Everything is a Competition

How do you get boys out in their gardens to weed and harvest? Competition. Rather, the boys came up with the competition, as they turn everything into a competition. OH, and there’s money involved.

First, we have the largest cucumber competition. Rex wins.

Then we have the most green beans collected in 7 minutes. Morris picks 70, Jude picks 75, and Rex wins with 79.

Then, we have the longest green bean. Rex and Jude tie. 

Morris is fine. Rex gets $11 (or more. I can’t remember. I just needed them to get it done!).

Jude’s Fairy Garden

Jude has loved fairy gardens since the magical one appeared at the Enabling Garden. Over the past two years, he’s collected gnomes, homes, knights, and little novelties (wishing well, signs, pathways). He definitely wanted one this year, near his cucumber plants, his gnomes shaded by green bean trees.

Growing Great! (one week later) and Radishes!

Wow! It never takes long when the weather is warm, the sun shines, and we remember to water the gardens. Little radish sprouts came first (within 3 days), all in a row, so we knew they weren’t weeds to pick. Green bean plants rose from the ground like sleepy bodies within a week, and their leaves grew large quickly. 

The tomato plants I grew from seed are doing well; the main stalk is thickening, and they are growing taller. And the cucumber plants are looking stronger, and maybe ready to climb in a week. The boys are excited!

And then, three weeks later, we have lots and lots of radishes. Morris notices and picks his first, and then Jude has an abundance. 

We have more than we can eat, so we give some to Grandpa and Aunt Heidi. 

…Planting 2

On planting session 2, boys planted their tomato plants first. Jude loves yellow tomatoes, so I bought one from the store, and he planted 3 from home (cherry and beefsteak). I also bought him cherry hot peppers, something new to try. Rex planted a rosemary plant I bought per his request, 2 tomato plants from home, and 2 hot peppers I bought. Morris only wanted one tomato plant (as he doesn’t like them much, he said), but definitely wanted his zucchini plant in his garden. We’ll see how this one does as the last one overwhelmed the garden. He also got two hot peppers, too: the boys like the challenge of eating them. 🙂  

And then the boys were done and not interested in doing anything else (which is normal). So, I planted rows of radishes and green beans. Morris requested peas. And, there were some left over herbs, kale, leeks, etc. that I planted where ever there was room.

On a side note, it’s important to give my boys plenty of water! Thanks to Aunt Heidi for that!

Plant 1 and…

Honestly, planting is not a favorite activity of the boys’. They prefer the picking, which I understand. (And I enjoy watching everything grow.) Who doesn’t like to pull a whopper cucumber from the vine or snack away on sun-warmed tomatoes?

The cucumbers are a very favorite of all three boys, so on the first day of planting, the cucumbers – 4 in each boys’ gardens – was the main accomplishment. All 12 plants were started by seed in our home, and I’m really, really hoping they make it. 

Garden Grids

Every season, I pull up the same square foot gardening picture to help the boys plan their gardens. I hand them a piece of paper with a 6 by 4 grid, and they write the names of the plants they want to grow in each square. They’re so used to this, even though they only do it once a year. And, they know exactly what they want for most of their garden. They love the abundance of cucumbers, the surprises of a radish, and especially, herbs they can snack on any time they visit their box. 

Morris’s garden had a surprise this spring when his chives sprung up from last season. Rex and Jude were jealous; chives are a favorite, and I get used to boys with chive breath when we’re near our gardens together. 

Here are their picks for the season:

I try to honor their choices, although some years, I have to trade a few items. Notice they didn’t pick anything fancy – no kohlrabi, for example – but they’re more experienced and prefer the items that can be picked for weeks, like cherry tomatoes.

T Tills a New Garden

Ty tilled a new garden for me at the back of our property. It was covered with weeds and thistles, so he hacked and tilled, and now the Iowa soil is free. How kind of him to run that jarring machine. He knows how much I love to garden, and he wants us to grow as much as we can. There is a little fear running through the background that there might be a shortage of certain foods, or the virus may harm our field workers and prevent us from getting vegetables. No one can know these things for sure, of course, but we plant for our family.

I’m planting 12 potato plants back here. I got seed potatoes online, and I’m not sure how they’ll do. For one, they came freeze dried with no visible eyes, and I’ve read the eyes need to be planted up to the sun. Second, I have never had much luck with potatoes. Most things I throw in the ground grow and produce. I’ve tried potatoes twice. The first time, no potatoes. The second time, 5 or 6 came from the one. So, I’m at 50%. We’ll see. Jude looooves potatoes, so he’s looking forward to the possibility.

I’m also planting the pumpkins, squash, and zucchini back here, where they have lots of room to spread and run. I’ve done well with pumpkins in the past. One year we threw our jack-o-lanterns off our deck and three pumpkin plants grew 7-8 pumpkins just in time for the next Halloween. I’ve never done squash, but the boys love to eat it. And, last season, Morris and I grew zucchini in our garden beds but learned it was easy to run out of room in there.

We’ll see what this garden does. I’m pretty excited to have another one!

