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Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Humble Gardener

I am a very humble gardener. My successes are always balanced out with great failures...but I persevere. I've always loved flowers, hanging ferns, and window boxes bursting with color.We purchased this house several years ago and before we even moved in, I was out digging and tilling the sparse back garden.  I had two tons of dry stacking stone shipped from North Carolina to build raised beds and filled the beds with ninety-five 40 pound bags of Barky Beaver top soil.  Underneath the soil I buried 80 feet of soaker hose.  Against the advice of every gardening book, I then filled the garden to the brim with perennials, spring bulbs, evergreen shrubs, flowering bushes, summer bulbs, and statuary. On the back deck I would have an occasional tomato plant and a huge pot of herbs.  I was totally impressed with myself.
The garden is now too full.  Plants actually do fill in over time, it turns out. The experts were right.  It is  overflowing,  beautiful, and full.  Fine with me. 

My garden philosophy has shifted and changed over the years.  I still love growing flowers and watching them change and evolve during the growing season.  Growing things to harvest and  eat has  consumed me. We have limited space and odd light patterns, but that hasn't stopped me. I want to grow food on our land.  Our urban downtown land. Within reason, of course.  No corn fields, pumpkin patches, or winding melon vines. I do what I can;  and without room in the perennial garden, I have resorted to container gardening.  I am  not an  urban gardener, by any means.  I could not park my PT Cruiser by the side of the road with the latch up and sell produce.  Hardly.  For a long time I couldn't even grow a proper tomato. 

Last spring I was inspired by an article written by  Chef Dave in AceWeekly about starting vegetables and herbs from seed.  Seemed like the perfect way to quell the late winter wishful garden dolldrums. It was a total miracle.  I was stunned and amazed. We had cucumbers, jalapenos, green bell peppers, and tomatoes. I put up 75 quart and pint jars of pickles, relishes, chutneys, salsas, and juices. I was a canning madman!  All from the containers on our deck!  It was garden hysteria.  Obsessed and crazed.
Funny, the more you grow and eat what you grow, the more you want to grow to eat.. Ha! There is something to be said for container vegetable gardening.  The soil  can be manipulated and the water can be easily controlled.  When the light source changes throughout the course of the season, pots can be moved around to adjust to it.  In my case, it made perfect sense.

This year was and is no different.  Peet pots were everywhere in late March, domed with their plastic imitation glasshouses until sprouting.  They seemd so delicate and frail as they poked up through the airy peet. The tomato seedlings didn't quite survive my haphazard watering spells as well as the herbs and pepper plants. Michael ordered a slew of heirloom tomato plants to compensate.  A big slew. Principe Burghese, Pink Oxheart, Abraham Lincoln, and Sunset Red Horizon stand in tow with the standard  Big Boy plants.  We usually have three tomato plants with cages.  This year, we have nineteen! 

The peppers and herbs were hardened outside for a while before planting. When it was safely past the last frost date, I sewed cucumber seeds directly into containers and nestled them alongside the flowers with supports to vine up and through.  One is tucked into a bed of daylilies and is winding its way around an ornamental garden cage. The corner of the garage has a pot filled with cucumber vines climbing up through a cage onto a double hung cheap trellis I nailed to the side of the garage. As they blossom, form, and grow, the supports make for easy harvesting.  They will dangle and beg to be picked.
The peppers and tomatoes are producing and the herbs flourishing.  All in containers lined up side by side or tucked into available space.

We used to sit on the deck and look lovingly out onto our flowering back forty.  The tomato plants have totally obscured any view as they grow taller up into the sky and wrap around each other for support.

A samll sacrifice for the bounty to come.

Urban gardeners? Nope.

Just trying to grow a few things and live off the fat of our little piece of land.

With joy.

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