Archive for April, 2009

Garden News Flash:

Jay and Georganne Nixon have added Missouri to the growing list of state governors’ mansions with a new vegetable garden.

Yup. The Missouri Mansion has recently sprouted a 16-by-16 foot vegetable garden that is the pet project of Mrs. Nixon. In so doing, they have followed the lead of the Obamas, who had part of the South Lawn plowed for a garden at the White House. It’s the first White House garden since Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden there during the second world war.

“Victory Garden” is Mrs. Nixon’s theme as well.

“The garden will be included in tours for the Mansion as a way for young people to help their own families,” wrote Press Secretary Scott Holste in an email reply to our query. “When she is able, Mrs. Nixon talks to the children who take the Mansion tour, telling them about the importance of planting tomatoes or herbs as ways to help their families. She also refers to the Victory Gardens from WWII and how important it is for everyone to find a way to help.”

Below is the mansion. We’re working on getting a garden picture.Missouri Mansion--no garden pic available yet

While the White House garden got off to a bang with a big photo op, the Missouri garden opened with relatively little fanfare. It was planned by the Department of Natural Resources, with input from Powell Gardens near Kansas City and the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis. It’ll be kept by offenders on work-release from the nearby Algoa Corrections Center.

Not much word on what they’re growing. Holste says the governor’s chef put in for some basil and heirloom tomatoes. Good man.

The Kansas Governor’s residence at Cedar Crest doesn’t have a vegetable garden. At least not yet. New Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson hasn’t had much time to think about it, presumably. Cedar Crest, with its 244 acres and nearby wildlife area is problematic though, says grounds administrator Ken Smith. Anybody with a plot near a park can understand. Deer. Rabbits. Squirrels. Raccoons. Elk. Grizzlies. La Chupacabra. You never know what’s out there, but you can be sure it’ll find your plants. So past administrations haven’t been keen to start planting.

They may want to think about that. Vegetable gardening is a trend that has taken off this year. Patches are popping up at governor’s mansions throughout the country, partly as a result of a campaign by GreentheGrounds.org. This is a group that wants to encourage kitchen gardens as well as smarter, more conservation-minded landscaping on state grounds everywhere. So far, Maryland, New York and Ohio have joined in. And California also has plans for a vegetable garden in Sacramento.

We’ll revisit this idea later in the growing season. In the meantime, remember: You read it here first at M&RVP.

Here’s the White House garden in progress.


Posted by: Roxie


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   Just a short rebuttal to the post directly below this one in which the author claims that one must never complain about the rain.

   You know what, Weather Gods? I’m sick of the rain! One half of the yard is a swamp. The other half is ready to be cut for silage. I can almost see the bales of green hay scattered about.

   That’s all. Not going to belabor the point. Just wanted to say that there is not full agreement on everything in the vegetable paradise.

   And I’ll go you one further. I dare the Weather Gods to start a drought. We could use one — as long as it only last a week at a time.

Posted by: Mike

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Rain, rain…

I don’t consider myself a superstitious person. I don’t worry about broken Raindropsmirrors or spilled salt. The number 13 doesn’t bother me (too much). And a black cat lives at our house, for goodness sake.
There’s one exception, though. I will never, ever, under any circumstances say anything bad about rain.
This week, for example. Rain and cold have dominated. We may have sun today, but all the TV weather guys and gals say we’re in for more wetness the rest of the week. Saturday I bought eggplant and jalapeno bedding plants (my basement plants didn’t come up) but I can’t get a decent shot at putting them in the ground.
All the water is helping the soil compact. For all I know, it’s probably beginning to ferment out there as well. Is that possible? After years of gardening here, I don’t doubt it.
But I’m not complaining. Hear that, Weather Forces? I would never complain about rain.
See, I can remember my first year with a big garden here. It was 1988. We plowed and planted and set plants out with stars in our eyes. March passed with hardly a drop. Then April. Then May. The dirt around the spindly tomato plants took on a sick yellowish hue. By June, I had a couple of rows of green beans about ready. They looked parched, but I was sure I’d get at least a few.
Then I noticed the webbing. Spider mites, the scourge of dry weather. And it was too late to save the beans.
After that, I planted myself in front of the Weather Channel whenever I could. I stared and stared at the relentless sun icons, willing them to go away. They finally did–the day we got 4 inches all at once.
The lesson: Never complain about precip. The Weather Force will hear you and punish you.
I complained once. In 1993. (New to the area? That was the year of sandbags and flood emergencies all across the Midwest.) It rained, I swear, about an inch a day that spring. I planted out in the muck because there was no other choice. By late June, I’d had enough. I swore. I let loose and bad-mouthed the rain. Abruptly it stopped. For most of the rest of the summer.
So far, it’s been a wet spring. More is on the way. Check out this site, which has a disturbing picture of a Midwest covered in cloud icons for the whole growing year.

