I've really been bitten by the gardening bug this year, and so far, I've been pretty attentive to my plants, with regular watering and weeding. The community garden plot is coming along nicely; it makes a big difference living close enough to run out there and water nearly every day. And I mean "run" literally! It's right off my running route!
At home, I've been thinking that in the front yard I'd like more garden, less lawn. I've added a few perennials as I do every year, trying to choose flowers that are butterfly and hummingbird-friendly. We have seen hummingbirds here a few times and it's pretty neat.
What I'm most enthusiastic about, though, is growing more edible plants: vegetables and herbs. Last week I chopped a 3'x3' section out of the grass and worked in some peat moss and compost to make a bed for sunflowers and basil.
(So help me, I'm posting pictures of plants on my blog now! It's probably like watching paint dry, huh?)
That patch is just the exotic basils, by the way: lemon basil, lime basil, cinnamon basil (I didn't know there was such a thing before!), thai basil, purple basil, and spicy basil. I've got a few dozen sweet basil plants - the kind most often used in pesto - not far away. I don't think it's possible to have too much basil.
The other new garden spot is a raised bed with tomatoes, peppers and parsley:
They'll be packed in there, but my Square Foot Gardening book assures me that this is okay. If this bed is successful I may add one or two more next year.
It is so very satisfying to be in the dirt, helping things grow. Forgive me if I start sounding like a fruitcake here, but I really do believe the world would be a kinder, more peaceful place if people had more opportunities to connect with the earth. I think everyone should get out in nature more to appreciate the beauty and wonder and value of the natural world. Maybe if more people did that we wouldn't be so hell bent on ripping it all apart. By the same token, if more people took part in growing some of their own food, perhaps we'd appreciate more the work that goes into it and the importance of healthy, balanced soil.
I am glad to have two little gardening assistants. This year both kids have been quite enthusiastic about helping out. I suspect their enthusiasm will wane with the hot weather coming our way, though I've discovered a good antidote is to get them in swimsuits and let them play in the sprinkler.
Below is a series of pictures of Anya getting water from the rain barrel* the day we planted all that basil. She must have made a dozen trips back and forth:
I know we'll never grow all our own food. That takes more time, land and ability for long-term planning than we've got. With so many local food resources available, you might wonder why we don't give up on the garden and just get everything from CSA farms and the weekly markets. I sometimes wonder that myself. After all, by the time you buy the tools and plants and dirt and mulch and fencing and whatnot, gardening doesn't save you much money. I guess I keep at it because I want to be more self-sufficient. I want to take an active role in producing what we eat. And, perhaps most importantly, I want my children to learn these lessons, too.
*ETA: Since Animal asked about the rain barrel, I thought I'd just write a bit more about it...we bought ours from the city of Madison, which has a big composter/rain barrel sale every year the first Saturday in May. Hundreds of people line up in this giant parking lot to buy them at a pretty good discount. Stuart installed the rain barrel, and it was pretty easy. He just had to cut the drain spout short and add an elbow joint to pour into the barrel, which I think you can see in the picture. You also have to make sure there is a fairly level surface to set the barrel on. When it's full it's supposed to drain out this tube out the side, but it really just kind of spills over the top. There's a screen on top to keep debris from collecting inside. You get water out by turning a spigot on at the bottom, so if the rain barrel is a couple inches above the ground (like on a brick slab, for example), it's easier to fit a bucket underneath the spout. We like it very much.