The Garden

Hi there! I'm trying to find out what works best here on Not the Marrying Kind, and I'd really like your help. I've created a short survey in order to get some feedback on what goes on with my wee small blog. I have a lot of lurkers that visit, seemingly consistently, but are silent observers. I respect silence on blogs, but if you could please break your silence in a completely anonymous way and let me know what you think of some stuff around this, here stretch of the internet, that would be oh, so wonderful! You can access the survey here and it will be up until July 15th. I will probably remind you about this on a daily basis, so please don't get mad at me, k? (PS. A.P. told me that nobody would fill out my survey. Help me prove him, and all men, wrong by sticking it to him. Seriously. Go here.) And thank you to those that have already filled it out! Your feedback is very helpful!

So, I've had some people ask me about my garden, and what I'm growing, what I'm growing them in, etc. I had to go into work today to do some gardening, so I figured today was a good day to take some pictures, and check on the bunnies.

It is a hot, sunny day in Chicago today, and even though rain is in the forecast, it's clear out right now. It was the perfect day to garden, and I was happy to get out there and take care of some stuff.

So first, let me tell you about what I'm growing and what kind of space I'm working with. First off, I should tell that I inherited this space, and though I plan on expanding the garden this year, I'm only planting in the raised beds I inherited. The beds are 8.5 ft x 4.5 ft, and are not in the best shape. I anticipate they will last me for another two or three years before the wood in some of them needs to be replaced. Total, I have 9 raised beds, one of which has a small tree in it. Ideally, I'd like to get that tree out, but my team and I decided to put flowers in there, which made them happy. Am I the only one who likes to garden mostly vegetables and fruit?? Flowers are nice, but not at all what I'm into growing. I like plants with a purpose.

We started all of our seeds inside the greenhouse, and everything that we've grown has been from seeds, with the exception of one tomato plant that A.P.'s coworker donated. We put it in the garden since a storm a few weeks back knocked out one of our tomato plants. We've lost all but two of our squash plants (we had something like 10 or 15), and we've lost all of our pumpkin plants (we had about 10) due to storms, pests, and shock from being replanted in the garden. We also lost about five corn plants because of a violent storm that hit Chicago last week (the one that made everyone pile into a tunnel at O'Hare). Since then, I've taken more precautions against both pests and storms. We still have about 7 corn plants that are waiting to get transplanted, so hopefully we won't have our pumpkin problem with the corn. We also lost a couple of cucumber plants RIGHT after I put them in last week. So, this past Monday, my team and I worked to secure bird netting around those plants. They are looking good, now. Here are some pictures of the plants when they were still in the greenhouse.

Here are some pictures of the garden, and what's growing in it.

Here's me with the peppers and cucumbers in the background (I forgot to take a picture of this bed). There are three cucumber plants on each end, and 12 pepper plants in the middle. There are six regular sweet pepper plants, and six peperoncini plants. They are in milk jugs for two reasons: storms and pests. Those will be removed later when the plants get a little bigger and stronger.

These are our tomatoes and sweet onions. You can also get another view of the cucumbers and peppers from this angle. The tomatoes on the left are cherry tomatoes and on the right we have green zebras, with one red Roma that was swapped in after a storm knocked out a green zebra. These plants are currently caged only on the sides with sticks holding up the tomato plants. Next week, we're swapping out the sticks (which the plants will outgrow soon) and the cage for tomato cages only. From everything I've read, rabbits and squirrels won't mess with onions. We had squirrels digging up the bulbs when we first planted them, but they wouldn't do anything. They just left the bulbs there, so I would just replant them. Since then, we haven't had any problems.

This bed houses our squash plants and our green beans. The green beans are just peeking through the ground, so you can't really seem them, but all but one is growing. The squash plants are...sad. You can see the two on the right are yellowing and not doing too hot. I put five of those in last week as seedlings, and something pulled out three of the plants. Those are the only two left and they are not looking too hot. I'm hoping they'll go the route of the tomatoes and look lousy for a week, and then get nice and big. There is another plant on the right which you can't see, but which is looking really good. And the one on the left is looking okay, too. I bought about five replacement plants from Home Depot, but the heat of the past two days knocked 'em out a bit. I am reviving them and will put them in next week.

