Bit by the Gardening Bug

It’s spring, and for me, spring always brings this tremendous desire to go plant something. When I was in my 20’s, that desire played out in a huge organic garden (seriously, like 25 x 50 feet) that resulted in scads of homegrown vegetables which we feasted on all summer and then canned or froze for the winter.

One spring, the rabbits got in and ate our baby tomato plants the night after we planted them, so we went back to the nursery, got more plants, and tried again. Things got very interesting when some of the original plants came back and later that summer, we had more tomatoes than we knew what to do with. I would go out every morning and pick a 5-gallon bucket of tomatoes, only to find an equal number ripe that evening. I don’t think I’ve ever canned that many tomatoes in one season in my life. I put up over 60 quarts of tomatoes before giving up and getting out the dehydrator. At the end, we finally gave up and put a bunch in the compost, where we were sad that they would go to waste but at least they would help nourish the garden for the next year.

This year, though, the gardening efforts will be smaller but more difficult. Whereas in Iowa, the soil is very rich and you can practically throw the seeds on the ground and they’ll grow, the soil here is very poor – mostly clay, not much drainage, and with parts of the yard that are very wet due to the sump pump and others where there is no water at all. We don’t have room for a vegetable garden so I’ll probably just be planting¬†perennials. Also, where artificial watering is required, it must be judiciously applied because water is a rare and precious resource here in the American west. Up here on the Palmer Divide, we also get a lot of strong wind, which can dry plants as well as causing wind damage.

Add to all of that the fact that our backyard got the typical builder landscaping – which means that it has lots of river rock and a sad patch of turfgrass in the middle that survives only because we water it several times a week. I hate to even guess the quality of the soil that was left behind after the house was built; but I can’t think it’s all that great. Composting is called for but my husband is not a fan – in fact, he has this little shudder every time I mention it. Sadly, he also wasn’t too keen on my idea to avoid mowing by having sheep or fiber goats to eat the grass. (I was only kidding; mostly anyway. Our HOA would have a fit).

As a result, this has all turned into a big research project – first, to figure out what can even grow here, and second to identify plants that will look nice but not require a lot of water. I went to the library on Saturday and checked out a big stack of books, which I’m now pouring through. As a gardener, moving to the Rocky Mountains means I have to pretty much start over in learning what works here, with its unique challenges I haven’t encountered before. In many ways, puts me back to the early days of my gardening life when I knew very little.

Wish me luck. This is going to be interesting.

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