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Desperate Gardening

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I have a confession: I am a desperate gardener.

I used to have a green house. It was a half round, commercial build-your-own that spanned one side of my house on a side of the house that was elevated from the ground by 5 feet. The floor of the green house was wooden shipping pallets that let the water flow out. The covering was clear industrial plastic. The apex of the half round reached to the eaves of the house above the level of the house’s windows. In the winter I could open the windows and let the humidity from the greenhouse inside to counteract the dry heated air inside our dwelling space.

I loved it. I flourished with it’s demands, I started hundreds of plants from seed in winter.

Then one day a late snow storm hit while I was on a sales trip and when I came home my half round was flattened by the weight of the heavy moisture laden snow. Oh, the plants were all right but the green house frame was too bent to stand upright within And it was close to the time to put everything in the ground anyway.

I lived in the woods on a mountain.

I had recently cleared woods and virgin meadows that I planted and harvested and had terrific bounties of produce. I had nightmares of being chased by haricot verts that were threatening to become beyond the ripe age for picking.


The bane of my existence was the voracious Japanese beetle.

Japnese Beetle

I trapped them using scent lures over 55 gallon trash cans with soapy water in the bottom. The traps had to be emptied and the beetles buried.

I learned that chickens would eat them. DH and I decided to use an old metal shed as a chicken house and we purchased 100 day old baby chicks to start our poultry endeavors. We butchered the roosters at 16 weeks of age for the freezer and kept the hens for laying eggs. I devised a way to serve the beetle to the chickens and the whole system worked beautifully. I worked very hard too.

Now I live in the suburbs of a small Southern university town and have restrictions on what I can do with my yard. I can’t have chickens, I can’t have a green house, I can’t have a fenced in front yard. My husband built me a raised bed box, 3 foot by 6 foot and told me I had to “stay in your box”. So OK, I planted succession style, carrots under the okra with tomatoes hanging off the side on supports, etc.

Then my sewing work got to busy to have time to harvest and process. And then I was too sick to work hard. So the raised box was neglected and became the kitty litter box.


And the frame of the box fell apart, struck by the summer’s necessary quick and dirty lawn mower.

Here’s the raised bed graveyard


Now, I ask you, how can a girl like me live like this? Never mind, I adjust and cope, adjust and cope, never give up and always keep on going.

Desperate Gardening:

This spring I planted in the landscaping in the front of our house, just a few plants to allow us to harvest as needed during our busy season when time to go the grocery store is at a premium. We had to remove a couple of large Arborvitae that had been attacked by bag worms and I filled up the holes with garden vegetables.

Here’s the scene of the crime:


in the nicest neighborhood I’ve ever lived in


I don’t spray, I didn’t fertilize (thought I normally do), I didn’t do any more than water as needed this year. And I was rewarded by the resident praying mantis with new hatchlings! Thank you, dear scary-looking bug.


I’ve been sewing like a mad woman. I’ll have completed garments to show you in a few days.

Without more wordage here’s the garden in the 90+ degree heat and impossible humidity of our gloriously Southern summer

A Roma tomato being sunburned without leaves to cover it


in the tomato patch (former site of a winter-killed boxwood) under the spare bedroom window that is comprised of a Roma, a Better Boy and a Brandywine (heirloom).


and the Sweet 100’s sky climb cherry tomato (these will come back year after year as volunteers)



interspersed with red chilies




and barely forming green peppers


and a strange-to-me new okra variety called “Cajun’s Delight”. They are shorter than my finger so far with all my neglect but the fruits are normal sized


Separated from this planting by a boxwood is this enthusiastic cucumber



and two Blue Lake pole bean plantings (no one has complained about the sticks [Southern for supports] so far)


backed by Japanese Tree Mallow that can not be killed off by cold weather nor neglect and magenta and yellow 4 O’Clocks



a nice Souther-style front porch and and a small decorative urn with multi-colored sages, miniature trailing mauve petunias, and multi-colored sweet potato vines



As we proceed along the front of the house, hidden amongst the liriope muscari and Mary Nell holly bushes is traditional Clemson Spineless okra, but not a big enough planting to make a gumbo


and around the bend is the zucchini and yellow squash plantings


and the beginnings of the eggplant, both Japanese and
Black Beauty


and flowers!

