A New Adventure Has Begun: Brace Yourself

Never in a million years would anyone ever have been able to tell me that I would one day want to be a gardener. No kidding. Dirt? Bugs? Sweat. I think not! I had no desire to eat a vegetable, much less grow one. What the hell is that all about?

So here I am a couple decades later, and I am going to publicly proclaim myself a gardener. Okay, a novice gardener. Okay, a gal who is trying very hard not to kill the vegetables in her backyard. No, no, a gardener. I’m sticking with that. For most of my life I’ve lived in apartments. Only a couple of houses and never any with the space to garden, not that I wanted to. But in the last couple of years, a few things have happened to make me take pause and reconsider the whole gardening thing.

  1. I met a lovely gal named Gale Borger who is an extremely talented gardener and the  brilliant author of Death of a Garden Hoe.
  2. I connected with another gal on Twitter who has a site called Red, White, and Grew.
  3. And I paid $1.29 for a freaking cucumber that little to no flavor.

So, here I am. Pamela, at Red, White, and Grew (who has an awesome display of boards on Pinterest) had a lot to do with this as she reminded me about something I had long ago forgotten: Victory Gardens. You all know what they are, right? If not, hit Pamela’s site and pay attention. I’ve watched Pamela’s enthusiasm and willingness to answer a series of (what must be mind-numbing) questions from all manner of people, including me. She appears to be tireless. Truly.

Gale, who is also one of my favorite authors, has spent many an hour answering my questions as well. If you want to see what a true gardener can do, visit Gale’s site and look at some of her award-winning plants and flowers. She has a remarkable gift, and she loves to share it with others.

Then there was the whole cucumber incident. Now, it wasn’t just the high cost of that flavorless cuke, but my mouth-watering experience on the other end of the veggie spectrum. I was up in Pennsylvania at the launch party for Kieryn Nicolas’ debut YA spy novel, Rain. It was a grand party, and I was overwhelmed with the family garden gracing their yard. As I was leaving that day, Mara, Kieryn’s way super-awesome-cool mom, gave me some treats. One of them was a small bag of cucumbers. NEVER in my life had I had a cucumber that tasted so good. I mean , seriously people, my husband and I stood in the kitchen all but crying with the joy of this cucumber. I kid you not. It was SPECTACULAR. But I do go on.

Fast forward to a couple months ago when hubby and I gave up apartment life and bought a house in Orlando, FL. We had this lovely backyard and nothing in it. As of today, it has a patch of ground that I cleared, and tried to till, and turned, and babied so I could plant my tomatoes and bell peppers. A week later came one night of frost. Guess what? Yeah. Lucky for us Home Depot, gems that they are, took back all the dead peppers and one of the three mater plants. Two of them actually came back and produced a few more maters (9 cherries maters to date.) Then came another stupid frost. Really? In Florida? Come on.

'Maters and Bell Peppers

So, as I type this post in, I am anxiously waiting for Sunday when we will go out and buy the materials to build a couple raised beds. I have several mater and bell peppers plants that I started from seed and are almost ready to be transplanted. I have a monster cilantro plant that thinks its some kind of giant tree (I can’t use as much cilantro as I keep cutting), and we have a grapefruit tree (with leaf miners), a lemon tree that might actually bear fruit, and a tangerine tree that is doing splendidly. Oh and three concord grape starters.


I am determined to become a successful and fruitful gardener, even if it kills me. I am trying to learn as much as I can, so if you garden and you have tips, ideas, and other stuff you would like to share, please let me know. Who knows, maybe I can become some famous publishing gardener.

I’d love to hear what you grow.


11 responses to “A New Adventure Has Begun: Brace Yourself

  1. Hi Karen

    Many thanks for visiting my blog and your kind words there.

    I went to a veggie gardening seminar last weekend. Though we’re at opposite ends of the world (I’m in sub-tropical Brisbane, Australia) you may find some of the pests and diseases the same. The presenter was great and her site is http://www.annettemcfarlane.com/ with a heap of tips on identifying problems, organic sprays, treatments and more.

    I’ll have to type up my notes, but a few bits of advice were:

    Most failures are because people sow/plant at the wrong time of year. You must have a truly local calendar.

    Keep sprays made up in labelled spray-bottles so you can easily hit pests and diseases as soon as they arrive – check every day. After you spray soapy water on aphids to kill them one day, if they are still there the next, that’s not a failure of the treatment – they have live young, so that’s a new generation. Got to keep at them.

    Forget the shade, a vegetable patch or plants in boxes need at least a potential of 6 hours of sun a day. If gargening in pots, the pot should be small bucket size or larger, but it should also be placed inside something even larger with soil or some sort of insulation separating them so that roots don’t get damaged by touching the hot side of the pot container when the sun’s on it.

    Rain and watering rapidly washes nutrients out of the soil in containers – fertilize regularly.

