Jeremy and I have been talking a lot lately about the concept of relaxation – about how there’s a huge difference between “checking out”, which is what we tend to do (what most people tend to do, I think) at the end of our very long and busy days, exhausted and sprawled out on the couch watching Netflix and surfing the ‘net. It serves a purpose I suppose, but it’s not truly restorative the way relaxing should be.
I didn’t realize that, though, until I started gardening again.
Until I allowed myself to spend hours in my back yard, unconstrained, my favorite podcasts flowing through my ear buds, and calmly, quietly, puttering puttering puttering from one project to another.
I lost a whole weekend like that. It was like crack, once I started I couldn’t stop. And I realized . . . relaxation! This is actually relaxing!
And now I just can’t get enough.
And I’m excited to share my 2014 garden with you, as the season unfolds, as we all work through our gardening adventures in our own repsective gardens in our own little parts of the world. Just like the old days!
For some reason, though, I’m feeling the need to include a disclaimer before this post.
I’ve written before about my little house – this little house that I love so much. My gawd, I love this little house! When I first moved back to Santa Barbara – one of the most expensive cities in America, oh yes it is – and began my hunt for a home *in my price range*, I was mostly looking at studios. Just a single room for Waits and I, and all our stuff, and a dog too. There were a few tiny one bedrooms. All apartments.
I never dreamed that I would find a freestanding home, with a bedroom for Waits all his own, and with a full wraparound yard. And when I found it, I had to fight for it (like a tiger, I did) and when I finally secured it, I cried (true story!). This delightful, dilapidated home that was built in the nineteen-teens, then relocated to this spot somewhere around about the nineteen-fifties, and has been sitting on this spot over since, slowly sagging and sinking under the lives of the many families who have called it “home”.
And now it’s ours.
But my point . . . my point. I guess my point is that, this isn’t Better Homes and Gardens, yeah? That’s not what this blog is about. That’s not my life! This is . . . a landlord who looks the other way so that my rent can remain affordable. It’s chipped paint and cracked walls and stains that won’t come off. The wear and the tear of a very old, very lived-in house.
This is my crazy, cozy little cottage (the collection of cottages where I and a few of my friends live, we’ve affectionately dubbed “The Downtown Bohemian Compound” – I’m going to write a lot more about that some day), slumped but sturdy under my feet. I hope you can forgive her blemishes, because we do so love her.
And as I’m sure it goes without saying, this yard and garden is very much a work in progress!
Not much to look at, right? Dejected grass, a dried up banana palm in a pot by the back door, a few dying sago palms planted in a rock bed along the side of the house, and hoo-boy what’s up with that border along the fence? Eek.
This is how it’s shaping up these days:
Waits inherited a little wooden playhouse which took up residence under the orange tree. He keeps his own special (THE SPIKIEST, MAMA!) cactuses in little pots out front, along with a miniature push broom to keep the spider webs away. He is the best.
The grass is still pretty dry (we’re in a drought, it can’t be helped), but along the fence I’ve replaced the ugly trim with natural rock. Growing along the fence we have a rose bush and a jasmine vine – both carefully nursed back to health by yours truly – and I added an artichoke plant. In the pots to the right there’s a happy sago palm, along with two types of stevia. I still can’t decide if I want to harvest my stevia and then dehydrate it and grind it to a powder (like my homemade green powder) for a homegrown natural sweetener, or if I’ll just keep picking off one leaf at a time to toss fresh into my smoothies. Decisions decisions . . .
Back up in the “after” pic up there, you can see my 3-bin compost system at the far end of the yard, along the fence. It’s not too glamorous but it gets the job done, and after 1 whole years it’s finally churning out nutrient-rich compost to fertilize my garden on a pretty regular basis.
Finally, that awful rocky bed along the side of the house. Well, we tore it out last spring and tried to plant flowers (remember?) but they pretty much died, immediately. That soil was not supportive of life, haha.
So Waits and I took a multiphase approach to repairing it. First, we turned over all the existing dirt, just got it good and broken up.
Then we tilled a ton of super dark, super nutrient-rich compost (courtesy of my godparents – this was before I was churning out my own) into the ground.
Finally, we covered it with a thick layer of hay, and left it to cook for all of last fall, through winter, and into early spring.
A few months back I began to sow my first round of flower seeds in little pots. And finally, when they got big enough, I transplanted them into the hay-covered bed.
This time they took! The plan is to continue to sow seeds every few weeks, and transplant them in as they’re big enough, to provide a steady and constant stream of flowers through the summer and autumn. Here’s how it’s looking so far:
Another landscaping project I’ve recently undertaken happened right around the corner, at the back of my mud room and around my potting table. It’s always been a rather haphazard mess of an area, see?
But recently, after pillaging my godparents land of a few extra cacti and agaves, I spent an afternoon in garden bliss, and ended up with this:
Pretty cute, right? I love the upcycled wooden ride-on fire truck turned succulent planter.
A better look at the area around the corner, the entrance to my laundry room/mud room:
The big planter houses a concord grape vine, purchased completely on a whim by Jeremy and I during a random visit to the home improvement center. To the left is a large succulent and behind that, a baby rosemary bush. Other herbs I’m growing in pots this year include parsley, cilantro, oregano, thyme, mint, basil, marjoram, and savory. I’ve written lots in the past about container herb gardening, if you’re interested.
Moving along, to the far back wall of my yard, which stretches the entire length from my driveway at one end, to my outdoor dining area at the other (right outside my back door/mud room). And along that back wall, we’ve got a lot going on . . .
Sunflowers! Which Waits helped me plant and which he loves to water – these are definitely his sun flowers. At the far end you’ll see the banana palm that came with this house, and which I’m slowly, ever so slowly, nursing back from the brink of death. Following that is a row of our second-round sun flowers, followed by 3 small wooden wine boxes holding 2 bell pepper plants apiece. Finally, the food portion of this gardening adventure! My bells are already going off, with multiple buds/babies on each plant (and that’s a first-round sunflower to the far right of the frame).
Despite having a potting table, the outdoor dining table is where I do a lot of my garden work. This is what it looked like last month, overflowing with flower and veggies starts:
And now? Those starts are all transplanted – the most coveted of which are my tomatoes. They live in wine boxes along that back wall, behind the table, climbing their rainbow-colored cages.
This year I’ve been blessed by the tomato gods! I’m growing the healthiest, happiest tomato plants I’ve ever tended (knock on wood!), and tomatoes are my favorite thing to grow so believe me, I’ve tended a lot! My favorite thing to grow, but also the bane of my gardening existence because I have such piss-poor luck with them. Ha!
But not this year. This year my tomato plants are glorious, and already hanging heavy with fruit. Squee!
Okay, you guys! I have so much more to share – so much more food. We haven’t even gone around to the front of the house yet! But I feel like this post is already overflowing with pics, so I’m going to have to finish up later, yeah?
For now, I want to know:
What are you growing?
How are your gardens shaping up this year? What are your plans?
I’m so excited to be sharing our adventures here again, after too many years away. So please – let’s talk dirt!
♥ ♥ ♥