli and peppers should be planted 12 inches apart, you should just plant one packet of seeds in the center of one square. Carrots should be planted three inches apart, so you may plant 16 (four rows across by four down), all three inches apart from each other and 1 1/2 inches from the edges.
Guess what? I don't really even know if I have rows anymore--everything is haphazardly strewn about the plot. The top left picture I believe are pepper sprouts, and below that you can see my kale/ chard mezcla. I believe the purple sprouts are the blue kale and the focused green, crunchy-looking-leaf is chard... Additionally, I have no idea what is actually a vegetable/ flower sprout and what is a weed! I think the picture of the sunflower I took two weeks ago is actually a weed... How will I know how to keep my plot neat and clean?
Perhaps one might say my plot lacks direction, yet I am happy. I'm giving a new meaning to the term "garden-variety."
Yesterday the sun finally showed its face and has decided to stick around since... Denver's nearly two weeklong cloudburst even elicited a few tornado warnings. Tornado warnings out here have always confused me--I feel like we get them a lot (at least a lot more than when I lived in Iowa, and I had my roof taken off while I lived there!), yet I've only seen one big funnel cloud over Coors field a year or so ago. In any regard, I rather thoroughly enjoy downpours, as any midwest-raised gal should, but I started to wonder if it was ever going to cease. Torrential rain like we've had is so rare for Colorado, and I was worried all my little seeds and sprouts would get washed away since last week I eagerly laid down some new seeds and re-planted a bunch of similar varieties right smack-dab in the middle of the two-week deluge.
Specifically I was concerned about the broccoli rabe I planted in a pretty deep trench; I was afraid a pool of water just sat on top of the seeds for the past seven days and drowned them out. Surprised, I came to find the brocco-sprouts (pictured top left) flourishing more than anything else! Below the brocco-sprouts you can see the beets are popping up too! You can also see some carrots sprouting behind the beets (they're the unfocused green sprouts). Perhaps the weather man was right--it was a perfect week for planting and growth.
Obviously, I'm excited. Broccoli and beets are probably my most favorite vegetables. That being said, I don't think I ever ate broccoli until 2008, and I'd never even tried a beet before 2009. Around the same time I started studying nutrition, I also started working as an Administrative Assistant and Admissions Representative for the Nutrition Therapy Institute. Not too long after I started this job, the cooking school hosted a staff appreciation lunch. I can't remember exactly what was served, but I remember sitting elbow-to-elbow at this big, round table cautiously eyeing and being leery of the beet salad. Sitting to my left was one of the cooking schools' chefs, and throughout the whole lunch her toddler bounced quietly on her lap, dominating a large bowl of cooked beets, giving a new meaning to face and finger painting. The little tyke inspired me and in the two years since, I'd like to say I've become quite the beet connoisseur. I love raw beets, roasted beets, steamed beets, boiled beets, any kind of beet! IMHO, it's a really under-appreciated vegetable and ends up in the same recipe over and over again (beet salad with balsamic-vinegarette, topped with warmed goat cheese). It's my belief this stems from the fact that most people aren't sure what to do with beets. I'm not going to lie, when I started buying them I was really intimidated by them--I had no idea what to do with them and they would sit in my fridge and go bad. Sound familiar? Check out one of my favorite websites for information on how to cook beets and read about how amazing they are in the cellular detoxification process. This week I also made an outstanding vegetarian summer salad with some baby beets (I modified the recipe, of course).
Anyway, back to the garden! Below is a picture of my kale and/ or chard sprouts--I'm not really sure which it is as I ended up accidentally putting kale seeds on top of already planted chard seeds and vice versa. As you can see from the picture (as well as the picture of the broccoli), it's going to get clustered, fast. I think I am going to have to do some sorting and re-planting once everything really starts coming in; whoops! Again this weekend I thought I might plant the tentative tomato plants. Alas, I have too much work to do and it's not going to happen. I did get some pretty rad gardening gloves in preparation for it though, AND, in the middle of the plot, I did lay down two round, unfortunate-looking, brick stepping stones that were just hanging around the community shed (one of them is actually split in half--so you could totally say three stepping stones). I like it. It takes me back and makes me feel like a little girl trying to be cool, just like her mom; but let's just that my plot doesn't look nearly as "sophisticated" as my neighbors who have sandstone walk ways and raised beds :)
It seems as though y'all are for the pet pig--yet no one addressed my predilection for a grilled cheese slathered with bacon and cooked in bacon grease.
I am majorly procrastinating on serious spring cleaning, which overcast weather I feel sometimes can push in your face, much like a bully shoving some brainiac's head down a toilet. Today (again) all I want to do is garden. Suddenly I find myself googling " weather garden denver" and looking at soil moisture and field readiness forecasts. I have never done this before. What have I become? How did this happen so quickly? I feel like a garden-geek.
On any account, the forecast for this week looks great, saying it's "excellent for planting" and "ideal for crop growth." I'm already patting myself on the back for God knows what.... Minor concern--I just read the back of a few of the packets the seeds came in and most of them say something like one packet for a 20 foot row, or one packet for three 5 foot rows, or one 12 foot row.... I definitely put two packets in 2ftx2ft plots--This is about to be a cluster garden!!! I might have a lot of vegetables to share; Only time will tell...