Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Today in the Garden

Once I got the kids off to school, I grabbed a few essentials and headed out into the garden.

Lots of activity this morning here in the Sanctuary Garden.  All the seeds I planted last Friday have germinated and I look forward to a fall crop of zucchini and cucumbers since I didn't get a single one this spring.  My zucchini got sick and I simply forgot to plant the cukes!  It's not a big deal, though, I should get a pretty decent harvest before it starts getting chilly here.  

The bees and wasps were out pollinating like crazy (thank you for your hard work, guys).  This big guy was spotted on the potted Calamondin.

If you've never heard of these, check them out.  They are described as an "acid orange" with a taste more like a lime.  According to the Seminole County Extension office, they are used as a lime substitute in pies and make wonderful marmalades.  I haven't tried them in cooking or processing yet, but I can say they are great squeezed into a cold glass of water or tea!  They also fruit year round and can have mature fruit, unripened fruit and new blooms all at the same time.  Mine has bloomed every single day that I've had it-about 4 months.  It pulls in the bees better than any other plant in my garden.

Other things I spotted in my morning garden walk:

Several baby cantaloupes...

Jalapeños still dripping with the morning's dew...

Cocozelle squash (zucchini)...

A beautiful basil flower...



I'm not sure how much I'll get for roasting, but it would be great even if I only got one cup of Sanctuary Garden blend brew!

What's going in on in your gardens this morning?

Thanks for reading,

More in a garden grows...

I was planning a post on Tabasco peppers tonight, but then I started looking at garden signs on Pinterest and I saw one with the following quote that really resonated with me.

"More in a garden grows than what the gardener sows."
                                                               Old Spanish Proverb

Last weekend, my neighbor came over and commented on how much I had gotten done in the garden lately and how hard I was working (especially since it was close to 100 degrees at the time).  It was spoken as a compliment, but the look on his face implied that he thought I was maybe a little crazy.  I just shrugged my shoulders and said "It makes me happy."

Truer words have not been spoken.  The other day, I posted a detailed list of what's planted in my garden.  But there is so much more to it than plants and dirt and mulch.  There are things growing now  that I had no idea were planted.  Things you can't see but you can feel.  The fruits and vegetables that I grow feed my stomach, but the other things feed my soul. 

Here are some of the things I've recently "harvested":

Diligence.  So many times, I have gone into the garden with the weight of the world on my shoulders and a To Do list a mile long.  So many times, I have left, sweaty and stinky, covered in dirt and moo poo (as we like to call composted manure), barely able to find the strength to slide open the back door but completely, exhaustedly, happy.  Life is a series of distractions and I have learned that the only way some things get done is by putting all my effort and concentration into the task at hand.  By doing so, everything else is pushed from my mind and I can just live in the moment.  It's very simplistic, but forceful.

Patience.  I am someone who fully embraces the concept of instant gratification, and, despite that, I have planted a tree and gave it food and pruned it, knowing full well that I would not be able to taste its fruit for at least a couple of years...years!  Waiting for something to happen, in the garden, in the kitchen, in life can be excruciating.  Sometimes we focus so much on the waiting that we miss what's going on now.  Most times, the act of waiting makes the end result so much sweeter.

Hope.  This garden is a reminder that with hard work, patience, a lot of nurturing and a little luck, I will be rewarded with happy, healthy plants that will provide for me all the nourishment I need.  The same can be said for many things in life and, that, for me, is hope.

Even more than becoming self-reliant or saving money on the grocery bill, I believe the emotional gains of gardening and "tending the land" are the driving forces behind the homesteading revolution we are experiencing. 

This world is a crazy place and, it seems, it's only getting crazier.  Gardening keeps me from focusing too much on that.  Gardening keeps me grounded (pun intended).  Gardening, makes me happy.  

So the next time you watch the news (or the VMAs, for that matter) and wonder "what the hell is going on in this world?", go out into the garden (or start one), get sweaty and start feeding your soul.  It will make your world, and the world around you, a better place.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What's Growing In My Garden

I figured I'd start off with a list of everything I have growing in the Sanctuary Garden along with some pictures.  Basically, there are two gardens that flank the sides of my house, one on the east side, one on the west.  The east garden is for veggies, potted fruit trees and fruit bushes (and one large nectarine tree).  The west is the "orchard".  I use that term loosely because, although I have several variety of fruit trees growing there, I have simply stuck them in the ground without a lot of planning and given them absolutely no care whatsoever.  I hope to remedy that situation this winter with an orchard makeover.  In the middle of the two gardens is our backyard that will soon, hopefully, be torn up to accommodate a swimming pool with a large screen enclosure. 