    Put up a cone of stakes first before you plant your cucumber seeds.

    So much to learn and do…

    I used to have a good vegetable garden in England. It’s much harder here in Aus, but I do like fresh produce best. Got to work on it.

    All best wishes


  2. No one will ever accuse me of being a gardener. My reputation is that of one with a black thumb, a really black thumb. The last time I was in the hospital one of my relatives brought me a beautiful plant. Being the type of plant lover I am, I cannot tell one plant from the other. My only skill is that of an artist – I draw or paint them. This relative was unaware of my black thumb reputation. She set the plant down on the window sill and gave me a very short list of care instructions, ending with “This plant just about takes care of itself.” I turned to her and begged her to take it home, saying that, with my black thumb, she’d be saving the plant’s life. She thought I was kidding. Three days later, she came to my house to checkup on me and the plant. She took one look at the deceased plant and took it out in the backyard and buried it. She never again brought me another plant. And she has informed all of my relatives that, if they want a plant to live, never give it to me.

  3. Karen…. loved your blog post. Since we’re in Zone Arctic up here (just kidding, I have no idea what zone Anchorage is in, but it has to be “lots of daylight for a very short summer” zone. We’re leaving Alaska next fall, though, so I’ll be back to my herb gardening. I grow chives, sage, basil (little underground bugs like to chew on their roots and kill them, though), parsley, lavender, oregano, Sweet Annie, and bunches of other stuff. I’ve grown vegetables, too, but not for the last few years. It’s illegal to grow food in housing areas on the AF base, as it attracts moose and bears, who already wander around here as though they own the place–which, of course, they do. Your post made me eager to get back into my gardening and I can’t wait to explore Pamela’s site about Victory Gardens.


  4. My DH is the gardener. He supplies me with tomatoes, cucumbers and he supplies himself and the rabbits with herbs. He’s done potatoes and peppers in the past.

    • I have a few concerns on this. We have the wild bunnies that run free and frolic in our yard, and the little bastards, sorry, cute little bunnies, don’t appear to be afraid of anything. I saw two last night and when they headed toward my garden plot, I stepped out to shew…shoe…shoo them away. One of them turned, looked at me, and I swear he said, “Betty look at that lady, she thinks I’m afraid of her. Silly arse.”

      I swear. It was telepathic, but I could clearly read it in his/her eyes. I may have to devise some kind of barrier system once we get the raised beds in.

  5. Bravo, you gardener, you!

  6. I really enjoyed this (well-written!) post. And I’m terribly jealous of your citrus trees, since I live in Zone 7, much too far north for those. I’m glad you haven’t let a few stray frosts discourage your vegetable gardening efforts–you sound determined, and that’s exactly what gardening requires, in my experience! Determination and a love for being out among the plants every day, seeing what they’re up to. You ask what other people are growing, so I’ll tell you what I’m secretly most excited about this year: my ground cherries. They’re tiny cherry-tomato-looking fruits that have thin paper husks, like tomatillos, but are said to taste like pineapple. I guess we’ll see! Happy gardening, and best of luck!

    • Ground cherries, huh. I do love me some cherries. I was not as keen on the citrus trees as hubby. I know that leaf disease is a big issue in FL, and sure enough…leaf miners right out of the gate. There are other fruits I would much rather have.

      Hubby wants me to wait to expand the garden too much more until after the pool is in (mid april…fingers crossed) and the privacy fence is up.

      We’ll see ::wink::

  7. This is the best post! Yes! Victory garden! I hear you on the veggies… I only buy local produce now for that very reason. I have two siberian huskies and they have this gorgeous big pen that they never go in because, well, they are spoiled and stay inside. One day I had the great thought as I sighed at my big backyard with the dog trails like little goat paths criss-crossing the yard (the one by the dog pen actually has circle of dirt – circle of grass – circle of dirt – circle of grass – GOATS! Oops anyway, so! I got the great idea to make raised beds INSIDE the dog pen and keep the dogs OUT! VOILA!!!!!

    You are of course further ahead on the weather than I am, but it is definitely time to be pouring over all the gardening magazines (some are online even!). I want tomatoes! Yellow squash! CUKES AND ZUKES!

    I will look at the other blogs later – am in Starbucks and trying to get work done but saw your tweet go by. 🙂

    • Hey Girly GIrl!

      Are you still in the same house or did you start totally fresh? I have discovered that I really LOVE Garden Gate magazine. A lot of people like Fine Gardening, but the key word there is fine. I find the stuff a little to rich for my blood. Garden Gate offers me things in my budget, in my scope of capabilities, and give me lots of pictures with diagrams.

      I tend to stand in stores with my iPhone taking screen shots of pages in other mags that may be useful to me. Not totally ethical, but $10.99 for a magazine. shheeaaah!

      Are your huskies as loveable as that sweetheart, Higgins? Now there was a dog!

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