I didn’t think I’d get sunflowers (must have sunflowers!) this year as the birds eat each and every seedling as they sprouted



unbeatable Shasta Daisies





Sedum by the mailbox


and a few Stella D’Oro lilies making a mid-summer comeback


back porch herbs


volunteer catnip flowers



bath for our friend the doves who like a private back yard environment


and the front yard bath for the show-off robins


Wild roses growing up a sycamore tree


the woods beyond the wet weather creek


Living Christmas tree from Christmas 2000


fabulous bark of the Black River Birch


Spearmint flower

spearmint flower

Mojito (spearmint) plants!


Today’s harvest


Life is good


About Mary Beth

I am fascinated by changing patterns and colored threads. I sew garments and am teaching myself to machine knit. Since selling the building that housed my workrooms, The Stitchery, I'm searching for a place to set up the knitting machines again. There must be room here somewhere!

15 responses »

  1. Thanks for showing your neighboorhood and your garden, you sure have green fingers.
    The harvest from today looks great and I am sure you will have a nice diner today or tomorrow.

  2. You garden like we do Mary Beth! And yours is just beautiful. I think veggies are beautiful plants in the own right, and that’s why we have watermelons scrambing down the front steps of our house. Who nees the row-upon-row commercial method of vegtabel gardening? Bring on the potager!

  3. wonderful garden!

  4. Wow, MB! What a great veggie garden! I *dream* of having one like that one day.

  5. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures of where you live and especially your garden. Wonderful to be able to grow your own vegetables.

  6. What great photos! I wish I could grow such great produce. I am pretty good with herbs.

  7. oh mary beth, it all looks GORGEOUS! i hope to get some raised beds built yet this summer, and we stuck calvin’s watermelons under the maple. i’ve also never had luck with sunflowers, though here i think it’s the squirrels that are stealing the seeds. i’ve even tried starting them in the house, and something else eats them.

    your yard/neighborhood looks like a little boys dream play area (i’m thinking of my explorer calvin). he’d LOVE to see those praying mantis babies.

  8. You have had some amazing and varied experiences. I remember when the boxes were built. Made me think of “square foot gardening”, remember the PBS television show?
    Your plantings and your harvest look fabulous.
    The Japanese Beetles are bad here this year. I’m emptying our scent bags every day. (no chickens to feed them to, I live in suburbia too) 😉

  9. Correction: the wild roses are growing up a *Sweet Gum* tree, not a Sycamore.

    I had to start the sunflowers in a cup indoors because the seed husk is still attached when the sprout pops up out of the ground. The birds fight over who gets to eat them, I know, I’ve seen the feathers left as a result hehehehehehe.

    I’ve met the Square Foot Gardening guy. What a nice, gentle man he is. But I need more than a box. Besides, the crab grass just ran straight though the landscaping cloth we laid in the bottom. It took a couple of years for it to take over, but it did.

  10. your front garden reminds me of a story from my DMIL. To break up the soil of their house when they built it (over 65 years ago) they had a “lawn” of potato plants! I have done similar with new beds around other homes I have had …

  11. Well – you have much to be proud of – your flowers and gardens are fabulous!!! this represents a lot of hard work and most of all perseverance. I love it – thank you for sharing – it made my day. Thank you. I am passing this on to George, who will appreciate it as much as I do. Love, Cousin Janie

  12. Awesome pictures! You certainly an avid gardener and take great care of your property.

  13. Oh I love the garden and the wonderful photos. We thought about chickens once, but not here in suburbia. I am barely managing to keep a fig tree alive this year and a small planter box but I love your photos and the way you have fit so much in to your suburban house. So lovely. You are an inspiration

  14. Big garden! I’s my hobbie too: to see my flowers growing up and see many birds eating my sunflowers…

  15. Aw. I feel like I know you.


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