It's Springtime at last! The weather is warming up and things are in bloom! In fact, I got some lovely photos of the peach blossoms on my mother's tree, but those will have to wait for another post. The main signs of Spring in our yard are the sunflowers, which have finally bloomed. I love to look out my kitchen window to see these bright spots of yellow slowly emerging.I asked my daughter to stand in front of the sunflowers to show how tall they've gotten. She decided to to the "bunny ears" thing to herself. That kid cracks me up.

I'm also pleased to report that the little marigold that sprouted from last year's seeds is also blooming. It has one small yellow flower at the top with the petals slowly unfolding, which makes it look a bit scraggly for right now. But I'm sure it will continue to grow and will impress us all within a couple months. Note how there are a bunch of assorted rocks and stones in the pot. Those are additions made by my oldest son. He's convinced the extra rocks will help the marigold grow. I figured it can't really hurt, so why not?

It's time to start planting things, and I really haven't come up with a definitive plan on where to put everything. I still have weeds (not that you're ever truly rid of them), and I still need to get some decent compost to help improve my soil. Hopefully that will be coming sometime this week since our dear friends The Smiths have generously offered to share a trailerful of compost they got from the local green waste site. (That sounds so much nicer than "landfill," doesn't it?) The compost is so dark and rich - like crumbled chocolate cake. I never thought I'd ever be so excited about a truckload of dirt. Anyway, with those plans underway I guess it's time to start plotting the garden. Here are the general ideas I have. First, there's this little patch of grass near our garbage cans:It gets full sun almost all day, so I'm thinking about making it our watermelon patch. After I pull out all that grass, of course. Figured this is a good area for watermelon since there's plenty of room for the plants to spread out. I also tossed around the idea of using this area of my three sisters garden. One or the other. Guess I should decide pretty quickly. Seeds need to go in the ground pronto! Then we have this area along the eastern fence line. You can see my tumbling composter in the background:This area has partial shade because of our two orange trees, and it's not the most accessible place for vegetables, either. I've planted some sunflowers along the fence, and I also plan to put some nasturtium here. In that enclosed stone thing in the foreground of the photo, I thought to plant some carrots. that spot gets more sun since it's not under the trees. Here's a photo of the rest of the fence line:This is where I grew my tomatoes last year, and had decent success. I think that the soil pH wasn't great because I got lots of lovely green plant, and not that many actual tomatoes. But I didn't feed/fertilize at all last year. So hopefully this year will be better. This area gets plenty of sun during the day, too.

Along the back (north) side of the fence, where the sunflowers are currently growing, I plan to put in cucumbers. I have a few plants started already, but want to direct sow more. I hear cucumbers that are directly sown often do better than ones that are transplanted seedlings. We shall see.I need to build some supports for the plants so I can maximize the space. I'm hoping the cucumbers and sunflowers will like each other. I think they're good companion plants. I need to check my reference materials on this.

Finally, in the far northwest corner is this little arbor thing. Eventually this will be the home of some grape plants. Figured I'd plant green grapes on one side and red grapes on the other. I don't plan to actually put the plants in the ground until later in the year, after the heat of the summer is dying down. At the base of the fence toward the right of the photo you can see this little volunteer tomato plant. Here's a closer shot:It's humorous to me that I had several tomato seedlings that have already withered in the sun, despite my gentle care, and here is a plant I have never watered, never cared for, that is thriving completely on its own among the weeds. Nature has a way of reminding you who is REALLY in charge.

Happy Spring, everyone!

This past weekend, my pal Cassie tried to teach me how to crochet. I've wanted to learn for quite some time. As a starter project, she had be try making this little leaf shaped thing. You crochet two halves of a leaf and then fasten them together. Here you can see Cassie's version and my version. Bet you can't guess which one is which!Mine looks more like half of a baby bootie or something. It's supposed to be a nice smooth curve. But I drop stitches a lot or something. Still, it was my first try, so I still felt okay about it. We all have to start somewhere, right? Cassie left the hook and yarn for me so I could practice. I've tried to do a few rows every day this week. Here's what I have so far:Note how it's getting smaller and smaller as I go. I must not understand what a stitch really looks like or something. Or maybe I just get confused when I get to the ends? I don't know, but I obviously am doing something wrong. Sigh! Hopefully with a little more work I'll figure it out.