Mike, from time to time, will slip up and tempt the Weather Force. He’s on the verge this week. I can feel it. So let me just be proactive, here. He kids, he kids the Weather Force, what can I say? He doesn’t mean it.

We would never disrespect the rain. We’ve learned our lesson.


Posted by: Roxie

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   How we came up with the name for this blog, I’m not exactly sure. Roxie jotted down a list of possible titles, and we picked the one that you could take two ways.

  No. 1:  The snarky, sarcastic way for those times when our garden paradise is more like hell on Earth. Think of a parched August, which describes most of them in Kansas City. 

   Or No. 2 you might think that “paradise” is a sincere expression of our feelings about our homespread.  Mostly true — except when the freight trains roar by blaring their horns a few dozen times a day.

   But I do often think of our place as an oasis in the midst of the suburban Sahara. They’ve got us surrounded.  To the north and west, we’re flanked by a mega-church and the obligatory mega-parking lot.  To the south of us is a gas station, now abandoned. While on the east , some old houses converted to commercial use.

   Borrow a cup of sugar from the neighbors? What neighbors?

   We live in the center of that, in a two-and-a-half story house that celebrates its 100th birthday next year. Actually, Roxie and I will do the celebrating. We’re planning a birthday party.

  Anyway, the house is off to one side, which leaves a lot of room for oasising.

  We have a big yard with lots of grass, which is fine and dandy, but we don’t do grass — make that lawn. We don’t do lawn. We’re not lawn people. I cut the grass and treat it for crabgrass once a year, but that’s about it. It’s ground cover to us. We don’t fuss after it the way many of our suburban neighbors spend their weekends in the culivation of turf.
   We’re not flower people, either. A few tulips, some irises and perennials in some beds around the house — hostas around the small fish pond I dug in a low corner —   but that’s about the extent of the floral inventory.

   What we do do, however, is grow vegetables. Lots and lots of vegetables that find their way onto our dinner table, into the chest freezer and preserved in canning jars. Tomatoes and onions and garlic and broccoli and spinach and…wait, there’ll be more time to complete the inventory.
Back to the spinach.
   Mike and Roxie’s Vegetable Paradise just happens to be in a town that, before it got all modern and chamber of commercey and tricked out with a logo, once described itself as the Spinach Capital of the World.
 A lot of baloney, that was, I’ll bet. Maybe the spinach capital of Kansas, but the world? Either way, the Belgian truck farmers who helped settle Lenexa did grow a fair amount of spinach back in the early days of the 20th Century.
Or so they say. They being the civic boosters of today who put on the annual Spinach festival on what usually proves to be an unbearably hot Saturday in September.
Popeye makes an appearance — it’s sort of a big deal.
  However, the days when the whole of Lenexa was itself a vegetable paradise are long gone. Acres that once grew produce that was shipped to downtown’s City Market is now home to strip malls, warehouses and housing subdivision with names like Country Hill that evoke the past.
   Gone, too, are most of the big backyard gardens that those Belgian truck farmers tended when they retired to town. When Roxie and I moved to Lenexa in 1987, there were still a few left.

   We share-cropped one for a time, if you can call it that. I mowed the old lady’s lawn in exchange for us being allowed to grow things in the garden that gone to weeds after her husband died at 90-something.
  Sadly, that big garden eventually went to grass, and so did many of the rest as the other old farmers passed on…and as Lenexa, like its neighboring suburbs, increasingl lost its rural roots.
  So by keeping a big garden, you could say that Roxie and me, hey, we’re nobly carrying on a civic tradition.

  But what a load of pretentious horse manure (makes good fertilizer!) that is.