So, this is the hoop house, or the bunny birthing center, whichever you prefer. If you remember, it had plastic on it when we first built it. But now, what survived (a handful of beet plants, a row of radishes and a row of turnips) is growing nicely and loosely covered by burlap to shade the plants a bit. The radishes are beyond ready to pull, but the baby bunnies are preventing us from going in there and pulling them. Hopefully they won't be nibbled on by the babies! (Don't worry...I have a ton of baby pics from today...I'll post them a bit further down, along with story of the one we named Scamper.)

These are our watermelon plants. Again, they are currently growing in the milk jugs. They are still fairly small, which will be interesting. It seems like these plants look like such little things and then one day I will go in and they'll have boomed. That happened with our beet plants. They were so small and sad and then this week, they just boomed. They're huge now and have big, beautiful leaves (perfect for bunnies, I'm sure). So, I'm hoping that these guys boom soon, otherwise it will be a sad, little watermelon season. There are only four, though we have two more we may put in on the other side. Corn will be planted in the middle of both this bed. I read that corn and squash or melon plants grow well together. As much as possible, I've tried to do some serious companion planting here. The onions and tomatoes were another companion pair I'd read about.

This is what's left of our corn/pumpkin bed. Monday we had about two pumpkin plants left, and today none. It looks like something got to them, since the containers also had two in them, and those are knocked over and empty. We have giant crows and hawks (yes, we have hawks in the city) that litter our area, so one of them could very well have helped the squirrels or rabbits decimate what was left of an already decimated bed. Last Tuesday, this bed had four or five pumpkin plants, that were looking okay, and five corn plants. We have about three sad corn plants left, but I may be pulling them next week anyway. They're not in very good shape. There's one I think will hang on and survive, and it's right smack in the middle. The pumpkins are a huge disappointment, as we were planning on selling them in the fall as a fundraiser. This means I may have to either plant directly in the garden OR cave and buy some from a nursery. I haven't seen any so far, though, so we'll see if that's even a possibility.

Finally, this is the flower bed with the tree in it (and a team member's arm and leg). You can also see the sad replacement squash plants I bought at Home Depot. I watered them all morning, and brought them home to care for them over the weekend. Now, they're all perked up and happy. So far, there's not much in this bed. We're still hardening off some Zinnias and Marigolds, which we'll probably get put in either next week or the week after. We're a bit lazier about the flowers, no doubt. What is planted in here are some Begonias and Petunias I bought at Home Depot last week so I could blow the last of the grant money. We also have some Celosia, Poppies, and Painted Daisies that we grew from seeds. It's going to be a hot mess of colors and not one matching shade! I'm not a very good landscape artist, I suppose.

We have two more beds that are waiting for some plants. One, we planted in today. We planted spinach, mesclun greens, Four Seasons lettuce, and broccoli. Those will hopefully nice and big when I go back into work after the holiday. In the mean time, we watered the hell out of the bed, and laid plastic over it to create a greenhouse-like environment for the seeds to grow. I'll go back and water between now and next week, but I'm hoping the seedlings will pop a little bit quicker, like they did in the hoop house.

The last bed is a bit of a mystery. It might become a weird mishmash of leftover plants, or I might break down and buy some new stuff from Home Depot. We for sure have some baby broccoli in the green house, along with cherry tomatoes, a couple of leftover cucumbers, and watermelons. We started out with so many plants (see some old pics below), it made my head explode a bit, and now, we've had so many problems (cold snaps, thunder storms, tornado-like winds, rabbits, squirrels, birds, etc.) that I'm almost like a plant hoarder, keeping them in the greenhouse just in case. I'll take some more pictures of the garden again in a couple of weeks so you can see the progress and what else we decided to put in.

Now, on to the thing you really care about: the baby bunnies! Today, when we checked on the bunnies, their eyes were open! They were so cute, and the mother had removed the grass/fur ball that covered them. They were just there, ready to roam my bed.

I took my dog Radar in to garden, too, which he loved. He's now a pile on the couch as I type. He's absolutely exhausted! He wore his little gardening/camping vest, and we put him in things to amuse ourselves. He helped us out by following us everywhere and being super cute. We were worried he'd find the bunnies and attack, but he was very good.

