Garden Dreams

3400290769 8823622af6 Garden Dreams

Some of last year's bounty. Those beans were so, so, so good--an heirloom mix of bush beans that were almost leggy enough to be pole beans. Very sweet and crisp.

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
  • Peas
  • Brussels Sprouts (they’re good, really)
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Chives

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 & Josh

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7 thoughts on “Garden Dreams

  1. I love the story about your garden in Washington D.C. It sounds great!

    We have planned out our garden and have our seeds in hand, but our plan may be a bit ambitious. We’ll see how much we actually get planted.

    Oh, we’re also growing some rhubarb and tomato starts in our basement (black, mortgage lifter, and sweet million cherry tomatoes), and if all goes well, we’ll have some extra seedlings in a month or so and no room for them in our garden. Let us know if you’d be interested in taking some off our hands.

  2. sorry to hear you guys have been sick. :(

    i tore out a bunch of grass 2 weekends ago, in preparation for building 3 raised beds for our veggies. i’ve started my seeds, and the broccoli and sunflowers have sprouted and look good (i know you can sow sunflowers directly in the ground, but when i do, the squirrels always get them). i’m doing roma tomatoes also, do those come in heirloom varities? i honestly don’t know much about those (heirloom tomatoes, that is). they just sprouted. i can’t plant anything outside until memorial day, usually (wisconsin weather — we had a snowstorm over the weekend, now it’s raining).

    the peach tree was budding last week, and i hope to get a crop of raspberries from the bushes i planted last year. last year i saw some herb (lemon basil, maybe?) that smelled SO good, i might have to get some just so i can smell it. :) my boys love brushing the lavender for the smell.

    i belong to a CSA, so i get a lot of veggies that way. i also do NOT like beets, and while i wouldn’t say i love brussel sprouts, i don’t mind them.

  3. My husband is more into gardening than me. I’m bad about watering and harvesting.

    We signed up for a CSA share this year, so I’m trying to figure out how to plant based on that. Less greens? more tomatoes?

    My husband has planted six fruit trees this year with one more to go.

  4. Ah yes. I was just in the new yard yesterday poking around and trying to figure out where my garden will go this year. Remember how much my mother loves to garden? I inherited the love, I just don’t have the talent like she does. But I make an honest effort. I grow pretty much the same things as you. But I do onions as well. They don’t do well, but they take up very little space and then I’ve got a ton of green onions, which always come in handy. Good luck this year! Enjoy the bounty!!!

  5. Strawberries. I’m thinking about strawberries, too. Josh isn’t big on them. But if I can find some old-fashioned plants (not the super sweet varieties), I’m soooo planting some.


  6. I love this post! Growing up in the Boston burbs, we ALWAYS had a lovely garden. Sure, I hated weeding, but lordy, there is nothing quite like eating a fresh-picked, sun-warmed ripe tomato right there in the middle of it all. I eventually took over the gardening for the family – we did all of the above on your to-plant list, plus arugula (seed imported from Greece and were *really* spicy), radish, spinach, and parsley (always LOTS of parsley). One year, someone (no one will fess up) planted mint and that stuff is definitely weed-like, so beware! Keep mint in POTS ONLY, lest it invade and become and occupying force to contend with.

    Alas in Phoenix, I am the angel of death to all things green :( I can’t even keep a pothos alive! How sad is that?! My husband tends our meager border plants in the back yard. I did try some potted cherry tomatoes, herbs, and garlic, but they dried up so fast, you could practically hear them sizzling in the sun!

    I can’t wait to be somewhere I can tend a garden :) Post some photos for us in the southern arid climes…I would love to watch your garden grow!

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