Gardening Brings Joy When the World is a Dumpster Fire

Planted peppers, basil, cilantro and tomatoes

For the past several weeks, I’ve been trying to motivate myself to write my first blog post for 2020. We’re only five months into the year and already so much has happened. We learned of Kobe Bryant’s death in January. That already seems like ages ago. Do you even remember that we had a presidential impeachment trial or that wildfires burned down large swaths of Australia this year? The only words I can use to describe 2020 are dumpster fire.

It’s been an exhausting few months. COVID-19 added a nice topping of cream cheese frosting to the layers of chaos and uncertainty, forcing us to quarantine at home for weeks. During the pandemic, gardening became fashionable when people had nowhere to go and nothing to do. But as you all know, I was into gardening before it became the latest trend.

My garden has been in struggle mode for the last summer or two. Last fall, I decided this summer was going to be different. I was going to have the garden I deserved with luscious tomatoes and overflowing vegetables. I even took a gardening class and learned about all the things I had been doing wrong. I’ll share what I did to improve this year’s garden in upcoming posts.

Another view of the garden and the disintegrating garden box

Another reason I’ve been struggling is the racial inequality that has been brought to the forefront by COVID-19 and even more police killings of black and brown folks. I usually don’t talk about my personal experiences with racism. Like being told in first grade another child wouldn’t play with me because I was brown or walking around in a nearby neighborhood in junior high and being told to go back to Africa or the fear that runs through me when a cop pulls be me over because I don’t want to be the next Sandra Bland or being told I’m articulate (here’s a hint, that is not a compliment.) These are things I am forced to deal with because of the color of my skin.

But I think it can only help if we have honest and open conversations about the history of this country and what’s happening now. If you’re wondering why the protests and violence are happening, read this great piece from The Root. I’m also going to drop this here- 75 things white people can do for racial justice. Change won’t happen unless white people step up too.

During uncertain times due to the pandemic, protests and civil unrest, gardening brings me joy. Tending to vegetables connects me with nature and allows me to focus on something other than what’s going on in the world. I treasure my time in the garden. We all could use a little bit of diversion and self-care right now.

How My Garden Grows

Today’s post title is a play on lyrics from an old Oasis song. I’ve been nostalgic for the ’90s lately, especially music. Maybe it’s because I grew up during that period- junior high through half of college. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have adult stresses to deal with. Maybe it’s because I’ve never gotten over my disappointment of not becoming a Fly Girl.

As a side note- Notice I didn’t put an apostrophe before the s in ’90s. It’s because the word is plural not possessive. Misused plural/possessive apostrophes annoy me to no end.

Now that the rant is over, my plants are growing! It’s been raining here so much that I’ve hardly had to water the garden. I was worried that all the rain would flood my garden but as you can see below, that hasn’t been a problem.

I fertilized everything two weeks after planting. I bought some organic tomato and vegetable fertilizer during my last trip to the garden center. I didn’t fertilize all of last year, even though I know I was supposed to. I think fertilizing has really helped my plants. I just need to remember to keep doing so all summer.

Some of you may notice that I let the strawberry plants flower. I read that you shouldn’t let them if you want a bigger yield for next season. But if you’d rather have more strawberries this year, let them flower away. I wanted the instant gratification of strawberries this summer. Well as much instant gratification as you can get from planting, tending to and waiting two months for the fruit to ripen.

Everything seems to be on track!


Week three of the garden. Strawberry plants in front, tomatoes in the back.


Close up of my strawberry plants










Cucumber plants coming in


Lettuce plants coming in


Veggie Garden Virgin is Back!

Like vaccine-preventable diseases, Veggie Garden Virgin is back! Last year’s first-time experience was a mixed bag, but I learned a lot.

I took a break from gardening over the winter, telling myself I would use the time to work on growing readership of my blog. I would start a gardening-related Twitter account, become active in the online gardening community, do lots of gardening research, etc.ID Channel

So how did I spend my winter? Mostly getting more addicted to the ID channel and starting a new addiction to HGTV. The important thing is not how I spent the winter- even though I’m pretty sure I could remodel the heck out of a house and run a murder investigation by now, but that Veggie Garden Virgin is back.

I know that technically that since this is the second year, the blog name shouldn’t include virgin in the title. But I figure I can add something new each year- this season it’ll be a compost pile. That and it’s too much effort to think of a new name.

I had to make a visit to my local garden center to get the garden back in shape after a rough winter, which for North Carolina means more than two snow and ice “incidents.” They can’t be called storms because the accumulation is generally less than a couple inches of snow and less than 1/10 inch of ice. But everyone still empties the bread, milk and eggs from store shelves as if we were expecting Boston 2015 type snow.