So here goes the garden roll call:

West Garden a.k.a The Orchard
Brogden Avocado
Doni avocado
Anna Apple (2)
Golden Dorsett Apple
Wonderful Pomegranante (2)
Magnolia Fig
Ischia Fig
Kadota Fig
Blood Orange
Variegated Pink Eureka Lemon
Loquat (unknown variety)
I also have the following small citrus in containers:  Lakeland Limequat and Meyer Lemon

East Garden
This is everything that doesn't fall under the vegetable category
Sunraycer Nectarine
Pineapple Guava (2)
Blackberry-Prime Ark (3)
                  Natchez (3)
                  Ouachita (2)
Tayberry (2)
Mysore Raspberry (2)
Calamondin (potted)
Meyer Lemon (potted)
Arbequina Olive (potted)
Bay Laurel (potted)
Camelia Sinensis (2) (potted)
Piper Nigrum (black pepper vine)
Banana-Cavendish, Ice Cream, Raja Puri, Dwarf Cavendish (about a dozen total plus numerous pups)
Blueberry-Jewel, Sunshine Blue, Emerald (all Southern high bush)
Kiwi-Hardy Kiwi (unknown variety), Issai
Coffee Arabica (2)
Glenn Mango (potted)
Muscadine Grapes-Southern Home, Sunshine, Nesbitt, Carlos, Florida Fry
Numerous Herbs and Seasonal Veggies (so many of them, I will try to list the regulars)
     Sweet Potatoes

I think I got most everything, but I'm sure I forgot something.  Also, I'm always adding one or two veggies into the rotation.  If I like it and it grows well, it gets a permanent slot, otherwise, I don't waste time.  In the beginning, I planted one of everything thinking I needed variety to be a real gardener.  After three years (and composting every single okra and papaya that I grew), I realized that growing only things we really liked, growing them well, and growing enough to feed all of us was the way to go.
Is it a lot of work keeping up such an ambitious garden?  Absolutely.
Am I an expert?  By no means.  Seriously, not even close.  I am learning as I go.
Does it help to have a flexible work schedule and a family that supports my "hobby"?  You bet!
Can anyone do this?  Yes!  Start small and grow slowly.  (I may have skipped that second part).

Here is a shot of the East Garden.  It is roughly 25'x40'.  It's actually a SE exposure andgets sun almost all day.

The same area of the garden from the opposite direction.  Sweet potato vines are in the foreground.  They are almost ready for harvest.  We have a conservation area behind the house that must be kept "in a natural state".  That means wild grape vines and kudzu that completely covers the oak trees.  

A very poorly taken picture of the Orchard (sorry, still figuring out this blog photography thing).  You can see it is in need of some serious TLC.  During pool construction, the blood orange tree to the right will be taken out( it has been in the ground for several years and never produced an edible fruit), the smaller avocado will need to be potted temporarily, and all this sod will be removed to give the the bobcat access to the yard.  Still not sure how this area will turn out.  I envision the apples, pomegranates and figs espalier style along the fence and a row of avocado and citrus between the fence and house/screen enclosure.  Oh the possibilities!

Grape vines on our pergola.  The pergola will need to go when the pool goes in but I plan to reassemble it as a freestanding grape arbor this winter.

The Eureka lemon tree on the right in front of the fence (the orchard is behind the gate) and the loquat that I planted this spring in the front yard.  Boy, I need to work on this side.  So many weeds and sod in need of replacing.

The nectarine tree.  It's been 18 months since planting and it has really tajen off!  Gotta get in and summer prune it before it gets much bigger.  I should have pruned it at planting to branch out much lower to the ground.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Three Years in the Making

I started my garden in February 2011 as a way to escape from some pretty nasty things going on in my life.  I named it The Sanctuary Garden because it truly was a place of sanctuary for me.  I also happen to live on a street named Sanctuary Garden so it kinda made sense (and bonus points for the double meaning).

I started small, with a 4'x8' raised bed and tried to follow the principles of Mel Bartholomew and his square foot gardening method.  I loved the Mel's mix, although expensive to start, but I soon decided to branch out in both size of the garden and growing technique.  I currently grow veggies and herbs in twelve raised beds, 13 self watering containers, and several pots.  I also have lots of fruit bushes and trees.  I grow everything organically in my suburban yard under the watchful eyes of a strict HOA and, mostly, behind a privacy fence. 

Even though I've had three years to build my sanctuary, I am learning every single day.  I have become very passionate about growing food for my family.  I hope to share what I learn with you and pass on the passion!

Thanks for reading,