Make yourself comfortable under the Tulip Tree.

My name is Victoria and I am gradually creating a suburban homestead in Central Illinois.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

There was a good frost last night. We covered the strawberries and tomatoes with plastic on the frames and draped a bedsheet over the blueberry bushes.

These are the tulips we cut to bring inside the house. The crocus are about finished blooming. Asian lilies are about 3-5 inches tall. Naked Ladies are in full leaf. Peonies are also coming up.

I had thought that I had pruned Rose of Sharon too harshly last fall but the main branches have small buds developing. I may not get any flowers this year, but at least they'll survive.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

rain and the resultant pond

We had over 1 inch of rain in less than an hour last night. Half of the backyard was a very nice pond. I tried to get a picture but a nighttime photo even with flash was not viewable. This morning, our pond was gone. That's good. We won't have passing geese stopping in like last time. The basement was dry - also a good thing. I think I have the water problem fixed.

Tonight is a frost warning so the covers will have to go on the boxes and we'll wrap the blueberries in bed sheet.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Garden Goals 2011

In no particular order:

  • expand garden beds on northern fence (approximately six 4' raised beds) -- completed

  • double dig the new beds (borrow tiller from Harry?) -- decided to use lasagna method

  • use old compost "pyramid" to cultivate potatoes -- check. seed potatoes are sprouting.

  • plant container blueberry bush (and new ones) in northwest corner -- completed

  • add raspberry and blackberry canes using esplanier method (trellis trained)

  • add dwarf fruit trees esplanier method (maybe apricot/peach/cherry) along north fence

  • strawberry bed -- three different varieties. straw placed in bed to protect plants from spring chilliness

  • add perennial flowering herbs to side yard (north side)

  • check asparagus patch -- asparagus is up. thinking of buying more male plants - more plants bought, need to dig them in.

  • construct raised bed boxs (4'x4') for old and new beds. -- completed. have 5 4'x4' and 5 6'x4' beds

  • use slow watering techniques (2L pop bottles) -- installed in tomato and strawberry beds

  • set up soaker hose in new beds -- not sure if this is viable using the existing hose and new beds.

  • rain water catchment on northeast corner of house to water new beds

  • wildflower bed - long stemmed for flower arrangements -- seeded.

  • rabbit proof yard -- dog fur along openings check.

  • basement - set up indoor growing site for seedlings -- yes. done. still have some things downstairs - green onions, yellow squash

  • early tomatoes? -- probably not.

  • supplies for row coverings (PVC pipe and clear plastic ) -- check.

Purposeful living in the garden

The idea behind this garden blog is to share information about growing my own vegetables for health. I'm already a regular customer at the farmer's market for fresh, local produce. I'm a big fan of eating local and supporting organic practices. I have an existing garden bed but intend to step up this year and try to grow more vegetables in order to change my nutrition lifestyle into a more vegetarian one. All the books I've read indicate a diet composed of fresh, organic and raw vegetables is desirable for both treating and preventing a host of health concerns.

I've been diagnosed with psoaratic arthritis - I have all the symptoms of Rhuematoid arthritis but tested negative for the Rh factor. I am being treated with a combination of piroxicam, humira (a "biologic" - monoclonal antibody - anti-TNF) and methotrexate. I take tramadol for pain. It currently affects the mobility and dexterity in my hands/wrists, neck, hip, and toes. Reducing localized and systemic inflammation is a main health goal.

My friend, Alexa, is a wonderful supporter in this endeavor.

I expect to grow most of our spring/summer/autumn vegetables in the backyard this year. There are two exceptions: corn and squash which can be had very cheap at the farmer's market and in plentiful supply. Both are heavy feeders and take up a lot of space in the garden so it makes economic sense to simply buy local from trusted farmers.

I've toyed with the four season harvest and one year harvested winter carrots in March. I use the double dig, raised bed method with succesive, intensive planting. I have three compost tumblers for soil improvement.

My gardening has a purpose - mental, physical, spiritual.


