Sunday, April 26, 2009

Our Garden

So, our garden actually came up. This picture is a couple of weeks old. From the back to the front, you can see the onions, cilantro, chard, beets, cucumbers, and finally carrots. We also have four lettuce plants and some yellow squash and zucchini. I couldn't find another photo of the garden, and it's dark out, so I might take a picture this week.

The radishes were up three days after they were planted. Now they are going to seed just as the other plants are ready to eat. Jo and Rob are eating the radishes, but I am not a radish fan. We ate some of the chard and a three-inch carrot.

Chard is especially good cooked until tender, and served with butter and lemon juice. I make sure to wash each leaf, since I have found caterpillars in the past! Not cooked, fortunately. Ugh!

Easter Dresses

Have you been shopping for a girl's dress lately? Where are the sleeves?

We spent about four hours looking for an Easter dress for my oldest daughter. We went to three stores together, and I had been to four others previously. Grand total of size 12 dresses with sleeves: about six. Three were in the last store we visited.

After an hour at the final store, I finally put my foot down and told her she would have to wear a blouse under a sleeveless dress, so we spent another hour looking for blouses or sweaters to match the sleeveless dresses.

She finally found a dress with sleeves. It looks white in this photo, but it is really ivory.

And here are the other two girls. The pretty green/butterfly dress was from Costco. She made me cut off a layer of netting ruffles on the bottom of the skirt before she would wear it because it was itchy. Miss E. didn't complain about anything!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Building the Raised Bed Garden

I was reading a news story about how people are putting in "Recession Gardens." Is that something like a Victory Garden?

Anyway, our garden was planted without the recession in mind. We wanted a garden so we could have fresh vegetables whenever, and because home-grown vegetable seem to taste better. Maybe because you put in so much work to get a garden to grow in the Salt River Valley. In the Phoenix area, it takes a lot more work to have a successful garden than in other areas of the country.

We spent some time at the various stone and brick yards and finally found a style of modular block that we liked. We considered flagstone, and other types of stones, but eventually decided on a cast cement modular block.

First we had to level out the ground where the garden was going to be... not an easy task. If the ground wasn't level, the blocks wouldn't be level either. We figured that our ground is pretty much cement unless it is soaked and dug up, so as long as wh didn't disturb the ground under the blocks, they would never move.

But we soaked the ground the night before, and it was a bit easier to dig through the bermuda grass and the rock-hard dirt that we have here. Then, I used a level to make sure that the dirt was flat. At this point, it was very simple to lay the first course of blocks, although it took a bit of extra levelling to get the blocks to lay flat.

We used a black landscape fabric to line the blocks so the dirt wouldn't wash out between the blocks when we water the garden.

The children put on the other layers of blocks until the garden wall was just tall enough for me to sit on comfortably. If I'm going to be weeding the garden, I wanted to be able to pull weeds without bending over too much.

Then we filled the garden with volcanic soil and sand, mixed with compost. And planted the garden. We planted squash and zucchini from a nursery, and small onions from starts. The rest of the garden was from seed.

...and three days later, the radishes were up. Pretty soon after that most of the rest of everything came up. Now our squash and zucchini are about three inches long.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Yard Work

When we bought our house, there was a little raised garden in the corner of the back yard. Here's a Google Earth view of the backyard. You can see the big blue slide on the swingset, and a nice tree, and then the garden in the corner.

Well, the nice big tree died a slow death after the big 5-day frost a couple years ago. Rob and the children had fun chopping it down and digging up the roots. After three years of struggling with the corner garden, amending the dirt, replacing the dirt, and not having any results, we gave up and built a raised-bed garden where that tree used to be. We took the dirt out of the raised corner bed and planted a Diller Arizona Sweet, which is supposed to ripen later than the Navel orange tree we have.

On either side of where the old garden was, we put in another Navel Orange and we also planted an apricot. I guess we'll see how long the apricot lives. The guy at the orchard said that we shouldn't have to worry about the tree getting Texas Root Rot if we kept the grass out of the basin and only watered it every two weeks in the summer.

Over on the other side of the yard, we topped the lemon tree. It was getting too big, and the guy at the Greenfield Nursery, a very knowledgeable guy, said we could chop the top off, since the bottom half of the tree produces the best fruit.

So we chopped up our unruly lemon bush and made it into a lemon tree. We had stacks of lemons that we pulled off the branches. This really is the best time of the year to prune citrus, although you really don't want to cut your trees up very high.

And do you know the most interesting thing? The children absolutely loved helping trim the trees, build the garden, dig up the old garden bed, and pitch in with all the yard work.

We even got our little Pickle to pull weeds. Although he's only 4, he can pull most weeds if we soak the dirt first, and he loves the mud.