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Do you REEEEALLLLY enjoy gardening?? - OR - My eternal gratitude goes out to America's farmers!

Reading these posts (particularly the "tomato fruit eating critter) really makes me question my sanity as I "itch" to put out vegetable seedlings at this time each year. And yet I do and wait with baited breath for that first tomato or squash or green bean, then do my annual swearing when that almost-ready tomato is violated by < take your pick > lying in wait, finally ending the season with the same question of sanity. Yet the cycle continues with hopeful anticipation each year!!!

Gardening is a challenging task, no argument about it. And even though I'm not that fond of tomatoes (except on BLT's!!), I continue to buy several plants each year. And even though the pests, critters and TX heat claim more fruit than I, I guess I do enjoy the pampering, the daily visit to check their well-being (or lack thereof) and even the occasional "eureka!" when I get to win. And you really can't beat the flavor of any freshly picked vegetable.

This year, I'm gardening with a more purposeful intent, though on a very small scale -- offsetting escalating store prices.

Why do you garden???

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  1. Why I garden:

    -releives the day's tensions and lets my mind get away to enjoy the nature, breezes, and sunshine.
    -the pride and fascination of nurturing a seed to nurture yourself and family.
    -knowing the food you're putting on your table was grown 'a stone's throw' away, and knowing what's in it, how it was handled, and cared for.
    -the constant rise in food costs.
    -canning and preservation.

    1. I've owned homes in IN/CA/KY/GA and left my spade marks in the soil at each place. My gardens were small, but I grew things that weren't readily available elsewhere, like heirloom tomatoes, unusual varieties of potato, sugar snap peas, broccoli rabe, wax beans, "old-time" runner beans, you get the idea. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction to see things through to harvest. I generally used organic controls and amendments and did have occasional problems with voles, rabbits, hornworms and the like; but, I got more than they did.

      I'll be 67 this year and the soil in south GA is hard sand and rock. I am gardening in containers and have put out the first tomato plant on the patio.

      1. It's the always-miracle of a tiny seed becoming food. Even if I have to battle weather, plant diseases, pests/critters, I get such fun out of my "harvest" of even a handful of food that came from my own dirt.

        1. For all the reasons the three above posters said, plus:

          *I relish our growing independence from the grocery store and CAFO meat and dairy (we're growing chickens too and there's lambs, goats, and a dairy cow in out future)

          *I like sticking it to Monsanto, et al in my own small way by choosing open-pollinated and heritage varieties, saving seed, and not using their products.

          *Looking at the pantry full of preserves, the full freezers, the containers of dehydrated produce, the various places around the house and garage that hold root cellar stashes in the fall gives me a huge feeling of security and satisfaction that all those way too hot hours during the end of July and through August were so absolutely worth it.

          *Putting meals on the table that consist entirely of the fruits of our own labor. Well, except for s&p, oil, an exotic spice, or sometimes white sugar.

          *Donating our spare produce to our extremely local food bank that delivers directly to shut-ins and at risk families in our county

          *Using our garden as a teaching tool. "Give a woman some produce and she'll eat for a day. Teach a woman to garden and preserve and she and her family will eat for a lifetime."

          5 Replies
          1. re: morwen

            Your list and my list are almost identical. I totally agree with each of your points. In addition I also love horticulture and enjoy watching the daily miracles in the garden. It amazes me that all these hundreds of different seeds produce completely different things. As a Master Gardener I use herbs, etc. from the garden as teaching tools in both hort and cooking classes.

            LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT!!!

            1. re: morwen

              "I like sticking it to Monsanto, et al in my own small way by choosing open-pollinated and heritage varieties, saving seed, and not using their products."

              I so bitterly despise big agri-business that this made me want to jump up and cheer. Thanks for doing your part! And put an heirloom in the ground for me this year, will ya, morwen, while I sojourn in the wilderness -- er, I mean a condo without so much as a balcony? :)

              1. re: LauraGrace

                With a quick google search, I see that there are "millions" of organic consumers in a campaign against Monsanto, but there without digging further into that website, there's nothing that immediately defines the reason for or the purpose of the "campaign". (Journalism 101 - always define the "what" in the first paragraph)

                I appreciate your comments, so for the benefit for those of us not so organically leaning, what, in brief, have they done to raise the ire in seemingly so many.