The blueberry bushes have been planted into the northwest corner of the backyard. There are three varieties (bluecrop, patriot, and jersey): one high bush and two lowbushes. The one on the top right is my old container blueberry; hopefully it will like the ground much better than the pot.
The holes were MUCH easier to dig than I thought. The soil is still clay and the pH will be adjusted by pouring vinegar around. Hot vinegar will also kill the grass so I don't have a difficult time keeping the area neat.
Fruit is a 3-5 year plan. Next up will be dwarf cherries and apricot.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

asparagus - first of the season

The asparagus bed has started putting up stalks. I ate this one raw. It's sweeter than store-bought asparagus.
I don't know how big the bed really is...it's sandwiched between wild growth of peppermint and lemon balm. I think about digging it up to take a look - I planted 5 crowns a few years ago. Hvae to look up care and feeding of asparagus.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


In a flurry of activity this weekend, Alexa and I have planted our strawberries. There are ten plants of 3 different hybrids. The continuous watering system consists of 2liter soda bottles with a small hole in the bottom that is filled with water. This also has the added benefit of provided a local microclimate to warm the area and prevent frost damage. This is one of the new "lasagna" beds with cardboard laid over the lawn, mulched leaves/grass, compost, peat moss, sand, and some garden soil. The PVC pipe allows us to cover the box with plastic for a greenhouse effect or with netting to discourage birds from harvesting our berries.

Monday, April 11, 2011

a peek into the basement

It's been a few years since I started seedlings in the basement. I've forgotten a few lessons.
The grow lights worked great except that I had them too high at the beginning and a lot of the plants (heck, all of the plants!) went leggy. They might not survive a transplant into the garden.
I might go back to Lowe's to get more of the 25cent plants!

sprouts are up...

Next weekend,t here looks to be a frost/freeze forecast. Have to get out the covers. Radish sprouts and some lettuce in the refurbished beds. Also featured are some bokchoy plants that were on sale for $0.99/four. ONe can't beat 25cents for a delicious plant! Stir fry, here we come! Onion (red) sets went into the "extra" 4'x4' box.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Goals from 2009 - progress report

I want to revisit my goals from previous years to see how they've worked out (or not.)

1. Don’t go digital on February 17. It’ll save money and liberate time. Affirmative! I didn't go digital and do not have television in my house. I got rid of internet as well so I don't watch any television programming on the laptop either. I do watch DVDs either on the laptop or with Alexa at her house. I have a blackberry so I do get email at home.

2. Commit to an anti-inflammation (mostly vegetarian) lifestyle. This comes and goes. Recommitted with the new season and Alexa's support.

3. Eat 75% local (100 mile ) nutrition. Ditto. The garden was expanded and much more produce will be available from less than 10 ft away. Farmer's market for things I can't or won't grow: zucchini, peaches, apples, specialty plants.

4. Eliminate packaged foods to all extent possible. Mmm, partial success.

5. Reduce waste in the household. Increase recycling. Yep. No-sort recycling with a new company makes it easy to dump everything (plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, etc) into the big tote. 6. Determine and follow a financial plan and schedule for home improvements (roof, bathroom, deck, etc). I have saved up enough money to complete the projects. Prioritization completed. Now to get quotes and start work.

7. Expand the garden beds. I have twice the growing space as last year. The boxes were built in 4'x4' and 6'x4' dimensions.

8. Plant dwarf fruit trees. The potted lemon tree that Mom gave me in 2009 is in good shape an dproducing fruit. This is on schedule for this year. Blueberry, blackberry/raspberry, and cherry esplanier.

9. Implement rain water catchment for irrigating the garden beds. Also on schedule for this year with the new beds.

10. Ride my bike for enjoyment at least twice a week, weather permitting. With my RA under control, this should be good to go for this summer.

11. Use bike/trailer to do local shopping on weekend. Maybe. Traffic is a problem unless I do grocery shopping at 6 am.

12. Ride to work at least once a week. Possibly. Safety in traffic a concern. 13. Continue reducing “things” in the house aka the 100 Thing Challenge. Pretty good. I still have a big closet to go. The neighborhood grarage sale is coming up 3rd week in May.

14. Explore different compost systems to maximize production and minimize space.I obtained 3 compost tumblers which work pretty efficiently. Also have a cold pile box.

ask yourself....

will this take you to where you want to go in life?