A New Season April 2020

My Growing Boys Summer 2020

It is a new growing season! Hooray! Spring is upon us. The winter and wet are coming to an end, and the sunshine pushes through and warms us more frequently. 

It is also a different season for us, and for everyone around the world. The coronavirus is here, in Iowa, so we are home more. Days at school are cancelled and learning is done only at home. Spring soccer and baseball and every activity are cancelled. We need to stay safe in our home, in our literal and figurative gardens. 

And so, here we are again, growing!

Rex is at the end of his 7th grade year and moving into 8th in the fall. He is 5 feet 5 inches! One more inch, and he has me!

Jude is at the end of his 5th grade year, his last year in elementary school. He is moving to the sixth grade center in the fall. He is 5 feet 3 inches. Two more and he has Rex!

And Morris is close to completing his 2nd grade year. Ty and I are grateful we have one still firmly grounded in elementary. He is 4 feet 6 inches.

During Spring Break, we had a great rain, and all three boys gathered earth worms from the driveway and placed them in our gardens. They loved the job!

We start our season with seedlings. I purchased a container with 113 peat pellets for seeds to start. I planted 13 cucumber plants (7 straight eight, 6 sumter), 13 tomato plants (4 cherry, 4 roma, 5 beefsteak), 3 zucchini, 3 butternut squash, 3 pumpkin, 4 kale, 8 dill, 4 leak, 5 basil, 5 chives, 4 cilantro, and many coneflowers. I plant many knowing not all of them will flourish. I set the tray on the windowsill in my living room and water them every few days.

When they start to grow, which happens quickly for the cucumbers, squash, pumpkin and zucchini, I set them outside to let the wind blow them and grow strong. How similar we are to plants sometimes: this wind blowing through our lives will make us stronger. 

Apple-icious!

I would be remiss if I did not mention the bumper crop of apples we had this season.

We have three apple trees in our yard, that we didn’t plant, of course, but we have apples galore! Last season they were very small and few, and this season the branches are heavy, and the ground is full of apples, apples, apples!

It took me awhile to realize that each apple tree is different, mostly because it takes the apples awhile to turn red…if they’re the type that does turn red. For example, I believe one tree is Golden Delicious or Grimes Golden, and they stay light yellow or green. I didn’t realize until this week that they would never turn red and were scrumptious to eat off the tree. Jude especially likes them.

I believe we have one McIntosh tree, which is producing the most, and the most delicious, large red apples. They’re a little tart, and I make the most delicious apple crisp with them! 

The recipe is a cinch: 

1 baking dish full of cut up apples (probably 6+ cups)

For the crisp:

1 stick of butter, melted

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup oats

1 white cake mix

Cinnamon to your liking

*Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. 

*Definitely eat with vanilla ice cream

I’ve made two crisps each weekend for the past three weekends. Tyler can’t get enough! And, I’ve given bags away: to my mom, to Aunt Lindsay, to Connie and Robert at the shop, and to my friend Beth.

I’m not quite sure what the third apple tree is. I think it might be Johnathans, as the apples are red, smaller than the McIntoshes, and also a little tart. Apples have been a welcome surprise this season!

The Season Ends: Tearing Down

It’s October, and the first frost came this weekend, causing the tomato plants to wither and look exhausted…and wet. So, it’s time for the boys to tear down their gardens.

This is always more fun than I expect… As we pull the stringy cucumber vines off their trellis and yank tomato plants out of the cages, the boys turn it into a feat of strength, an adventure. Their creativity kicks in and tomato cages turn into robot parts, the shriveled plants become weapons (of course). Before I know it, I have boys running all over the yard, engaged in imaginative play… and sometimes I have to dodge dirt clumps and rotten tomatoes. Really, I have to laugh and not be a task-master. This is what gardens are for! These moments become the memories.

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I always ask the boys – usually inside, later, after the games are over – what they thought of their gardens this season. I’m sure they feel somewhat similar year-to-year: they liked watching certain plants, and some were a bust. Here’s what they said this year:

Jude: “My favorite thing about my garden was definitely my cherry tomatoes because they taste the best. They’re my favorite tomato. And cucumbers because they grow fast.”

Morris: “I like pulling things out of the ground, the carrots, the radishes. The radishes I like pulling out of the ground. I like the peppers. I like the hot peppers because they were really fast to grow, and I liked to do dares with them and make people eat them. I like the green peppers because they’re big. I like being a part of things.”

Later, “I love that the kitty-cats love to lay in them.”

(He was referring to a hot pepper challenge between Cousin Quinn and Rex. Who could chew on the pepper the longest? Rex won. Quinn drank a lot of milk.)

Rex: “I liked that we had a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes. I didn’t like that my mint and chives didn’t grow. I enjoyed the hot peppers.”

So, they were mostly pleased with their gardens, although we have some things to work on… Next season I’d like to try some new, different plants, and I’d like us to grow more from our own seeds. We’ll see. Each season is different, yet familiar. That’s one of the charms of our gardens.