                1. re: CocoaNut

                  My biggest beef with Monsanto is their campaign against independent farmers using non-GM and heritage seeds for their crops. If a farmer's crop is downwind of a Monsanto seeded field and gets pollinated by it (and that field can be literally miles away from the Monsanto field), the resulting seed from the farmer's crop carries Monsanto patented genetically engineered genes. Monsanto has a history of prosecuting these farmers for patent violations and either forcing them to capitulate or driving them out of business. The same goes for owners of small businesses who help these farmers process seeds they've saved for their next year's crops. They are considered accessories to the "crime".

                  Almost on a level of persecuting farmers who don't want to use Monsanto seeds and products, is Monsanto's GM seeds are cleverly engineered to work only with their Round-Up products and contain a "suicide" gene so the plants can't go to seed preventing farmers from saving seed from their crops for next year's planting and forcing them into a cycle of buying Monsanto seeds and products.

                  I also find horrific the fact that small truck farmers and backyard gardeners are not safe from this kind of persecution should Monsanto so choose to pursue it.

                  The third beef is the number of ex-Monsanto and other Big AG-Big Food executives sitting as chairmen and members/employees of government agencies overseeing farming and food production. I think it reeks of collusion.

                  And lastly, but just as importantly, the buying out of independent commercial seed houses and nurseries in order to control the flow of seeds and plants, and the cover company that goes by the name of Seminis used to distribute their seed to seed houses and nurseries without using the Monsanto name.

                  1. re: morwen

                    Thank you.

                    >> used to distribute their seed to seed houses and nurseries without using the Monsanto name.

                    and are these seed only distributed in a bulk/wholesale fashion or do they ultimately end up in packets such as Ferry-Morris?

            2. ha- I ask myself that question ALL THE TIME.

              Honestly, I think the biggest reason is that my parents always had a vegetable garden when I was growing up. For some reason, gardening is one of the few rituals from my childhood that got imprinted on my brain (I certainly don't cook a lot of Spam, lol!).

              Since I've had a family I feel a bit more of a benefit for all this (often fruitless) hard work. There is nothing better than your kids helping themselves to a snack while they're out playing in the yard. The apline strawberries & blueberry bushes have been great.

              Lately I'm trying to grow more things that are hard to find, even at farmer's markets. So adding in some perennial salad greens (sorrel, lovage), sour cherry tree, and plans for an apricot tree this year.

              1. Cut nearly 4 dozen Valencias from my extra-dwarf tree yesterday--all that fruit, and I did no work to bring it about. Gifting some friends tomorrow with the bounty. Ain't it a miracle?

                1. You should read "The $40 Tomato".

                  Mostly, I have to plant something so I know what's not a weed...might as well get something back from it!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: jzerocsk

                    Ha! I think I can guess the content of "The $40 Tomato" and am pretty sure it fits me to a tee!

                    1. re: CocoaNut

                      I've read the book, but hubby calls mine "hundred dollar tomatoes" instead!

                      1. re: pine time

                        Good dirt's expensive isn't it!!!!!!

                    2. re: jzerocsk

                      I figure we just about break even, cost wise.

                      But it's hard to describe how deeply satisfying it is to go out and work in the garden (I use raised beds, so its not even much work - some weeding is about all it takes!) The smell and feel of moist, rich earth on my hands, the amazing feeling of seeing little green necks popping up out of the soil...down to the pride of serving dinner to my husbands boss and when he commented on how fresh everything tasted, mentioning that it all came out of my garden.

                      The process of growing is good for my mind and soul; the result is good for my body.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Loved Morwen's reasons.
                        We now live on the family farm so I have the luxury of space and sun that I never had before. DH likes seeing the place used the way it's supposed to be. A neighbor with cattle is using the fields for hay and feed corn.
                        It all started off with just wanting to raise some good tasting tomatoes and other easy stuff but the catalog offerings sucked me into trying new varieites so now we've got some great tasting vegetables we can't buy or are hard to find. Then it becomes a challenge to add another bed or two and add more to the larder. I didn't plan to do any canning but it's simple to freeze peppers and store squash in a cold part of the cellar so I thought I'd try a few small batch recipes of things like curried cherry tomato ketchup with my surplus and that was easy to cook and freeze. Sure, there are times when I kick myself for gardening/cooking taking up so much time but I've ended up with a greater variety of menus thanks to the internet surfing when I need to figure out what to do with so much x, y or z.

