First Interviews

Tell me about your garden. What do you notice?


  • “There are flowers on my plants.”
  • “My cilantro is turning into parsley.”
  • “My mint leaves are so huge I can’t put a whole on in and chew or flavor will overflow in my mouth.”
  • “Cucumber started …the vines are grabbing onto the fence.”
  • “I grew a small tomato already.”

*I was impressed with his detail – seeing the vines grabbing – and his knowledge of how his herbs change when they go to seed – from cilantro to coriander/parsley.


  • “I notice they’re growing so big in such a tiny time.”
  • “I love all of my stuff I have.”
  • “The little circles are coming.” (blooms = circles)

*Morris loves having his own garden. He takes a lot of pride in how his plants are growing, noticing how tall they are, weeding it carefully, asking questions about what will happen next.


  • “I’m really happy with my zucchini plant because it’s HUGE. It’s the biggest plant in my garden.
  • “I have the biggest cucumber in the gardens, which makes me happy.”
  • “There’s one problem: Something is eating these leaves.” (He points to his kohlrabi.) “I’m gonna find it (the caterpillar) and squash it.”

*Isn’t it adorable that Jude is a little competitive when it comes to his gardening. Success equals the biggest. I also love that Jude is protective of his garden and knows the responsible pests are in for it.



Buds are abundant! Jude’s zucchini is blooming large golden-orange flowers with soft, yellow zucchini fruit attached. His four cucumber plants all have delicate, yellow flowers – more bright yellow than orange – and miniature cucumber with little pokies on their skin. Rex’s chili red peppers have sprouted a dozen or so little white flowers; some have already changed to small green chilies. All the boys have tiny, yellow buds on their tomato plants, and I’m excited to see the variety of tomatoes that come this season: roma, cherry, beefsteak, and sun-gold.

On another note, the boys are having a wonderful summer together. They spent a lot of time with their cousins and a lot of time together swimming, wrestling, swimming and wrestling in the blow-up pool not too far from the gardens. Like true brothers, the play is light-hearted, sometimes competitive, sometimes annoyed and ruthless, and then back to light-hearted again. That’s what brother-buds do, I guess: play and fight, play and fight.



Father’s Day in the Garden

Morris ran up to his dad this Father’s Day morning with a “Let’s go look at the gardens!” Tyler has been busy with work during the day and baseball in the evenings, so he was pretty excited when he saw how much everything has grown. In particular, he commented on how cool the kohlrabi looks and how much kale was growing. He and Morris picked the kale together until they had a batch of about 20 leaves. They also plucked caterpillars off the broccoli and cauliflower leaves. It was great father-son time!


Many of you have probably watched the Food Network show CHOPPED where contestants are given mystery ingredients in a basket, and they have to try and make something delicious with them. Well, Ty/Dad has been on a kick watching this lately, and because it’s artistic and competitive, the boys get into it, too.

Last night, Rex asked if we could try CHOPPED at home. My mind said, “No, I want to take a nap,” after spending half the day at Adventureland, but my mouth said, “Sure!” as I’m trying to say YES! to our boys more, especially when they want to do something creative.

So, I collected the basket ingredients for three rounds: appetizers, main course (entree), and dessert. I decided some of the ingredients should come from the garden; Cilantro, chives and garden lettuce made it on the lists.

The contestants gathered in the kitchen. Rex, Jude, and Ty each had their own station, and Morris and I were the judges.


Morris is making the famous “Chopped” action with his arm. “Who will be chopped?!” he yells.

Round 1, Appetizers: Triscuits, canned corn, plums and cilantro.

12 Minutes.


As they started cooking, I was amazed at how similar the Chopped kitchen on tv is to the Chopped kitchen in my home! Boys scurried about to the pantry, to the fridge, to the ingredients.

There was blending and taste-testing. There was a blender malfunction and missing bowls/ingredients. How lucky I was to be in the audience!

Morris and I allowed the boys to describe their dishes, and then we tasted and judged. We awarded a first place, and we “chopped” someone each round (but allowed them to cook in the next round, of course).

Round 2, Entre (15 minutes): Pasta, chicken salad, peanut butter, orange slices

Round 3, Dessert (12 minutes): Chocolate chips, raspberry jelly, oatmeal, garden lettuce

Most of the creations were delicious! We sampled a garden Triscuit with corn and a veggie bowl (a mushroom with a pickle stuck in it) by Jude. Peanut butter curry pasta by Tyler was gobbled up by everyone. And Rex made a scrumptious dessert with chocolate ice cream, a strawberry Mr. Freeze, raspberry jelly, and chocolate chip crumble.


Besides the taste, the presentation of most dishes was artistic and impressive. Herbs were added on top of dishes, sauces were drizzled on sides of fruit, and different crumbles were all over everywhere. (Only one dish looked a little like throw-up, but the chef shall not be named.)

It was an hour and fifteen minutes of family fun! Afterwards, the boys liked to rehash their dishes, and they wanted Ty and I to promise they could try it again…next week.


One of the most important points of having each boy grow his own garden is to teach him that regular maintenance – tending to, or caring for – is necessary to make a garden grow successfully. How many situations can they apply this simple lesson to throughout their lives? Tend to your garden.

Granted, some responsibilities are not a lot of fun. Weeding, for example, often makes Jude whine – “Oooh, my growing boys…” (as if to curse this project) – and Rex tries to disappear completely. He eventually returns because he cares and doesn’t want weeds to choke his beloved plants. Morris is always, all in. He says, “Okay,” and gets to work, asking which plant is the weed, and which plant is the vegetable before he pulls.


Jude helped pull his cat Minnie out of the garden as we weeded; Minnie likes to lounge on the plants.

