Archive for the 'Gardening Stories' Category

Best Laid Plans…

Hey. I know, it’s been awhile.

So, my patch is 90% planted: A few tomato plants I bought from Fleet Farm, peppers and broccoli are in. Beans and cucs are coming up, carrots are still germinating. Nasturtiums (I actually pulled out the ol’ nail file and filed the seeds like the packet suggests) are poking up through the newly tilled sand/dirt. Looks like most of the marigolds will survive.

And then the zone 4 western Wisconsin weather turned cold. We got much-needed rain, but my cucumbers, a compact bushy variety I’ve had great success with for the last three years, which sprouted more than two weeks ago, have yet to get their first set of true leaves!

My boss at the paper I work for says she hasn’t planted her corn yet, ’cause at the price of her organic seeds, she can’t afford them to not germinate and the soil’s been too cold!

But it’s mid-June! My stubby little tomato and pepper plants have a lot of catching up to do–if they make it at all.

Today is sunny and mid-70s; it’s supposed to hit mid-80s by Monday. But, in the past three weeks there have been a few days that didn’t make it out of the 50s. *gulp*

Welcome to my zone 4 world. It’s a little different from the zone 5b heavy clay soil I’m used to. Good thing gardening is just one big experiment…and sometimes we can get away with do-overs.

How’s your garden growing?

How Twitter Helped Me Find a New Caretaker for My Beloved Garden Patch

I recently moved from Chicago to a little town in western Wisconsin. There are still several inches of fresh snow on the ground up here, but my yearning for spring is alive and well. And I’m missing my little garden patch.

Gardening with Nuns

Having been an apartment dweller for the past umpteen years, I got my gardening fix through community gardening. My most recent patch was behind a Catholic girls high school in Chicago. (It was an endless source of amusement to me that I, a one-time out-of-control juvenile delinquent was now gardening among nuns.) The nuns, particularly Sister Mary Alice, were a hoot. Their flower gardens are beautiful and blooming from late March to November, which is really a feat in zone 5.

It was a peaceful location and I was grateful for the space to be able to grow fresh strawberries and veggies and to be able to play in the dirt. A statue of Jesus blesses all who enter the grounds.  On the other side of the gardens was a labyrinth people would come and walk through on occasion.

An Amazing Urban Oasis

Those gardens are an amazing urban oasis. With a beautiful stand of pine trees blocking the view to adjacent townhomes, the fragrant lilac bushes lining the parking lot and the expanse of athletic field taking up the west end of the property, the city always felt far away when I was there.

The city melts away when you're here.

The city melts away when you're here.

In the four seasons I was there, I

  • resurrected two flower beds: moved some perennials, planted some more and added annuals – mostly zinnias – to fill the holes.
  • built a VERY rudimentary compost bin with metal stakes and chicken wire. I let a couple of climbing weeds camouflage it.
  • added a strawberry patch to one end of a flower bed.
  • got to know some of my gardening neighbors; a couple of them were nuns or worked for the school, most of us were from around the community.
  • grew enough veggies to feed myself and many of my friends and neighbors: lots of greens,  tomatoes, beans, lettuce, carrots, squash, cucumbers, etc.
  • made catmint mice for my kitties.
  • created an aesthetic space out of a pile of weeds.
  • meditated and communed with my higher power regularly.

It’s  Tough Letting Go

But now I’m in Wisconsin and get to start the process all over again. Thing is, I was still holding on to my old patch emotionally. I hadn’t called Sister Rita yet to let her know I wouldn’t be back this spring; I hadn’t called my neighbor Curtis, who let me store my wheelbarrow in his fenced-in patch, to tell him he could have the barrow. I was still working out plans in my head for where the tomatoes should go this year.

How Twitter Saved the Day

And then I met @jenofchicago. On Twitter. (If you don’t know what Twitter is, Google it and then come join us.) I checked out her profile and saw that she had tweeted only three times in almost 3 years! I’m not sure how to go about verifying this, but I think it must be some kind of Twitter record! She tweeted once in July ’07, once in July ’08 and not again until Feb. 9 this year. And she was asking for help.

Because I’m a strong believer in paying it forward in all things Twitter (I have gotten a LOT of help from peeps when I was floundering around in the tweetstream of this exciting new social medium), I sent her some links and made a few suggestions of people to follow and figured that would be it.

Making a Personal Connection

Next thing I know, Jen sent me a personal e-mail thanking me for my help and asking me if my garden patch was behind a particular school (which it was). She mentioned that she sometimes walks the labyrinth there and had always wondered about the gardens.

I was floored! I mean, I’ve tweeted with people from all walks of life living all over the world – but this was the first time I met somebody on Twitter who had actually been to my garden patch (or at least to the same location). How cool is that?!

We e-mailed back and forth a couple of times and now – voila! – @jenofchicago is the proud mama of my strawberry patch – and perennials and anything else she wants to grow there!

Although she and I have never met face to face, because we met on Twitter it almost feels as if my beloved patch is staying in the family. Weird, maybe, but it’s how I feel. Like, we made this connection at a very real and human level through cyberspace, so she’s no longer some complete stranger who may go and and undo all the work I’ve done just ’cause she doesn’t know any better. I will actually be able to tell Jen what’s planted where (the daffodils should start sprouting by the end of March, but the stargazer lilies won’t make their presence known until late April or May) and she won’t have to start from scratch!

The Power of Twitter

twitter4Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows by now that I am a huge fan. If I could make a living on Twitter, I’d be tweeting my little heart out all day! Suffice it to say that I have met the most wonderfully diverse bunch of gardeners on Twitter through my @FamerPhoebe account. I learn something new every day and always find something to laugh about. I’ve even met another organic gardener named Phoebe on Twitter! (She’s in New York.) But serendipitously finding on Twitter such a wonderful new caretaker for my little garden patch I’d worked so hard on and with such love for the past four seasons – well, that’s just plain special.

I hope you will follow my new Twitter buddy @jenofchicago and congratulate her on her new garden patch!

My First Garden

Just about anyone who came up through the U.S. public school system in the late ’60s to ’70s can relate to green bean seeds in Dixie cups, right? That little science experiment was the start of my lifelong passion for green and growing things.

My first solo attempt at gardening was when I was about 8 years old. I cleared a little patch of dirt and planted two small rows of popcorn kernels in the unkempt side yard on the south side of my parents’ suburban Chicago home. (Even back then I must have had some instinct about which side of the house was best for growing stuff.)

I took such good care of those little seeds. I watered and weeded and waited…and waited…and waited. I remember my excitement when I came home from summer camp that August, ’cause my waist-high corn plants were now taller than I was! And they had tassels and little ears forming on each stalk – just like the corn I’d seen in the fields all over the rural Midwest! I couldn’t wait to try the fruits of my labor, as it were.

What I didn’t know at the time was that popcorn seeds do not grow up to be sweet corn. I almost broke a tooth on that first raw bite.

Although disappointed that all my hard work did not produce the results I expected, the popcorn experiment did not keep me from pursuing my love for gardening. I guess it’s in my blood.

What Flower Are You?

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November 2018
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