Monday, October 12, 2009

Gardening Adventures

In July, I was granted a garden plot in the Bayside Community Garden. I hadn't gardened since I was a teenager, at my Aunt's house in Belgrade, where I planted seeds, weeded, shoveled chicken and horse manure and helped to harvest corn, tomatoes, and other vegetables, along with boxes of strawberries and raspberries from a large raspberry patch. My father did a lot more of the work than I did.

So it was both exciting and nostalgic for me to tear up the weed-ridden bed and get to work. There were already three apple seedlings and some "volunteer" tomato plants. One of my fellow gardeners dug up a huge catnip plant he didn't want and delivered it to my newly tilled soil. My sister Jane gave me an abundance of herbs and flowers from her gorgeous front lawn garden: Sweet Annie, peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, feverfew, echinacea, bee balm, iris, day lilies and foxglove. These were safe to put in -- the resident woodchucks didn't seem very interested in my herbs. I supplemented these with some purple basil, oregano. French lavender and a strange plant with brilliant red flowers called "bat face," that I got at the farmer's market. Once I managed to get stakes and a chicken-wire fence in, I put in some lettuce and spinach. I made a common beginner's mistake with the spinach -- I was so excited when it grew, that I couldn't bear to thin it out. Nonetheless I got quite a bit of tender lettuce and baby spinach.

The small amount of gardening I did so late in the year was very pleasing. I'd forgotten what wet dirt smells like, or the delight of seeing fat earthworms wiggling in the ground, aerating the soil. The minute I set the catnip in the ground a multitude of bees landed on it. The herbs all grew well and I soon had fresh basil, lemon balm and oregano to cook with. I brought home peppermint, Sweet Annie, lavender and catnip, tied it in bunches with yarn and hung it from my kitchen window. My tiny apartment kitchen soon looked like a witch's hut. Whatever I couldn't use fresh, I dried. Did I knew what I was doing? Despite my teenage gardening experiences, not really. And I soon realized that, like many things, it's possible to wing it.

I can't wait to see what gardening adventures next year brings. . . here are some pictures from this year. . .

"Harry Houdini," one of the resident woodchucks, patrolling the garden from under the tool shed.

Huge bunch of Sweet Annie drying in the kitchen.

My neighbor's corn patch.

Sweet Annie, Feverfew blossoms and "Bat Face" flowers in the window.

Fresh lettuce and spinach!

Homegrown salad!

A bowl of herbs and lettuce.

"Bat Face," Purple Basil and Sweet Annie

"Bat Face" flowers, tomatos (they tend to ripen better inside) and Feverfew flowers.

The gardens.

My garden: lilies in the left corner (hopefully they'll bloom next year), tomatoes in the right corner, rows of spinach and lettuce and herbs.

The herbs flourished and will hopefully come back next year.

It's just the right size garden for me.

Some of my neighbor's gardens were so beautiful. I really enjoyed the sunflowers.

First planting of herbs, still lots of weeding to do in the upper half, back in early August.