                        Our house faces south practically sitting on top of the driveway so the best spot for gardening is out front so I also have to admit to being something of a show off. I have two simple flower beds in front but then several vegetable beds. I love hearing compliments from visitors. I love feeding zucchini chocolate chip cookies to DH, DS and their friends. I enjoy encouraging our little granddaughters to enjoy the garden and pick some things to take home.

                        Season extending methods are intriguing. Another challenge we are looking at. I love brushing against scented plants. We were thrilled to have a small flock of blue birds eat berries on the spreading cotoneaster bush last fall. We planted two crab apples last fall and I plan to add more plants for wildlife. (although I wish critters would leave my strawberries alone).

                        I've attended some plant swaps and I'm very excited to attend our first organic farmers conference this weekend. Gardeners are such interesting people.

                        BTW DH grew up on a farm but farming is not in his blood. It was hard work and his father quit for better paying work when DH was in high school. I could not do this full time.

                    3. Thank you for sharing your stories. Obviously, any and all gardening efforts are worthwhile and to be applauded - those who are particularly successful, admired! :)

                      I take on a very small number of vegetables every year as more a fun challenge than a means to put food on my table. My tomatoes never do well, but after 5+ years, I've recently learned I've been planting (large fruiting) varieties not suited to the early and hot summer heat of N. Central TX. This year, on advice, I'm trying Celebrity and Supersweet 100's..... hopefully with better results!

                      So I've just come in from planting my tomatoes (I did sneak in an Early Girl), green beans, yellow squash, pintos and bell pepper, along with a few herbs. Fingers are crossed for a bountiful (ok - small!) harvest!!!

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: CocoaNut

                        CocoaNut, in your climate, you can get away with planting your 'maters somewhere that they end up in the shade or filtered light in the afternoons -- sometimes the Texas sun is just too much for them and they need a little protection.

                        1. re: CocoaNut

                          My in-laws planted the exact same things every year. I just don't understand that. But, I guess, with the internet we have access to so many more varieties than what's at the local Agway. You might check with your county extension about best varieties for your area and growing tricks. For example, to get good spinach here in NH I have to plant as early as possible. Sometime, years ago, I read that spinach is very day length sensitive as well as heat sensitive. I get great spinach as long as I sow early. I have yet to discover the secret to growing good cilantro. I also learned to continue planting during the summer and not put all the seeds in on Memorial Day.

                          1. re: dfrostnh

                            :)) dfrost, In my case, I believe I was just lazy and didn't do the research, going instead w/name recognition. Had always heard of Better Boy, Beefsteak, etc. We have a great master gardener/horticulturist in the D/FW area who has had a wkend, morning radio program for years. REcently, he has *volunteered* his time to take 100's of questions weekly over his FB page - believe that!! Anyway, hopefully, my new education will pay off with different choices! and I'll be enjoying a 1st class BLT before too long!

                            1. re: CocoaNut

                              Better Boys were developed in central Florida, so they should do okay in your climate (same company brought out all the other "Boy" cultivars - Big Boy, Better Boy, etc.)

                              But asking your local extension is the best bet, because even Neill can't know every county.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                I've personally known Neil to be dead wrong on a number of occasions; but love him or hate him, my respect goes to him with his vast and resourceful connections, which are quite equal to his lifelong gardening experiences.

                                Given that I've never had luck with the larger, slicing varieties, he couldn't be anymore wrong with his picks than I've been with mine. Not to mention there's a large heat difference (on average) between Central Fl and N. Central TX summers.

                                1. re: CocoaNut

                                  sorry, missed the point about North Central -- for whatever reason, I had you somewhere Houston-ish in my mind....hot, humid = Central Florda.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    No harm, but in the D/FW area, Jul/Aug can bring 100 degree temps.... At which point most vegetation ceases to be productive. ;)

                          2. re: CocoaNut

                            I'm on a gardening forum quite a bit with a few other Texans, and the one variety they rave the most about for standing up to our heat is Porter, or Porter's Improved, or any variation on Porter. It's a plum sized tomato, not a big slicer. I'm trying it this year too. I've always had better luck with cherry tomatoes myself, I'm outside of Austin.

                            1. re: Helvella

                              Helvella, earlier today, my neighbor brought this article to me from this morning's FW Star Telegram. I'm glad Neil agrees with himself from what he was recommending on his Facebook page! ha! Porter is one of his recommended varieties.

