Our Sunday guest writer is once again, “Aunt Lydia”, here with some expert advice on BACKYARD GARDENING. And in this recession, you can’t blame a girl for wanting to grow her own food and saving a few more bucks!
First of all, I come from a long line of farmers. I was born in the first generation of my family who didn’t garden out of necessity. My parents were little kids during the Great Depression and WWII, so they remember the days of growing your own food, going fishing, and hunting rabbits and squirrels to supplement the dinner table. I truly hope we don’t have to go back to those days. But if we do, there are a couple of nice fat squirrels helping themselves to our bird feeder in the backyard. (Hmmm, wonder what squirrel fricassee tastes like?)
I’m not really gardening for economic reasons. Once the weather starts warming up, my “farmer genes” start jumping around and I just have to get my hands in the dirt. I do hope to save some $$ on the grocery bill, but I’m not going to hold my breath. I’m not that serious about it. If I was, there would be no grass left in the yard!
This year, I finally have a backyard (after 8 years of apt. living). So, I went slightly nuts.
Where you see flowerbeds, there was grass this winter. Fortunately, I have a friend who is a landscaper. His guys cleared the grass out for me and tilled the beds, but I laid the pavers and did all of the soil amending. It was only about 1200 pounds of pavers and 400 pounds of compost and mulch. Who needs a gym membership?
I am trying to stick to using organic growing and pest control methods. So far, pretty good… Although some carpenter ants and I are still at war by the back door. (If I can’t defeat them soon, I’m going to have to call in the professionals. I don’t want all of our siding eaten off of the house!)
THIS IS JANIE (who was slightly annoyed I was taking her picture), she’s one of the reasons I’m going organic. I don’t want our cats, or the birdies and butterflies that come to our yard to get sick.
So, gardening…. It’s not as hard or expensive as the TV ads make it look. You don’t need the planter that grows tomatoes upside down or the huge rotor-tiller, riding lawnmower, and you definitely don’t need all the chemicals they advertise! (Note – “weed and feed” fertilizer for your lawn will damage, and sometimes, kill your trees and bushes.) I will use the chemical stuff if all else fails, but so far this year, I’ve kept to the organics. You do need some gardening gloves (cheap at Wally World) and some basic digging tools.
If you’re not Farmer Fred, start small with something easy. Seeds are very inexpensive! If you don’t have a lot of space, get a few pots or hanging baskets going. Plant some heat resistant flowers – Iris, Cannas, Sunflowers, Vinca. If you have kids, sunflowers are lots of fun. They get HUGE! Mine are taller than my privacy fence and are getting ready to bloom. They are VERY LOW MAINTENANCE. J
PETUNIAS – easy to grow and likes sun. PURPLE BASIL in the background. Once it gets going, it will re-seed itself from year to year.
I started all of the following from seeds – squash, peas, green beans, beets, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, corn, sunflowers, a bunch of different herbs, as well as alyssum (small white flowers along the border) and vinca. The tomatoes I bought as potted plants, as well as the petunias, roses, cannas, and strawberries.
If you have kids, this can be a great way to get them to eat fruits and vegetables. They’ll also learn that all food doesn’t come out of a can or the freezer section. For those of you that didn’t know that already, it’s time to grow something!
SQUASH – started from seeds.
TOMATOES – bought as a small plant at Wally World. Now about 4 ft. tall!
CANTALOUPE – started from seeds. These blooms will become melons in about 3-4 weeks. Yum!
CORN & BEETS – grown from seeds. The pots have more peas and green beans. Note – If you want to have enough peas and beans to eat, you have to plant a lot! I started with about 8 green bean plants and I have one sandwich bag of green beans. I am planting more!
My philosophy this year was “why not?”. If I had room, I stuck something in the dirt. If I didn’t have room, I stuck it in a pot. I even planted squash in one of my big hanging baskets… If it grows, great. If not, then I’ll know not to do so next year.
We are blessed with a very long growing season here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. It’s not too late to get some stuff growing. Because it is later in the panting season, you can get some good deals on seeds and plants. (I found a 6 ft. apricot tree on sale for $7.50 at Calloways!) I plan to replant more seeds later in the summer, so I will have a fall crop of veggies.
The Internet is a GREAT resource for information. If you’re not sure how often to water your cucumbers, google it! Someone out there has a web page or blog about it. Want to know if you can grow blueberries in North Texas? Google it! (Yes, you actually can! In fact the crape myrtle trees you see in the corner of the yard are coming out next spring and blueberry bushes are going in.)
Beware of ordering trees and bushes from the Internet. I found a sale on an Autumn Cherry Tree on line. It’s growing well now, but it looked like a bare stick when it arrived. In most cases, we are better off going to a local gardening center. Look around your neighborhood. Many times you can get a start of something from your neighbors. (Ask permission, no midnight garden raids!) I got a nice start of Iris from a little lady who lives next door to my office. She was more than happy to share. Most of the time, if it’s already growing in your area, you’ll be able to keep it growing.
A few good websites are –
www.mytexasgarden.com (sponsored by Calloways)
All of the large gardening centers like Home Depot and Lowes, have good info, too.
So, try it! Have fun! Get your hands dirty and get some sun on your nose. It reminds us of the magic God works everyday! J