    We’re in this for one thing and one thing only: the free food, or almost free, which is one requirement for every paradise. That and free beer, but my homebrew doesn’t come that cheap, unfortunately.

POSTED by Mike

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Garden Resolution No. 1: Next growing season I will do my garden work a little bit at a time. I will not get overwhelmed and do everything in just a few marathon sessions. In other words, I will not continue the same pattern I’ve had the past 24 years.

This was my self-promise at the end of the last growing season. I made it after a marathon session of tomato canning. I smile back on it now. The garden has a way of defying us and our silly resolutions.

Yesterday I took the day off from all my usual off-hour activities to put all my free time into the garden. All of it. Just to catch ourselves up.

By this time most years, I have the colder-weather bedding plants out. The broccolies, the cauliflowers. The tomatoes and peppers would come right behind.

This year, however, has been one long  string of below-frost nights and rainy days. As a result, the plants have been late getting into the cold frame, and the only things out in the garden are the hardy vegs that can be direct seeded in early spring (see Our Life in Leaves: What’s growing)

By last Friday (April 17, one of the first warm days with no predicted frost) we began to get nervous. Unfortunately, putting in the plants is the biggest pain-in-the-rear job of the planting season. You measure the distance, dig the hole, put in the plant, water in, put two sticks close to the stem (for cutworms), and cover with a plastic jug whose bottom has been cut off. We didn’t have time for all that Friday.

Saturday would have been ideal. But it turned out to be rainy for the rest of the weekend. By the time the garden had dried out a little, it was Tuesday. So instead of just doing a few plants at a time, as per the resolution, I found myself once again putting aside other chores to spend a couple of hours outside, digging, watering, covering.

And even though the weather forecasters don’t put low temperatures in the future, I covered everything with plastic jugs, partly for protection from the winds. They’ll stay on for a week or so, anyway. You can’t be too careful.

The planning and planting of the garden is typically my job. (My husband will talk about the muscle work in a later post) So today I’m feeling a lot less stressed. I still have the green beans and peppers to put in, but the weather looks like it will hold for a while. In another week or so, when the soil gets warmer, we’ll put in the last, most cold-sensitive vegs: cukes, squash, basil, sweet potatoes and the like.

For now, anyway, it looks like we’re growing jugs of milk and cooking oil.

Posted by: Roxie

The garden of jugs

The garden of jugs

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Finally a week without snow or frost  in the forecast.  The ground is moist, the trees are budding out and the temperature is above 60.  It’s finally spring!

Seems like a perfect day to launch a garden blog.

The economy, layoffs, high grocery prices and concern for the environment have got a lot of first-timers interested in vegetable plots lately. We’ve been growing (and eating) our own vegetables for as long as we’ve lived in Kansas City–about 24 years. And, well, we want to help.  (See About Us for our profile.)

We remember how it was. The onion sets planted way too deep. The heartbreaking loss of an entire patch of corn to critters. We feel your pain.

We don’t consider ourselves experts. Far from it. After 24 years, we’re still learning. We’ve made a few mistakes in those years, and no doubt we’ll make more this year as well.

So come along for the ride.

So far this year

Everything is behind schedule. Just like last year. We put out onion sets, potatoes and peas back in March. Then we waited and waited out one wave of below freezing nights after another. It was only at Easter we felt comfortable putting spinach, carrots and beets in the ground. Our broccoli, tomato and pepper plants are in a cold frame getting conditioned to the outside world before going in.

While we’re waiting for that, Mike got busy with the animal skull and old clothes for our annual scarecrow.

What? You didn’t think of a scarecrow? You gotta have one! They’re too much fun.!

Here’s a picture of ours:


The skull is something Mike picked up on a hunting trip. We can’t figure out what kind of animal it comes from. It’s a mystery skull. Tennis ball eyes (you can’t see them so well in this pic) are Mike’s thoughtful addition, along with an old jacket from high school days. The fluttery strips are from a rain poncho. (Fluttery strips are an important element of any scarecrow.

I can’t say with any certainty that this scares any crows. They’re a pretty tough bunch in our neighborhood. But it gave a start to our 14-year-old daughter and her friends. And who knows? Maybe it will scare off a burglar as well.

Have a scarecrow picture you’d like to share? We’re new at WordPress, but we’ll do our best to put it up if you send it.

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