                              Don't know if you'd be interested, but here is the link.
                              http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/03/...

                              1. re: CocoaNut

                                Interesting article. The only thing on there that seems off to me - based on reading a lot of first hand accounts from other gardeners in Texas - is that he recommends a high nitrogen fertilizer. As I understand it, using high nitrogen can be bad for production because it stimulates the plants to do more vegetative growth instead of producing fruit. Instead you should use something with good phosphorus and apparently tomatoes especially like calcium, a lot of folks (myself included) will plant them with a bit of bone meal or finely crushed up eggshells.

                                Thanks for the article, my Sun Gold cherry tomato plant is flowering and I'd forgotten about thumping them!

                                1. re: Helvella

                                  Excessive nitrogen does lead to more vegetation and less blossoming and fruit set. Tomatoes do love calcium. Last year we worked extra calcium into the tomato beds and then, following a local old-timer's rec, put a double handful of dry milk in the bottom of each transplant's hole while planting. Don't know if we got lucky or it was the extra attention but we had the best, most prolific tomato harvest ever and escaped the common blossom end rot, late blight, wilts and viruses.

                                  A & M's tomato problem solver may be helpful to you Texas gardeners. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/pu...

                                  1. re: morwen

                                    Dry milk! Well, I'll be jiggered. My brother's doing his first garden this year and the tomatoes we grew growing up ALWAYS had blossom end rot -- picture an idiot with a bottle full of blossom-set spray, spritzing every daggone blossom on each of fifteen six-foot-tall tomato plants -- I'll have to tell him about this trick!

                                  2. re: Helvella

                                    Like I said - I've known him to be dead wrong on some things! :):) and the nitrogen issue is one!!! I used Miracle Grow religiously on a plant one summer. That puppy was beautiful at 7 feet tall!! and not one tomato ever even tried to form.

                                    Morwen, wish I'd have know about the powdered milk "trick" last week. Have some in the fridge, but my plants are now in the ground - although I did use a handful of bone meal in each hole. My chiropractor said his dad said "fish emulsion" years ago and it's made a big difference in his tomato harvest. (and I've used that TX A&M website a lot in the past. It's great! Thanks for posting!)

                                    1. re: CocoaNut

                                      fish emulsion is terrific, but it smells god-awful. I use it half-strength on all my edibles.

                                      1. re: CocoaNut

                                        You could always try sprinkling the milk around the base of the plants and allowing it to water in. don't know if it would work that way but it seems to be fairly innocuous and probably couldn't hurt.

                              2. Because even the $40 tomatoes are cheaper than therapy! Plus, all the reasons that other people listed :-)

                                1. I seriously doubt I save any money on my grocery bill from my garden, but I keep pouring money into it. Why? Because I love it. I love being out in the yard, working the soil, tending them plants, observing their growth, finding all the critters in they attract. The ornamental garden was already sucking up my spare $$ before I even started trying to do vegetables. So even though it's all a bit of a folly since my entire yard is shade and I won't cut any trees down, thus limiting my production, I'm on my 4th year now of tending a vegetable plot, beating off deer, endlessly amending, and trying to keep it from withering in my Texas heat. I've learned a bit of what I can manage in my conditions and I celebrate greatly every little success and meal we manage to scrape from it, but I would garden either way.

                                  BTW, I highly recommend fencing the area where you're gardening. It helps a lot with the critters.

                                  1. I am fully aware of how expensive gardening (and canning the harvest) is, but I don't have many hobbies so I'm fine with it.

                                    I spend most of my life in front of a computer so anything (besides housework) that gives me a break and lets me do something with my hands is great for the soul. I'm not very craftsy, and my garden is relatively forgiving my clumsy efforts.

                                    When a seed sprouts--or better yet, a vegetable/fruit appears, I feel like I've just given birth without the labor pains. Well, there were sore muscles along the way, but not in the ballpark of childbirth. Then I nurture and watch my little babies grow and it delights me, because I don't have to get up during the night with them. The best is that they never learn to talk back, and the worries I have for them are relatively minor. When they are finally plucked, I take pictures and brag to everyone, and invite my closest and dearest to share the bounty or I lovingly preserve them for the long grey dreary winters here.

