June 9, 2012

Gardening 2.0

Although we've recently moved and just had a new baby, I still have hopes and dreams of having a little bit of gardening in our lives this spring and summer.  However, my plans are much less grand than last year- for a few reasons.  First of all, our little girl is not quite yet 5 weeks old and the 2 1/2 year old is quite a workout!  Secondly, we are now renting our house, so doing things like installing our own garden beds in the backyard is not really feasible.  But I am undaunted!  I will not let these things (completely) thwart my dreams of homegrown heirloom tomatoes, hot peppers and fresh herbs!

My Father (here he is with the new baby) is quite a gifted gardener, he grows all sorts of things, arugula, herbs, even a fig tree, which, this year, he pledges to guard more closely against bird thieves.  What I truly love, though, about my Dad's gardening, is that it is much more free form and creative than mine- I planned those garden beds last year within an inch of their lives and meticulously germinated and transplanted things like a train schedule (I'm told my control freak side is occasionally endearing), whereas, my Dad actually has a section of his garden that is designated for 'volunteers.'  This very well describes what is so great about my Dad, his point of view can be so unique.  His 'volunteers' are plants that grow from the compost added to the pots.  An example 'volunteer' could be the seed of a melon my parents enjoyed for breakfast one day, that has now decided to sprout and bloom.  And that's a 'volunteer,' love it!

Anyhow, my father was visiting about six weeks ago, and he helped me plan and get started on this year's gardening project.  The house we are renting has a screened in porch which gets a fair amount of sun.  My Dad suggested this be the location of the pots and planters, which is terrific, because we will have even more competition from the wildlife here in terms of our gardening than we did down South.  This is solely because our yard up here isn't fenced, and we have deer stroll through the backyard, actually, we have everyone you can think of stroll through the backyard, two days ago a fox leisurely walked across the patio, which drove Pele, our Pudelpointer, completely bonkers.  I think I even saw an owl circling earlier this week.  Anyhow, you may recall that although I created what I thought was a fairly substantial barrier over the garden beds, using PVC pipes, zip ties and heavy black plastic mesh, raccoons found a way to make holes and climb in and get most of the wonderful things we grew!  Foo.  So, a screened in porch where no animals can get in sounds pretty good to me!

We germinated what we hoped to grow in zip lock bags with moist paper towels.  I selected a few tomato varieties, but the only viable plants I've gotten are speckled roman tomatoes and green zebra tomatoes, my san marzano and cherokee purple didn't fair as well.  We also have a viable parsley plant (flat leaf), a sweet orange bell pepper plant, and a serrano chile plant.  (On the 'volunteer' front, while my dad was here, he planted the roots from some scallions we used cooking in the kitchen and they are doing pretty well!  Check them out in the picture!)  Did you know that onion varieties are members of the lily family?  The seeds we used I bought the previous spring and kept them in a zip lock bag inside the house (in air conditioning).  Your seeds will keep for a while if you keep them at a cool temperature and moisture free.  If you live in a warm place without air conditioning, just put them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yesterday, I transplanted a speckled roman tomato seedling into a large pot (I know the pot seems crazy big now, but wait until this tomato plant reaches about 4 feet and needs a cage!) and a parsley seedling with a beautiful little parsley shaped leaf into a larger pot.  In the next week, I'll also transplant a green zebra tomato seedling, the serrano chile plant, and the sweet orange bell pepper.  All of the seeds I am using came from Botanical Interests, which has a website: http://www.botanicalinterests.com/ but they are also sold at Whole Foods (but, the selection will vary from store to store).  You may also buy plants for your gardening ambitions, which is absolutely great, too.  Why do I like to grow them from seeds?  First of all, your selection of things to grow is so much more diverse- I am not going to be able to find plants of speckled roman or green zebra tomatoes anywhere- nor will you be able to definitively determine the use or non use of chemicals- and since I plan to eat these and feed them to my babies, I like them as chemical free as I can get (I use organic soil and no commercial fertilizer).  Finally, and probably the most joyful part of the experience, seeing these plants grow from a tiny seed into something that is not only beautiful, but gives you jewel like fruits is simply divine!

I wish you happy and beautiful gardening this summer, no matter how you go about it!

For more La Dolce Duchessa gardening posts, look here!

1 comment:

La Dolce Duchessa said...

Sadly, my friends, this gardening experiment had limited success. It was successful for small plants that were already of a certain size- like herbs bought at a farmer's market, but my plants I was trying to grow from seeds just didn't get enough light! They grew, but just not fast enough. Next year, however, is another year, and I am undaunted :) I'll get my wonderful heirloom tomatoes yet! xo Jessica at La Dolce Duchessa