We’ve still been sick around here. Between the two of us, there hasn’t been a single healthy day in all of March. Pretty crummy, huh? We’ve been keeping thoughts of warmer weather and less sickness alive in our hearts, though, by dreaming about this year’s vegetable garden.
We plant an organic vegetable garden every year. In fact, we have gardened together since 2001, when we had a plot in one of the original Victory Gardens in the middle of Rock Creek Park in the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington, DC. That year, we had put our names on a waiting list for a garden plot in the community garden near us, knowing that it usually took several years to get a plot. However, right at the beginning of the season, someone was unable to care for their plot anymore (there were a number of people who’d had their plots since they were originally developed in the 1940s), and the garden coordinator went down the waiting list, and we were the first people who answered the phone. And that’s how we wound up with a primo piece of D.C. real estate–a large garden plot right across the street from our apartment building, for the very small price of $40 a year. Our plot was pretty overgrown, and we didn’t have garden tools per se, so we spent a lot of time on manual labor churning up the soil and preparing it for planting. We walked all over the city in search of vegetable plants and seeds and, not having access to a car, carried some pretty wacky things on the subway and bus. That summer was incredibly hot, and our garden flourished. Quickly, vegetables started producing. Soon, we were feasting on fresh lettuce, peas and all sorts of other goodies. And just as quickly, wildlife began having our way with our bounty. Oh yes, Rock Creek Park is home to a lot of urban wildlife–coyotes (we would hear them howl from our apartment), turtle, foxes, rabbits and deer. Those damn deer. They would crawl under our fence, leap over it and just push through it. No matter what we did, the deer would get in and eat our vegetables. Despite that trauma, it was one of the best summers ever–and we spent hours every night outside in our garden. We’d often take our dinner out to our garden and sit in lawn chairs, enjoying the opportunity to have a piece of the country right in the middle of the city. Friends would stop by our plot and say hi. We made friends with the older folks who’d gardened there for decades, many of whom were also seed savers who shared seeds and knowledge with us. It was a special place. After 9/11, the garden was one of the first places we visited, and when we left D.C. later that year, the garden was the last place we said good-bye to.
We’ve pretty much gardened together ever since.
In Santa Fe, it was tough. Our beloved herbs would bolt and turn bitter. Lettuce was a waste of time–not enough water. The soil was so alkaline that tomatoes whithered and didn’t really fruit. And, apparently, even chile peppers hated the pine needles that fell all over our yard.
Back here in Oregon, gardening is a dream. The soil is rich, and most things thrive. Peppers don’t produce like they did in D.C., but those that do are sweet and beautiful. Herbs thrive, and many of the annual varieties actually last through the winter. In 2007, we had an amazing bounty. It was hot and dry and our tomatoes went crazy–and we had lots of fabulous heirloom varieties that went nuts. We’ve had great luck with beans–especially the varieties we planted last year. Just a few plants kept producing beans all season. We also plant loads of herbs like oregano (homegrown oregano tastes so much better than the store-bought) and basil (can you ever have enough fresh basil?).
This year, we’re going to plan our garden a bit better. We need to, believe it or not, plant more summer squash. We love zucchini and other summer squash and have all sorts of creative ways of cooking them and storing them for the future. (Hint: You can grate zucchini and then put it in freezer bags and use it in all sorts of dishes.) We need more peas and beans, because we just love them so much. And Sarah, as usual, can’t get enough different varieties of cucumbers. Also, this year, we want to be more strategic with our herd garden, and expand it to experiment with some different items, more thyme, different sages perhaps and maybe something we’ve never tried before. Also, we’ve not been so great with planting some of the other things we love–particularly brussels sprouts. Mmmm… Brussels spouts. If you don’t love them, you’re missing out. Sometime we’ll post our favorite brussels sprouts recipe here. Try it and you’ll love this much-maligned and oft-misunderstood vegetable.
These are the definites on our gardening list:
- Tomatoes (heirloom, of course–we’ve got lots of faves; would love to hear about your favorite varieties)
- Cherry tomatoes (these are for Sarah and the dog–they grow them in pots and sit out in the patio and ear them together)
- Peppers, sweet and hot (cayennes are very versatile and Josh likes to have a couple jalepenos, too)
- Summer squash
- Cucumbers, slicing and pickling; we’ll be trying some Armenian cukes again this year–we grew them several years back and they were super
- Lettuces; Josh doesn’t eat salad, but Sarah’s a fan of sweet baby lettuces
- Chard; Josh is learning to love sweet rainbow chard
- Beans; we prefer the three-color heirloom varieties we’ve planted the last few year
- Brussels Sprouts (they’re good, really)
Things we won’t be growing:
- Beets (we both hate them)
- Onions (we love them and really love the young, green Walla Wallas, but we’ve not had great luck with them in the past)
- Cabbage; it’s so cheap here, it seems silly to use the space
- Winter squash; no fun
- Corn; no fun/you need loads of space
There are loads of other things that we’d love to grow, but space is limited, since much of our yard is–unfortunately–taken up by plantings (not our choice), but this year we’re going to try and squeeze some veggies in around the ornamentals. We’re pretty jealous of the 1,100 square feet of organic kitchen garden, including room for berries, that Michelle Obama has had put in at the White House. (And what a great thing for her to be doing as a model for the rest of the country–food gardening seems to be something that people have gotten away from, and it’s so great for folks, young and old, to be involved in where their food comes from.)
Are you planting a garden this year? Any favorites that you think we should consider?
Happy gardening all! If we keep dreaming of warm, sweet tomatoes and fresh, crunchy green beans, and the accompanying sunshine, we’ll just will this cold weather and all the icky sick germs far away!
~Sarah & JoshNo related posts...
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