Back in January I posted about these curious plants that had sprouted in my backyard. I thought they might be sunflowers, but I really wasn't sure. Back then, they looked like this:The tallest one was about 5 inches tall at that point. I did some weeding around them and figured I'd let them keep growing to see if they did, in fact, turn out to be sunflowers. So they did their thing through February, and now they look more like this:the tallest one is around 3 1/2 feet tall, and they are definitely sunflowers. In fact, a few of the stalks have a flower head on them already (though, obviously not open yet). I'm quite pleased! I have more sunflowers I'll be planting over the next few weeks. Some are pale yellow, some are deep orange. Some are small, meant for cutting and putting in a vase. Others that are enormous and sticky and meant to attract bees and birds to your garden. The kind where you harvest the seeds! Fun, no?

A couple weeks ago I was out at
Summers Past Farms (which is a magical place, and if you live in San Diego you simply MUST go there) and I purchased this daisy from their nursery. I loved the spoon-shaped petals! My mom had a similar plant, only with white petals. Hers cross-germinated with another daisy, though, and has since lost the delightful petal spoony-ness. That's right. I made up a word. This blog is a magical place, too! Anyway, the Spoon Daisy (also a name I made up, because I know it's called something else) seems very happy since I re-potted it and put it out in the sun. It has tons of blooms on it, with more sprouting all the time. It's giving me a glimmer of hope that maybe my garden might flourish after all.

Ollas are unglazed clay pots that are planted in your garden up to their necks. Because they're not glazed, when you fill them with water, they slowly irrigate the surrounding area. When you sow plants next to it, the olla basically just sends water right to the roots. It's supposed to be this really efficient and beneficial way to water plants. Of course, I'm all for being efficient - and for keeping plants alive! - so these ollas definitely appeal to me!

I've been reading today about how ollas work, and it doesn't seem like a single olla really waters that much around it. Like if you have an olla that's 6" across, the water will reach about 6 inches in either direction. It might be wonderful and efficient to water that area, but...that's not a very big area. You'd need a lot of these ollas for a full garden. And from what I've seen, ollas aren't exactly cheap. A small one is about $26. They go up from there. I'm wondering if I could find someone with a potter's wheel who might make some of these. Or if they have some at a local nursery or farmer's market. If they're so wonderful and efficient and amazing, they should be available all over, right?

For now, I just envy those who have a garden's worth of ollas on hand. Sigh! Maybe someday it will be me.

Last week I attended a fantastic little gardening talk done by my BFF Cassie (you can follow her over at Long Life). Cassie never fails to get me fired up about gardening. She really is an inspiration. I'm not just saying this because I know she reads this blog, either. Anyway, one of the things she talked about in her gardening class was a Three Sisters Garden. I had heard the term before but didn't really understand what a Three Sisters Garden was all about.

A Three Sisters Garden reflects a Native American agricultural tradition where certain plants were grown together to be mutually beneficial. Specifically, they'd plant corn, beans and squash together. These are the "three sisters." The corn is planted first, and will eventually be the supports for the climbing bean plants that are sown next. The beans will just climb up the corn! Fun! And beans have bacteria living on their roots that help them absorb nitrogen from the air and convert it to a form that plants can use. So the beans put nitrogen into the soil. Corn requires a lot of nitrogen to grow, so this all works out nicely. Squash are then planted around the corn and beans, which both shields the ground from the drying effects of the sun, keeps weeds at bay, and also deters animal pests. Look at the three plants, growing and living in harmony! I think we can all learn a little something from the Three Sisters, no?

To plant a Three Sisters garden, you start with a mound of dirt that is about a foot high and between 18" and three feet across. Plant 4 to six corn plants 6 inches apart. I'd probably just have four at the four points of the compass to make things easy. Also, I'm a science nerd at heart. After two or three weeks when the corn is about 4"-6" high, plant the beans and squash. You'll plant about 6 pole bean seeds in a circle that's about six inches from the corn. Then you plant 4 squash about a foot from the beans. The squash should be the rambling vine type, not spiny squat ones like zucchini. For me, it's all about the pumpkins.

So, after hearing about the Three Sisters Garden, I again went nuts with the garden plans and bought some more seeds: both yellow and red corn, both green and purple beans, some pumpkins, and a type of squash that looks like a flattened pumpkin and resembles a wheel of cheese. The Cheese Wheel squash is supposed to be really good for pies. I'm excited about growing all of these things but I don't know if I'm being realistic. I have a pretty small yard, and I have a lot of things I want to grow. This is also my first year of gardening. I am relatively clueless about all this stuff. I was going to start small. Just a few plants. But my plans keep expanding and expanding!