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Postcards From the Playgarden

July 22, 2010

I try to think of organic gardening as playing and exploring, instead of some epic struggle of woman against pests, fungus, animals, and weather, knowing there is an abundance of information out there that will take me at least the next 25 years to encounter and absorb. This way is the essence of unschooling, and it works beautifully. (Nobody ever said grownups can’t unschool!)

Here are postcards of our little green spot, our very, very small backyard farm. It’s a playgarden. (Technically, that means I’m not supposed to cry when the green bean plants get a nasty rash of leaf rust and the potato leaves are consumed by beetles… It’s all part of the learning!)

So small! So hopeful, little pepper!

Tomatoes always start humbly, innocently.

Then they grow a little and need help standing up. I never think they’ll get too much bigger. I have a poor memory, it seems.

And this is now our tomato jungle as it continues its attempt to take over the world. I can barely find the tomatoes in there! Some of the plants are now sprawled across the ground, having busted out of their teepees, and are pretending to be squash. Early Girl Squash and Beefsteak Squash. Speaking of squash…


Meet my nemesis: the Squash Vine Borer. Some were squished and some adopted by my kids to live in their bug terrariums, likely a long slow starvation. Squashing them under my shoe is possibly kinder, but I so hate to kill things—and killing things in front of my kids is just… just… not easy.
This is the Squash Vine Borer’s specialty: sucking the life out of squash plants. This used to be a thriving pumpkin vine. Now I spend quality time with a butter knife searching the hollow stems for frass (like I got nothing better to do), cutting open the vine and extracting these guys.

That little larva up there no longer lives in this gorgeous pumpkin patch… and I really, really hope it survives (the plants I mean). We lost most of our zucchini plants last year, before I knew about digging the larvae out. Heartbreaking. Zucchini, I love you. Thankfully, from a community garden we’ve been part of this year, we have a few log-like zucchini on our counter which I am enjoying immensely. I hear you should pick them small, but I’ve never noticed a difference in their taste. Plus, then you get more zucchini…

Now for some Good Things:

First ever backyard harvest of new potatoes, and a daily pickin’ of tomatoes.

“For you Mama.”

My favorite flower.

See the fuzzy pods? So awesome. Our wildflower patch is a gift to the bugs and butterflies and birds that help the rest of our garden grow so magically.
Coreopsis? Maybe? I love these, whatever they are.
Yellow flowers! This is what spinach does when you plant the seeds, watch Invisabugs devour the vulnerable, tiny baby spinaches as soon as they grow leaves, then you give up and vow to never (yet again, never) try to grow greens in this infested bughole. You turn your back on this sorry patch and rarely even consent to water it because you’re so frustrated. And now spinach flowers! Utterly amazing.


Lambs quarters is an edible wild plant (what? weed?), and this one’s decided to pretend it is a tree. My kids put their toys in it to play, and it’s taller than my six-year-old. I love that it grows without help, even out of an anthill-covered crack in our patio. This is its absolutely gorgeous stem all stripey greens and purplefied. I want a dress like that.

Last year I had to pull all my chard plants (sob sob sob) because of spots of some mold from my soil making them not safe to eat (though I had been eating them for a while and I’m still alive…). Just today I discovered two perfectly lovely renegade chards (shh, don’t tell the fungus!) growing in our wild strawberry patch!!! I love plants. And then I eat them.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2010 4:46 am

    I have to say that this post makes our garden look big. It is not. It’s tiny. It’s kind of amazing how much can grow in a little space with bad soil and not enough sun. Plants WANT to grow! It’s totally inspiring.

  2. July 22, 2010 6:17 pm

    Ooh I love gardening. Or so I would like to think so. I don’t have a garden lol. We used to have tomatoes and chillis and some other stuff. The rabbits ate everything, I’m now in India, so garden’s gone. InshaAllah one day, maybe next summer I’ll move back and can get it started again

  3. Rivenheart permalink
    July 27, 2010 4:42 pm

    I can’t get over how green your garden is. And how fertile the ground looks. I kid you not, brown dirt like that makes me kind of giddy. Unlike the gray dusty stuff that graces me most of the time. And it’s a very very beautiful green garden. :o)

  4. July 28, 2010 10:50 am

    I’m not much of a gardener myself, but I do love to look at other people’s.

    I read a book once where a girl made fun of her friend’s dad because he only ever grew things he could eat. I always wondered what was wrong with that 😄 I remembered that because your tomatoes made me drool (figuratively), and now I have to go and look for some cherry tomatoes.

    I wish someone could explain to me why some people don’t like tomatoes, because I don’t understand it – they’re so inoffensive. Not like snozzcombers or something.

  5. July 31, 2010 1:46 am

    falling up, ah, i’ve heard horror stories of rabbits and ground hogs getting everything. people are sometimes driven to… extreme actions… involving kerosene and a lit match… /shudder. anyway, something’s been eating half of many, many tomatoes around here. i don’t mind so much because i have mostly grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, but my poor neighbors with their beefsteak dreams. so sad. if only the animals understood: take the whole fruit, don’t take halves! that’s not the kind of sharing people appreciate…

    rivenheart, my garden is green, thankfully due to a water supply i take for granted every single day. must work on that… and the delicious dirt is thanks to our township’s free compost! whee! pull up, shovel it in your car (or if you are married to my honey, you agree to use a tarp or a trashcan or something, you know), and go home. proceed to sweat like a pig while carting it up a steeeeep driveway seventeen times over in a wheelbarrow, but manage to not fall over. glorious township goodness.

    saya, snozzcombers? ewww, i just ate one. LOL oh but i love Cucurbitaceae. i would live in a zucchini-cucumber field if they let me. but not in a groundhog burrow…

  6. chuuurls permalink
    September 13, 2010 8:09 pm

    my gosh! maryam, i’m coming to this really late, but i have to say i love these pictures. they make me pine for my dad’s garden back at my old home. sigh to the days of having fresh basil~

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