Watering the garden starts with enthusiasm as the boys get to hold the sprayer. This may or may not lead to a water fight. It depends on which boy has it and how ornery he feels that morning. We’ve set up a rotation:

Monday and Thursday: Rex

Tuesday and Friday: Jude

Wednesday and Saturday: Morris

Sunday: Mom or Dad

As the summer wears on, the boys are less enthusiastic about doing some of these “chores,” but they see the rewards when the cucumbers are dangling, and the green beans can be picked and chomped as they weed and water.

Our Gardens are Growing and So are My Boys!

Growing Boys

Last June, I measured the boys at the beginning of the summer, so I thought I’d do the same at the start of this summer.

Rex is 59.5 inches! (4 feet, 11.5 inches) He’s grown 2.5 inches since last summer! His legs are long, like his dad’s, and I know he’ll be as tall as me before long.

Jude is 55.5 inches (4 feet, 7.5 inches), and he’s added 2.5 inches since last summer, as well! He is basically wearing the same size of clothes as his big brother Rex, and is only half a shoe size behind him.

Morris is 45.5 inches (3 feet 9.5 inches), and the overall winner of inches grown this past year. He grew three inches taller! And he wears shoes two sizes larger than this time last year! At his well-child check up he moved up to the 90-some percentile in height in contrast to the 70-some percentile the year before.


Mother’s Day 2017

Growing Gardens

It’s so exciting to see little green bean plants sprout from underground! It reminds me of a little being waking from a snooze and slowly stretching to straighten and raise its head to the sun. Yaaawn…

So, the green beans and pea plants are up, along with the onions, which have sprouted green, spiky hair. The cucumbers and zucchini are filling out, and before long, their tendrils will reach for wires above them and grow upward. The herbs are filling out and can be picked anytime for dinner. Our tomato plants seem a little sleepy, however. I can’t tell if they’ve grown even an inch, but I’ll give them some time.


Little Squirts

Our pumpkin and squash seeds have sprouted! It’s exciting to see these little shoots encouraged by the sunshine. We planted six plants next to the planters, but not inside, as we know how pumpkins and squash love to stretch and spread.

The hollyhocks are shy, though, and I’m not sure if they’ll germinate…


It’s Time to Plant!

Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to plant! In the middle of May, you feel fairly comfortable that there will not be any more surprise snow showers or freezes.

After tallying how many plants and seeds I need for the boys’ gardens on a notecard, I headed to Hy-Vee one afternoon to purchase plants. Last growing season, we bought plants from Lowes, but I noticed a better price for healthy looking plants at our grocery store.

I also purchased some garden plants in April at the junior high plant sale. A former colleague of mine runs a gardening club there, and I definitely wanted to support him and our school district. I mean, how cool is it that a group of junior high students fills a greenhouse with an amazing variety of vegetables and flowers!

Last year, I took the boys with me to help buy plants, but I felt a little over-whelmed keeping an eye on them (my boys tend to play tag in stores a lot) and keeping track of how many of each plant was in my cart. So, this time around, I selected plants and seeds on my own, and I was done in about ten minutes! I’m a lot more efficient when I’m not distracted. 🙂

The plants came home, and the boys immediately asked when they could plant their gardens.

Rex wanted to plant first this year, and we started by transplanting his chives from his old garden to his new. His chives were already a small bush shooting in all directions with little purple flowers on top. We divided them in half and planted both in his new garden. We also transplanted some of his mint; a few shoots were donated to Jude’s garden…with some grumbling. Rex is protective and proud of his mint.

Rex did a lot of planting all on his own this year. I placed plants in a square of his garden, and he took charge of placing them in the earth. Good job, Rex!

Jude and Morris planted simultaneously.

Jude started with his cucumbers, four plants lined up along the east side of his garden. I anticipate a lot of canning this growing season. Cucumbers are so fun to watch grow, and so rewarding to harvest.

         *Jude found a toad during one of his distracted moments. Just like him to find a friend.

Morris started by planting hot pepper plants. He’s most interested in planting his beans, but we start those with seeds, and he wanted to plant a plant. It was so endearing to watch him. He wraps his little hands around the plant and pushes the earth into a small mound around the base. It looks like he’s hugging the plant with his hands. Morris learned this technique at preschool where he grew his own tulip in the garden beds there. It’s so sweet.

Morris planted a few of his carrot and pea seeds, but he became less interested as there was a battle going on in and around the gardens.

Jude and Rex were teasing each other, playing tag, and running around everywhere. At one point, Jude pulled Rex’s planted chives from their tops and pulled them out. Rex was enraged. He cried, shocked by Jude’s cruel move, and then chased after him. It was pretty humorous to watch…but not at all a relaxing planting afternoon.

I tried to get each boy to plant more of their gardens, and they would come back and plant a little more, but eventually they wandered away and started up a new game or jumped on the trampoline.

So, like last year, I planted the rest of the gardens for the boys. I reminded myself that although it’s fun to plant, the real joy is in watching the plants grow.


Planting Flowers First

We do not a lot with flowers at our house. I keep it pretty simple. I have three or four big pots I fill with whatever flower I find beautiful at the time, and it changes from year to year.

I love the splash of color flowers add to a home, but I especially love planting flowers in the spring. They are a sign that warmer, sunnier weather is here to stay.

This year, each boy selected one of the pots to fill with red-orange snapdragons, coral and red variegated petunias, sweet potato vines, tall shoots of grass, and some red, white and blue alyssum.

Jude loved the snapdragons, and he planted them in a yellow pot and his airplane planter. Rex picked the blue pot and planted alyssum, and Morris liked the coral petunias that match the red pots.

Each boy stood back and admired his pot of flowers.