Sharing Your Garden

Some of my favorite things about our home are the things family and friends have shared with us.  My brother in law is an amazing maker and crafted a perfectly sized table in our entry way as a housewarming present.  It is the first thing you see as you enter the house and is a sweet reminder of him every time we use it. My mom and dad gave me a painting that she painted and he framed.  Every time I see it I think of my mom taking up painting as a retired elementary school teacher and how she thrilled to work with watercolors.   I remember the hours my dad enjoyed working on projects in his shop.  He would get so excited when he found a great piece of burled cedar or smooth walnut.  He appreciated the color, texture and natural beauty of every piece of wood he worked with and the smell of fresh sawdust is still one of the sweetest smells in the world to me.  These things add so much character to our home but when we head outdoors the blessings start to multiply.

Lenten Rose

Divide & Multiply

Just after we moved into our latest property my sister came to visit from Northern Virginia.  She brought along with her a few pieces of lamb’s ear, a section of Lenten rose and a couple of peony roots.  These have grown into the foundation plantings for two of our main flower beds.  Every spring I get so excited to see these gifts grow more and more.  These plants have history; a story to tell.

You see my grandfather was a gardener in the heart of Quincy, MA, just outside of Boston.  They fed their family and many others through the Great Depression as they used the land God gave them right in in the middle of the city.  He had a huge garden that took up most of their yard, chickens and even grape vines! He shared his appreciation for gardening and his peonies with my mom who raised us to love the process in Upstate New York.  She shared them with my sister in Virginia who in turn blessed me in Tennessee.  Those peonies have so much history!

As I look over our yard I see so many plants, both decorative and edible, that have been gifts from others and I strive to continue the blessing.

How to divide your plants

Root Plants

Sharing root plants is incredibly easy and beneficial for your plants, your own yard or better yet, for a friend!  When you see the leaves a bit smaller or the plants are outgrowing their space it is time to divide.  My favorite in-depth guide to dividing plants can be found at Garden Gate magazine.  Their drawings of the root systems are very helpful.  I’ve been most successful with this process in early spring while the ground is damp but not saturated.  I take a shovel and cut parts of the plant (such as hosta or lamb’s ear) off the side and tuck it into its new home.  If you are transporting the plants make sure the roots don’t dry out.  My sister kept wet paper towels around the roots and transported them in a sealed plastic bag.  Just make sure you don’t keep the plant in the sealed bag for more than 12-18 hours.

Lillies from my friend Jeanie

Bulbs

When spring flowering bulbs start to flower less and less, it’s time to divide in order to multiply.  Divide bulbs after their foliage has died back so you can see where to dig without damaging any bulbs. A good rule of thumb is every 3-5 years to keep your plants flourishing.  I tend to dig a few inches from where I think the bulb has grown in order to get any small outside bulb growth without causing damage.  After digging up the bulbs I separate them and replant or share with a friend. Make sure you check each bulb as they should be firm.  If you find any squishy ones throw them away to prevent the spread of any fungal issues or disease.

Seeds

Seed saving is one the easiest ways to share your garden wealth.  Each year I am more and more convinced that saving my garden seeds not only saves me money but the resulting plants are healthier and more prolific each season.  When the seed adapts each season to your specific soil and climate the results are fantastic and include larger blooms, hardier plants and larger harvests.  When we share with our neighbors we all benefit from regionally adapted seed.  If you don’t know where to find seeds in your area check out NextDoor, Facebook or a Seed Saver exchange at your local library. 

So, the next time you are admiring your friend’s garden or an abundant plant in your neighborhood ask if they might want to share.  It’s a great way to keep plants healthy and make a new friend!

What plants are in your yard that might bless someone?

Dreamy (Almost) No-Dig Vegetable Garden Project

This past year has been a wild one but afforded our family the time to start our first serious garden project at this house. I started the plans in November when my boys were out of the country with no idea that we would have ALL THE TIME WE COULD WANT to get it off the ground (or is that “in the ground”?)

We’ve completed SO many indoor projects in the past four years (I promise that one of these days I will post about our hall bathroom, game room and basement bathroom remodels), but it’s time to head outdoors. Our goal was to have a big enough vegetable garden to provide for our family with dreams of having plenty to share with friends and neighbors. Honestly, I also wanted a project big enough for my three children to be able to pitch in as well! Hard work is a great teacher and so much fun.

We planned for 32′ x 18′ of fenced space for annuals (I’m not interested in sharing with my wild neighbors) with an additional 3′ on each side for perennials. We’re starting this experiment with Charles Dowding’s no-dig approach. (As a side-note: if you need a way to escape the craziness of life, Charles Dowding’s YouTube videos are inspiring and really restful.) Now, let the digging begin. No, no digging. Well, we did dig the holes for posts but I think our garden still qualifies. My oldest daughter, Annika, and I got the holes dug for the posts in about a week. Not bad! We chose 6′ cow fencing for our sides and left a 4′ space on the east end for an entry gate.

Next we posted on NextDoor for cardboard boxes and were able to collect plenty to cover the entire garden area. Our walkways and entry area needed a solid mulching so we sent a request to ChipDrop and got a beautiful FREE load of wood chips from a local arborist. We found a local landscape company that had a February special that would deliver garden soil if we purchased 5 yards so $150 later, we were set. We spent a few days with the wheelbarrow and placed the materials in a pattern of rows that I planned out with the help of the Farmer’s Almanac online Garden Planner tool. We were ready to… wait. It was only the end of February. Our last frost date isn’t until April 27th dang it! Patience is a virtue and indoor seed starting is about to become a new skill.

My husband thought I needed a little shed-type entry area to hang tools and provide some shade for our house critters that like to visit the garden with me. He built a 4′ x 6′ garden hut that is perfect for all of us. That’s Misty the dog and Winter the bunny taking advantage of the shade – getting a break from their hard work.

Overall we have been extremely pleased with the results of the project. We were amazed at the amount of vegetables we have harvested and the fun it has been to cultivate. If I were to start this again there are a few things I would change. First, I would have made sure there were NO exposed seams in the cardboard. The weeds we had in the garden (namely: Bermuda grass, wild chive and dandelion) all came up through the spots that we did not layer the cardboard at the seams. We continue to weed those spots but hope with diligence that they will clear out eventually. Second, we would have dug a trench round the whole project. Because Bermuda grass spread with runners as well as by roots and seed, we are now digging a trench that will be maintained to spot those stragglers. All in all, it has been SO worth it.