Monday, March 12, 2007

In my garden

"In my garden" might be a bit of a stretch, actually. The only thing that is actually outside right now is radishes -- and they're not even in the ground. But nonetheless, we have decided to attempt a small (ha!) container garden this year.

I grew up in a house where gardens were the norm. My mom is a gardening queen -- instructed by her mother, who is an exceptional gardener herself -- and my other grandmother has the largest amateur flower garden I have ever seen. I remember growing up with gardens that were full of carrots, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, radishes, spinach, butter beans, peppers, beets, and who knows what else that I'm forgetting. We also at times had strawberry patches, orange trees, and grape vines. I believe we also had two peach trees (or were they apple trees?) in our front yard, but I don't remember eating any fruit off of them.

But the truth is, I never showed any interest in gardening myself. I disliked getting so dirty and hot, and I really didn't like dealing with the bugs and weeds and, well, nature. However, for the sake of our budget, and because I do *know* how to garden even if it isn't my favorite pastime, I thought I might attempt a small garden on our back patio. We have a small backyard, and the soil is anything but desirable: clay, red with iron -- it certainly feels as hard as iron -- rocky and full of tough weeds. So the natural decision was to start a container garden. For those who are unaware, container gardens are grown in pots instead of in the ground. I already had some pots, and I read that you could use old milk jugs for pots as well, so I started saving those, and I also bought a few window boxes to round out the collection.

In the beginning, the garden was only going to contain five types of plants: red peppers, butter beans, lavender, mint, and basil. As my husband said, if I started small I probably wouldn't get discouraged (as I am liable to do). But these things do have a tendency to run away with you, and so after talking with my mom the garden has (pardon the pun) grown a bit. She said that I ought to start with some plants that were fool proof and early to improve my confidence. She suggested radishes (which I dislike, but I do believe are important for chicken stock), may peas, and two types of tomatoes. Then she gave me her stash of herb seeds that she won't ever be using (two packs of sweet basil, a pack of lemon basil, and rosemary), and I decided I would attempt to germinate some red beans and flax seeds that I have lying around.... and so you see how a relatively timid effort at gardening has really taken off. Actually, my mom also suggested planting potatoes, beets, and spinach, but I decided the garden was already more than I had bargained for. ;)

The herb seeds my mom gave me were actually from my grandmother (the flower gardener), and they are dated 1994, so it will be interesting to see if any of them germinate. I'm hoping for the rosemary, since I already have some basil of my own, but I'm not going to get my hopes up. Thirteen-year-old seeds are pretty much ancient. I've decided not to plant the lemon basil, unless I leave it indoors, because I don't want any cross pollinating between that and the sweet basil in case I decide to save seeds.

I'm very very excited about raising butter beans. I never can find any at the store that taste just right... My grandmother (the vegetable gardener) raises the most delicious butter beans ever tasted by man -- and while I can't hope to replicate that, I'm hoping that mine will at least taste better than the kind you buy in the freezer section at the grocery store (which is the closest I've ever come to finding them "fresh"). A butter bean, by the way, is basically just a young and tender (and NEVER mealy) lima bean. At least, that's the best way I can describe it. My understanding is that Southern people distinguish between the two, and consider only the Henderson and Sieva strains of lima beans to be true butter beans. I do know that growing up, I certainly considered lima beans and butter beans to be different. To this day I do not enjoy eating lima beans, but I will eat up a whole pot of butter beans myself. I think my grandmother grows the Sieva Lima bean (also known as the Southern Pole Butterbean or Carolina Lima), but I'm quite intimidated by pole beans. Maybe after I'm a bit more comfortable with my garden.... For now I am attempting Henderson's Bush Lima (also known as Henderson's Baby Lima), which is a Virginia strand bush bean.

Oh, and wait... there's more! After moving in to our house, I noticed that there is a peach tree (*possibly* two) in our backyard, and a grapevine! We won't know for a month or two if they actually produce, but I'm quite excited about the possibility! :-D

Yes, yes, I said I really disliked gardening... but something about having my own garden is getting me excited about it. Hopefully the feeling will last. lol

So does anyone out there have any gardening advice for me? What are you planting in your garden this year?

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