I was pregnant during my birthday (something that didn’t prevent me from letting this happen) and while my partner in birthday-celebrating-crime, Stefanie, received many bottles of Prosecco, my delicate state led people to give me chocolate by the pound, as if to say, “we’d like to give you wine because you look like you need it, but since you can’t have it here is the next best thing.” Except for my talented gardening buddy Jacob. He took one look at me and knew how crazy our spring would be and decided to give me a coupon good for One Free Garden Setup. This gift came with 1. soil conditioning and prep, 2. plants or seeds, 3. irrigation system, and 4. sweaty Jake labor. That last one was perhaps the most important of all, because after Elias was born I was a mess of arthritis and had to helplessly stand by while weeds took over my garden. It was so incredibly thoughtful.
As spring rolled around Jake and I texted back and forth, making plans and deciding what to grow. He lives near a really great nursery and picked up three types of tomatoes, a bell pepper plant, and a little pot of basil to get us started. In addition to that, I had a ton of sunflower seeds saved from last year’s crop, plus six different types of pumpkin seeds, marigold seeds from his garden, pea seeds from last year, and several new types of poppy to try. There were more things I was itching to grow but I didn’t want to overreach. I could always add more later.
The day Jake came over I was especially sick so I sat on the sidelines watching the baby while he and Anthony got work. Isobel helped, mostly by helpfully pointing out weeds for them to pull and making fairy houses. Jake lives near the Delta so he marveled at our perfect sandy soil. That’s why farming is such big business here – our soil isn’t especially nutritious, but the texture and condition is easy to work and perfect to amend.
He was really geeking out over our soil. He’s such a soil nerd.
It’s not summer to me without cherry tomatoes so he brought me his favorite variety: Sweet 100. He also brought me a Shady Lady which produces regular tomatoes, and the mighty Beefsteak, which he’s admitted he’s not had the best of luck with. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to do better, but I’m game to give it a try.
I really wanted to start growing my own peppers so Jacob brought me a Yolo Pepper that should do well here. There’s an actual county in California called Yolo County, and apparently they are famous for having a pepper variety named in their honor. Every time I go to water it I want to shout YOLO! because I am a mature individual.
While Elias napped in the shade, Isobel and I sprinkled hundreds more poppy seeds over our little poppy garden. I want it to fill out and burst at the seams with blooms. We keep trying to plant a pink variety but haven’t been able to get them to sprout so far. We planted a rainbow variety and another rust colored one. They might not sprout until next spring so I urged her to be patient.
Isobel got into the pumpkin seeds when I wasn’t looking and planted about two dozen at the edge of our garden. Pumpkins are large plants that need a wide berth and tons of water, so I’m ruthlessly only keeping one. We’re in a drought and I don’t need a pumpkin patch in my garden. The fun part is I have no idea which variety she planted, so finding out will be a fun surprise. Our sunflowers are decently tall already but I haven’t seen our marigolds pop up at all. I might just break down and buy some plants to keep the pests away.
Jake very patiently showed Isobel how to gently trim the lower leaves off the tomato plants and shroud them with dirt up to the collars. She hung on every word.
I’m using an old tomato cage to train my pea plants, but I’m worried the excessive heat forecast for this year will kill them off. The basil has been holding up well and I think that’s because Jake wisely suggested planting it in the shade. Everything’s doing really well, and recently he came back and installed a drip irrigation system so we can save water and keep the garden going at the same time. It’s ridiculously exciting for both of us. He’s self-taught and it took him awhile to get the system figured out, and it works perfectly. It’s modular and can be adapted to any additions we make.
This was truly one of the most thoughtful birthday gifts I ever received, and we had a great time doing it together. I’ll post more photos of the garden once things start to get interesting.