                                    So yeah, totally worth it :-D

                                    1. I work for a landscape design and installation company so I must enjoy gardening because after working a 55 hour week I still toil in my garden when free.

                                      One way to make up for $40/lb tomatoes is to buy a pack of kale or mustard seeds for $1.99. You will have more greens than you can dream of. A favorite treat is young greens with tamari and lemon.

                                      1. This is the time of year that "My eternal gratitude goes out to America's farmers!". One of my squash plants has died (for a truly unknown reason), one of the tomato plants (Early Girl) is on her last leg with Early Blight despite keeping hand watering off the leaves.... etc.

                                        It's at this time of year (Texas temps hit 100 this past Sat at D/FW), that I have great admiration for those who are successful growers!

                                        1. I'm trying to learn to love (okay, "like") gardening. I'm newly a stay at home mom and I need a hobby. I also think it'll be fun for my daughter and I when she's older. So far, my black thumb and I are not fans.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                            InVino (congratulations - I was wondering how you and the kidlet were doing!) see if you can borrow a copy of Square Foot Gardening -- the presentation tends to be a little "snake oil" in approach, but it's a *very* easy and very sensible way to have a garden (and in a very small space, which is good, too!)

                                            I had a blast with mine last year -- I'd never had a successful garden, and had all the lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, carrots, and sweet peas we could have asked for, with *very* little time and effort (good with a crawler around)

                                            This year we're in the middle of a "worst in 30 years" drought, and I've given up, as I can't water fast enough to keep it alive, but I'm already figuring how to do it better next year.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              Thanks for the kind words and the book tip. I shall check it out.

                                              The tornado pretty much 86ed my garden, but we'll keep plugging away!

                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                Glad you are ok!

                                                Our neighborhood is still hammering away, recovering from our April tornado.
                                                Actually, with so many trees gone many of the neighbors can finally have vegetable gardens!
                                                One door closes, another opens...

                                                1. re: meatn3

                                                  I do admire your ability to find the silver lining...I have to confess I don't miss living in areas prone to tornadoes. (they're documented here, but extremely rare)

                                            2. re: invinotheresverde

                                              Definitely try to get an original printing of Square Foot Gardening. Much better than the "revised" edition. No snake oil.

                                              1. re: morwen

                                                I still use my original Square Foot Gardening as a reference. Last Sunday at a plant swap organized in NH on gardenweb.com, a mom brought her two young daughters. It was great to see them working out their own swaps for their own garden patches at home. Kids are interested in the outdoor world esp if they can pick their own sugar snap peas and strawberries. I put my grandchildren to work sorting red wigglers from their worm compost. They think it's fun.

                                                My Asian greens have bolted maybe thanks to our strange cold spring followed by a blast of temps in the 80s. I sat next to a market gardener last week who said things are behind. I talked to a neighbor farmer who said farms along the CT River are still wet and have fields littered with dead trees washed up during flooding. Some farmers can hay but last weekend was the earliest our neighbor dared let the spray truck onto his corn field. We had such a cold wet spring I wonder how the orchards are doing.

                                                1. re: dfrostnh

                                                  Spinach-bolted. Broccoli-bolted. Everybody here is behind, we've only been able to get into the fields and gardens this past week or so. Lots of hay lost here and farmers selling off cattle to compensate. On the bright side, a wet spring followed by a relatively dry summer means extra good summer tree fruits here. Last year's were superb. I'm hoping this year's are as good.

                                            3. I've been thinking about this post for the last couple days... And as I was out tending my garden and hearing my husband deal my kids inside the house, I realized why exactly I stick with it. The honest truth... My plants, my veggies, and my entire garden have never once talked back to me! LOL. I laugh, but it's true. The way I see it, every time a plant produces a veggie, it is like the plant is smiling at me and saying "thank you for all your care and attention." Besides mother's day, when my kids are forced to tell me thank you, all I hear on a regular basis is whines and cries and fights and screams and...well, I could go on forever (and of course I do hear laughter and playing as well...my kids aren't complete devils...lol). Don't get me wrong, I love being a mom, but I do, in fact, enjoy my gardening escape! And of course, I love putting the fresh-from-the-garden veggies on the table.

                                              I will agree with previous posters, though, that I definitely don't do it to save money...lol...because I am constantly keeping my local garden center in business with the amount of money that goes into gardening.

                                              Anyway, that is my thought even though it is a bit late...