Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Little Patch of Earth

Last spring in Maine, I came down with a major case of the gardening bug. Kyle and I had just relocated from Annapolis to my father’s house for the summer while Kyle was in officer training, and I found myself with a fair amount of spare time on my hands. The house has a beautiful 3-tierd stone garden in the backyard, and I had visions of tomatoes, herbs, sugar snap peas, eggplants, peppers and anything else I could sow flourishing in the space. When the weather began to warm, I went to the local greenhouse and stocked up on seedling trays, seeds, stakes, and planters, ready to make my mark on the land. I spent weeks tending to delicate seedlings, repotting and replanting as I went along, and soon enough it was time for the big transfer. Everything looked perfect as my father and I took to the earth over the course of weekend, setting my little guys into the earth. There was a solid week where all I could dream about was fresh produce. We kept a watchful eye on watering and the soil, and the plants began to grow, showing signs of flowers and the fruits to come. And then it happened. One of the wettest summers in Maine. Almost everything in the garden succumbed to root rot from oversaturation, sans a few peppers, the peas and the herbs. Sadly, nothing more could be done on our parts, and I savored what few yellow tomatoes I could scare up like they were manna.

This year I was determined to take matters into my own hands and outsmart the elements. This may also have a lot to do with the fact that we live in a third floor walkup with no outdoor living space. Thus, the birth of my wonderful new container garden. Bearing in mind the heartbreak of the year before, I vowed to make this a success, and enlisted the help of container gardening experts McGee & Stucky and their book “Bountiful Container: Create Container Gardens of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Edible Flowers”- it is the bible of container gardening, as far as I am concerned, and I have become a happy student of their theology.

Following their advice, I started small and simple- an array of hearty herbs, a pot of sugar snap peas, arugula for salad greens, two heirloom cherry tomatoes, and two yellow tomatoes. I planted seeds using Scott’s Miracle Grow Organic Choice and placed the pots on a long board over our radiator in good sunlight. It didn’t take long for things to take off. Last week I successfully transplanted all of my herbs into larger pots, and am getting ready to do the same with the tomatoes and peas. It’s been wonderful to have fresh herbs for cooking (we recently used the parsley and arugula in homemade fresh sausage- amazing!), and it is rewarding knowing that you were able to coax these plants from seeds yourself- it may even make them taste better. It’s been great for the cat as well, as he’s now enjoying his third pot of cat grass, and spying on the birds outside through his makeshift jungle.

Through creating this container garden it’s reaffirmed to me that no matter what your living situation, be it the middle floor of a high rise or a small patch of land in the county, there is always room for a little garden, and there is nothing like the pride of enjoying something you created with your own hands.

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