How Does Your Garden Grow?
After the freeze two years ago, I lost a huge number of trees. When one sad clump got hauled away, I had a large bare space rather than what had been a beautiful stand of trees. My first thought was "Garden!" Then I went out and did a survey. First, there was about an inch of what might be charitably termed "top soil," but was, in fact, dirt whose only property was that it was brown. Next, what was under the inch of so of dirt was granite. I thought that raised beds might work. As I skidded down the combination of dirt and scree, I decided that trying to put raised beds on a rocky slope was probably not the best idea.
I wanted to grow vegetables and herbs. Last year, I had a raised planter that did fairly well, considering that I only planted a few things. This year, I decided to go all out. I got a second planter, lots of pots, gobs of potting soil and new tools. So far, everything is doing well. However, I am now forbidden from going near a plant store. I go in for a curly leafed parsley and come out with parsley, another squash, three more cucumbers (current count - 15), a rose bush (hey, it's a Julia Child), and more seed than I have space for.
Unfortunately, the bugs have found me out. I now have to deal with chomping critters. Silly me, I forgot bugs can fly, so having raised planters does not necessarily help. My oregano has been reduced to twigs and my purple basil is on life support. Dealing with that is my next challenge.
Having this garden has, however, greatly improved my mood. For me, watching how the plants grow and bloom is fascinating. I am convinced the green beans are going to try to take over the world. Patience is not one of my virtues, so I would like to speed up to June and July so I can see how the crops come out. I have already used some of my herbs in the kitchen and it is rather a thrill. Using the vegetables will be amazing. That is, of course, if everything goes well. I planted pickling cucumbers so I hope I can make pickles.
Yesterday, I bought a truly wonderful book on container gardening. Grow Fruit and Vegetables in Pots: Planting Advice & Recipes from Great Dixter by Aaron Bertelsen is true gem. Where do I start? HIs advice is clear and cogent. He believes that anything can be grown successfully in a pot. As an advocate of the kitchen garden, he truly wants his audience to understand that no garden is too small. And, any space - patio, balcony, porch - can be turned into a container garden. All of this made an impression on me. I am an enthusiastic, but rather uneducated, gardener. Bertelsen has the attitude that, given the best information, anyone can produce a productive and beautiful garden.
Did I mention that I love this book? There are also recipes for your crop. I am especially intrigued by the fig leaf ice cream. I have fig trees, so I am going to have to try this. I'll let you know how it comes out.
Also, you have to look up Great Dixter (www.greatdixter.co.uk) Bertelsen is the House Manager of this amazing historic home and garden. The photographs take my breath away and I absolutely must go there in the future.
Call or email if you would like a copy of Grow Fruit and Vegetables in Pots.
I wrote this blog post in May, well before the heat decided to come and stay. Since that time, how things have changed. My spinach turned to spinach jerky. After an initially semi-decent crop of tomatoes, nothing has set. The green beans took off like a rocket. They are very pretty - but just leaves. I actually killed mint. I didn't think that was possible! My three potted roses have done well. The Julia Child rose, which was in a bed, died. My cucumber vines look good - and bare.
I am hearing the same thing from every gardener I know, so I don't feel quite so cursed. I did get enough pickling cucumbers from a friend to make about 16 half pints of bread and butter pickles, which made me happy.
One of the great joys of my garden-turned-pots-of-leaves is the birds. I finally hung a bird feeder and put out a bird bath. I have had ladderback woodpeckers (the first I have seen in years), chickadees, robins, and any number of others. One or two will get on the feeder and the rest will line up in the trees. The hummingbirds have also been coming in for liquid refreshment. If you can, put out bird feeders. There is not much out there for them to eat.
This is all for now. If your garden is growing, I am delighted. If you are in the same boat I am, we can commiserate. Hopefully, the fall growing season will be better. Until then, I am going to enjoy my leaves and wait for next year.