But back on topic, more about getting the garden back in shape in my next post.

I’m just glad that the dreariness of winter is over and spring is back. In celebration, enjoy the photo below of  azalea blooms!


End of the Road

I had high expectations for this blog when I started this venture- I was going to post twice a week, build a community of gardeners and the blog was going to catch on. Well, that didn’t quite happen or even come anywhere close. Due to summer travel, the World Cup and taking on a couple of new volunteer projects, I’ve barely managed to keep up. Such is life, I suppose. Unfortunately, this is going to be the end of the road (Boys II Men chorus going through my head) for the blog this year. Well, maybe one more post after this. Gotta tell you what I learned!

Cucumbers in produce basket

Cucumbers in produce basket

Let me start off with the good. I finally got edible produce from my garden! I pulled two cucumbers from my garden which you can see on the right. One is a healthy green and the other is yellowish. That’s because we got a TON of rain over a week to week and a half period. Too much or too little water can cause the yellow color.

I didn’t care; I finally got to use my produce basket! On the other hand, with all of the money I put into the garden, the cost for each cucumber averages out to about $100. Not exactly cost effective. I cut up the good cucumber and put it in a salad. Delicious if I must say!

That was the mostly good. The bad was that one of my watermelons split open. I believe that this was a result of the heavy rains as well. The garden became saturated and the soil didn’t drain well. I’m down to one watermelon. I’m waiting for it to fall off the vine. I’m sure it will be delicious though.

Next up- telling you what I learned from maintaining my first garden

Salad with my garden cucumber

Salad with my garden cucumber

Split watermelon

Split watermelon

Tricked by a Carrot

Things in the garden are still going well; the watermelon and cucumbers are getting larger and I’m seeing new sprouts each week. This post is focusing on another vegetable in my garden- the carrot.

A couple months back I planted a row of carrot seeds. Weeks went by and I didn’t see any results. I figured they just never sprouted. In this post, I asked if the green things were weeds or vegetables. The consensus was that they were vegetables. The group was right, but I was oh so wrong.

CarrotsThe greenery sticking out of the garden was about a foot high. I thought if these were the carrots I planted, they would be pretty large by now. So, I went ahead and picked what I was sure were flourishing orange carrots. You can see the results to the right. The long, green tops fooled me. The bigger of the two carrots was barely
a nub and very very thin. The other wasn’t even worth taking a picture of. But I did want to put this very nice produce basket (a lovely gift from my mother-in-law) to use. Even though I made a judgement error on the carrots; I’m sure I will soon have enough produce to fill the basket.

On a brighter note, check out the cucumber below. Almost ready to pick!

cucumber 82014


Feeling like a Proud Mama

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted again. Since then, I’ve taken a family vacation to Disney World and made a weekend trip to the beach with girlfriends. Yes I know, my life is hard. But the traveling hasn’t left much time for posting.



Before I left for my vacations, I started drafting a post about having second thoughts. I felt like I did in college when I woke up the morning after spending the previous night drinking Boone’s Farm. Thoughts running through my head then and now- what was I thinking? Why did I think that was a good idea? I was very frustrated with my garden. It seemed like a lot of work for no return.

But I’m happy to report that I have fruit growing! With all the rain we’ve had lately, my watermelon are really starting to take off. I feel like a proud mama. All the planting, maintaining and weeding have paid off. It just took awhile. I can also see other water melon starting to come in. In a conversation I had with a coworker the other day, we decided that baby fruits and vegetables are extremely cute. Baby anything, really.

It’s good to know that the hard work is paying off and that I’ll soon have produce to enjoy. I think my carrot is about ready to pick and my cucumbers should start coming in any day. Below are other pictures I took of my garden today.

Baby Watermelon

Baby Watermelon

Garden on August 18

Garden on August 18

Weed or Vegetable?

I made an error last week and scheduled this post for publishing before I got it done. Below is the post in its entirety.

Weed or Vegetable?

Weed or Vegetable?

I know some of you were probably thinking that I was referring to a certain type of weed in my title. No, this isn’t Colorado or Washington; I’m referring to a typical garden invader. I’ve got something growing in my garden and I’m not sure if it’s a carrot I planted or if it’s just a weed that needs pulling. See picture on the right.

So, new game- weed or vegetable? Anyone who can tell me which it is will receive fresh produce from the garden! Well, when the produce comes in. Looks that might still be a few weeks away. I’d go ahead and pull whatever it is but I’d be upset if I pulled a carrot before it was fully grown. The garden is not exactly spilling over with produce.

