Thursday, February 8, 2007

Herban Garden

We live in a heavily shaded neighborhood in the heart of the city. It provides me a bit of the best of both worlds - I can walk or bike most of the places I need to go in town, but live "in the forest" as my nephew used to say. I mostly enjoy the trees, although the sycamores release these nasty little pollen burrs that stick in the back of your throat, gently choking you for most of the afternoon if you forget to shield your face during yardwork. Still, the tall, mature trees break up the concrete jungle around us and remind me how well nature and civilization can comingle if each is given due respect.

As an often frustrated amateur gardener, a downside of all this shade is that it's darn difficult to grow anything besides ferns and what's a girl to do when she wants to grow some food?

Last summer I discovered a sunny patch of beauty along our driveway - it's a long, thin strip of cement with an even thinner ribbon of earth, formerly choked with jasmine but recently cleared in preparation for house painting. I laid fresh compost and peat in, mixed it up and headed to Capital Nursery to choose the right mix of plants - a giddy pleasure of mine equal to school-supply shopping - for my edible garden.

I planted lavender and rosemary, along with alyssum in between to fill things out. The nursery also had some beautiful wine barrels that I brought home. One I filled with other herbs such as sage, basil and parsley, and the other with three varieties of heirloom tomatoes. One last pot billowing with thyme rounded out the planting.

I feel really proud of this little garden! During the summer we had beautiful fresh tomato & basil salad; autumn dealt us butternut squash with fresh sage butter, and last week I was able to have fresh herbs for homemade soup - in the middle of winter! As you can see, my kitty took to it as well.

Where have you found your little piece of edible earth?


Netty said...

The most permanent home I think I had with my mom growing up had a big backyard with just the right amount of sun and shade. When I was little I liked keeping "pet" tomato plants, so when we found ourselves with this highly gardenable backyard, she planted some tomatoes at my request along with her broccoli, basil, chard, cucumbers, and a few others. The cucumbers were some of the biggest I've seen, and of course I rather enjoyed the tomatoes, by default. Mom always bought organic, anyway, because the pesticides of regular produce made her sick. It was nice to be able to walk out to the backyard and pick fresh vegetables for dinner. It was a little extra special knowing they had come from our own backyard.

June said...

Hi Maggie
Thankyou for a little piece of Californian sunshine, as the sleet falls on Somerset and the bathroom is like an igloo! My herbs are shivering in pots that have cracked in the frost, but they are hardy creatures and the little new shoots tell me that spring is round the corner.

Maggie said...

Netty: I envy your childhood experience of knowing what the earth can produce! I'm so glad you had a mother who showed that to you.

June: We're having a rainy time here as well, actually - but sleet! I send you the warmth of bread fresh from the oven and tea by the fire as you watch your little shoots take flight.