When we finished gardening, we went back to check on the bunnies one last time, and they were everywhere! They were wandering around the bed, exploring everything.

I was worried about watering the plants, but figured I'd just do what I'd been doing which is to sort of drown the one side and hope it would seep over. So while I was watering the plants, I see one rabbit jump out of the bed and go running towards the building. I was like a surgeon people! Code red! I yelled to a team member, "Get me some gloves!" so that I could touch the thing without my scent getting all over it. Then we cornered the little thing and after struggling with the quick sucker, I scooped it up. At first, he was super freaked out, but I pet him a little and he chilled out. We took some pictures before putting him back into the bed with his brothers and sisters. We then named him "Scamper," and said good-bye. We don't anticipate the babies will be there next week, but we'll see. I will probably go back between now and then and take some more photos, but it definitely seems like the mama wants them to explore the world.

I hope you guys will forgive me for this long post, but I figured it's best to get it all done in one post. Then anything else will be a quick update! Perhaps next week, I'll give you a proper photo tour of the greenhouse, too! It's a little bit messy at the moment.

(All Photos by me!)


  1. The rabbits are sooo cute! And so is your dog, he's almost the size of a rabbit!

    Good work on the garden! I have herbs, lettuce, tomato, peppers, squash, peas and strawberries. Everything I planted was from starts, except the peas, since we have had such a long winter this year. I haven't had many pests except for a squirrel who keeps sneaking strawberries.

    Last year I grew potatoes and they were really satisfying and easy to grow. So much fun to dig them up.

  2. @Midge: Thanks! It's been really frustrating, especially with the weather and all the plant loss, but I keep chugging along. I'm thinking about selling off the remaining plants and planting some potatoes in the remaining bed! I'm glad you said they were easy. Like I said, I worry a lot about pests, though insects have been less of a problem than random mammals and birds. I was going to wait on those since I wanted to build a potato bin. Have you heard of this?


    But I may cave and just grow some this year in the raised beds.

    We're also planning on expanding later this summer. I'll know more about when and how big in a couple of weeks, after we get the rest planted and after my coworker, who is going to help me, and I meet. Those won't be raised beds, though. Those will be directly in the garden with paths in between. It will be L shaped and go next to the pumpkin/watermelon beds, and behind the watermelon, tree/flower, and lettuce/broccoli/spinach beds. It will almost double the garden, which will be...interesting. It's already a lot to handle. I've also been asked to do a lot of gardening side projects at work, like beautification stuff to the building. And remember...this isn't even my primary job! If I do great at this, but fail at my primary job, I lose my job. So, needless to say, it's fun, but exhausting, since I have to basically fit it into my day by being mega-efficient or work overtime. I almost always do the latter. So, yeah, in response to your comment the other day, it's nice, but not easy! I wish it was my only job sometimes, but I like my regular position a lot, too. : O ) Gardening is just a lot less stressful and easier to problem solve than people!

  3. My gosh, what a huge amount of work, I had no idea!
    And the bunnies are so cuuuuute!

  4. Oh! I also forgot to mention that I planted a lot more flowers this year just because they are pretty and noticed an increase in big happy bees and some new birds.

    Also, extra work outside and in the garden has to be much better then extra work in the office!

  5. @You should post photos of your garden! I've noticed an increase in bees near our tomato plants which are starting to flower. Yay!

    And yes, you're right, it's exhausting, but it does make my work more enjoyable overall.

  6. Bunnies! They are totally worth all of your efforts, Marty! Don't you think? So cute.

    Just keep at it. Sometimes you have to let some plants go and replant the next round. At least that's what I'm figuring out. Peaceful Valley has all sorts of good organic remedies to common garden problems. You might check them out.


  7. @Kristina: Yes, they were a sweet distraction. We're going to pull the first round of turnips and beets next week (these were planted really early on in the hoop house, so they're HUGE). We'll see how much damage those bunnies really caused. :O ) And I'll for sure check out Peaceful Valley! Any tip from you is probably a good one! You're like the gardening guru!


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