On the other hand, my cucumber and watermelon plants are growing like weeds. They’re starting to take over their corners of the garden. When I went out there to check on how things were progressing, I noticed that one of the cucumber plants had reached out and had twisted one of its tendrils around a stake. I thought it was pretty cool.

Watermelon taking over a corner of the garden

Watermelon taking over a corner of the garden

Cucumber plant twisting around a stake

Cucumber plant twisting around a stake

State of the Garden Report

All last week I was expecting to go out to the garden to see part of the fence collapsed or a big hole in it. But the good news is that it’s still doing it’s job. No signs of four legged visitors disrupting the soil. I can relax and just enjoy taking care of the garden.

I did get a question last week on how I was going to get in and out of my garden with new fence installed. I answered that I would use a step stool to get in. When asked what about getting back out, I stared blankly for a few seconds because I didn’t have a good answer. I probably should’ve developed a solution for that dilemma. On the bright side, I did some weeding this week and could lean far enough over the top of the fence to get it done. There are some space between the rows so I can get in there if I need to and avoid trampling the plants.

To report on the current state of my garden: The two watermelon plants I planted last month are doing very well. The vines are starting to take over. I planted two more and they’re starting to bud. I have three cucumber plants which are getting bigger every day. I planted two more and those are popping up as well. I haven’t seen any pepper or carrot seedlings yet though. I’m hoping those appear this week since I planted those at the beginning of the month. We’ve gotten several days of good soaking rain this week, so watering on my part was at a minimum. Overall, a good week in the garden!

Pictures of my garden as of July 20 below.

Still waiting for the problem of overabundance in my garden

Still waiting for the problem of overabundance in my garden

Side view of the garden as of July 20

Side view of the garden as of July 20


Things are Looking Up!

I finally finished the fence around the garden a couple of days ago. I haven’t noticed any animal related activity in the garden since then. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this holds true and the fence holds up. The only bad thing is that the fence is about belly button high. I’m going to have to either figure out how to high jump over the top or use a step stool to get in there. I thought about building a gate into the fence but I read that could be a weak point and become a point of entry for pests. I figure if I have a hard time getting in, the critters will too.

Now that my garden has a defense from pests, I went ahead and planted more seeds. I currently only have two watermelon plants and three cucumber plants that are doing well. I planted more watermelon and cucumber and also carrots and red peppers. I’m choosing to remain optimistic and look forward to a bounty of fresh fruits and veggies in the next several weeks.

My next steps are to add fertilizer to the garden to boost growth and continue watering daily. Before we hit the summer heat, I was only watering every other day. Between daily watering and the multiple rainstorms we had last week, I’ve noticed a big difference.

I admit I got pretty down about the state of the garden after the week of neglect. I thought about quitting and just trying again next year. But I’m pushing forward so we’ll see what happens. With the World Cup finally over, I’ll have fewer distractions. And fewer things to blame when I screw up.

Take a look at the current state of the garden below.

Long view of the nearly bare garden

Long view of the nearly bare garden

Completed garden with fence

Completed garden with fence

I’m Blaming It All on the World Cup

I took an unplanned break for the garden. I didn’t intend to, but between going out of town, my birthday and some fabulous World Cup games, the garden fell by the wayside for a week. Now I’m regretting it. So yes, I’m absolving myself of any responsibility for the state the garden is in and placing the blame squarely on the World Cup.

It only happens every four years! How could you not stop to watch the 32 best football teams on the planet, especially come the knockout rounds? I’ve chosen to use the correct term for the sport instead of the American term for anyone who may be confused. The announcers are rubbing off on me.

So this afternoon I visited the garden for the first time since early last week. It ‘s rained a few times since then so I wasn’t concerned about the garden lacking water. But one of the watermelon plants was completely withered and sitting on top of the soil. A couple of areas in the large box had been dug up. Once I poked around, I discovered ants, maggot like creatures and small, round balls which I guess are eggs of some kind. Weeds are starting to proliferate in the smaller box.

I’m down to two watermelon plants, three cucumber plants and either a few carrot plants or weeds. I have to admit the garden is looking rather sad. SJ showed me one of his friend’s pictures of their garden on Facebook. It was lush and green. And I was green with envy. (Bad pun intended.)

I’m going to look at this unintended break as halftime and use it to regroup. I’m going to do a better job of staying on top of what’s going on in the garden and tending to it. The fence around the garden is still in the works. I sprayed the ants and other bugs with a vinegar and water mixture I found online. So hopefully that will help get rid of them. I’m going to do a second planting to see if that produces better results. I’d really like to have some produce to enjoy out of the garden this summer.

We’ll see how the second half of the summer goes with the garden. If you have any advice to share, please send comments, ideas, etc. my way!