Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Beginning a Garden
I'm not much of a gardener. I was moderately interested in planting flowers and such with my mom when I was young, but then again she's not much of a gardener either. I absolutely adored the harvest from the few summers my dad grew tomatoes and broccoli in our back yard, but I have no memories of helping him in the veggie patch. During the course of three years at my co-op in college, I probably worked in our huge garden fewer than 10 hours.
But that's not to say that I don't appreciate home gardens. In fact, I am rather in awe of a good looking patch. It's also not that I don't know how to do it--I read enough foodie blogs that I've picked up a fair amount of gardening advice on the way. I think the bigger hindrance was that I've never been in charge of a garden from start to finish. I've never decided what plants to buy and where to put them and when to harvest. This leads me to doubt myself and search out advice from even more experienced gardeners, which probably isn't such a bad thing.
For better or for worse, I was determined this year to grow a bit of my own food. I started in the fall by planing four herbs in my backyard, near the kitchen door: thyme, sage, rosemary, and mint. The garden store people said I could pretty much just put them in the ground and wait until spring to harvest, so that's what I've been doing. All four seem to have survived our freakishly snowy winter and are growing--yay! Success #1.
My new project is the tastiest of all home-grown veggies: the tomato. (Cue scary music in the background.) I'm moderately afraid of growing tomatoes in Seattle because I've heard so many awful stories of what can go wrong. I'm worried they'll be too cold and die, or too wet and get a fungus, or the growing season will be too short and I'll be stuck with unripe green fruit on the vine. But I found so many beautiful organic tomato starts at the Ballard farmers' market this week that I knew it was time. I picked out four varieties: early girl, Cherokee purple, stupice, and sweet millions. I've eaten the first two but never heard of the second two--seems like a good balance of old and new.
The woman at the garden stall said to grow them in a sunny window for a few more weeks and then transfer them outside in late May or early June, so that's what I'm going to do. Right now they're in the window of my mudroom, which I hope will keep warm enough at night not to freeze their little leaves. I've remembered to water them a little bit every day so far (woohoo! this is a big deal for me), so hopefully that continues. In about four weeks they'll be moved out into a 2' by 2' gardening container made from an old recycling bin and a wood lattice. Hope they can last without stakes for another month... should I be worried about this?
I also bought two little basil starts at the market. They might be wishful thinking, but I'm hopeful. I could eat pesto all day all summer, if only basil weren't so expensive. So here's to hoping I can grow some of my own!
I have two more containers I can plant, each a big pot about one foot tall. Any suggestions for my baby garden? Plants you really like or ones you would avoid? I'm all ears because really, I only pretend I know what I'm doing. :)