For those who read my first City Garden entry and are wondering how things fare in the concrete jungle, I'm posting my first progress report and lots of pictures (just because I can!) The rains kept coming last week, and although they have effectively killed my Early Girl tomato plant, the rest of the garden seems to be thriving! Look at these Banana Peppers!
They'll be adorning a sausage and pepper sandwich soon, I'm sure. Dave, for one, just can't wait to get at these Jalapenos: Aside from the pathetic Early Girl tomatoes above, things seem to be going fairly well on the tomato front. And none too soon since I won't be feasting on any tomatoes until I can eat my own. Here are the Romas and Better Boys:
And now for my babies, the Morning Glory. I have a particular fondness for them in my heart, since they are the second generation of the plants I bought last year and I grew these little guys from seeds. I have a feeling by the next photo shoot they'll be shooting up the trellis. Until then...
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a love/hate relationship with the house I'm currently living in.
It has a great deal of history, most of it familial, but lacks the charm of most 100 year old homes.
It is just the right size for a not-so-young couple starting out, but it lacks substantial closet space.
It is nestled on one of the more quiet streets of a rundown, crowded, dirty town that my friends have dubbed “The U.C.” Anyway, it is home…for now.
Luckily we don't own this home because parts of it are threatening to crumble down at any moment. We rent it from the most patient, loving and sweet landlord - my Grandmother. She is a vivacious, spirited 89 but a little slow physically these days and she can no longer handle the treacherous spiral staircase to the upstairs bedrooms anymore. So, she decided to move out of the house just as we were starting a search for our first home and the rest is history. My Grandmother refused to sell the house and its 45 years of memories and asked if David and I would move in as caretakers.
My Grandfather was a very handy man and moved his family into this house when it was but a shack. He spent the next 20 years adding walls where there were none, adding a heating system where there was none, and adding cement to a basement where there was none. Apparently he had a lot of leftover cement from that last project and proceeded to pave over the entire backyard - large by city standards - in true Italian fashion.
After a spoiled childhood floating in my parents' backyard pool gazing up at the trees and enjoying cookouts on the deck, gazing out the kitchen window upon a yard of concrete was not in my future plans. Therefore, I resolved to create a low budget city garden. Not wanting to spend a fortune doing so, I planned to beautify just a small area of the yard - basically the part that I can see when looking out of the kitchen window.
I also have a love/hate relationship with my city garden.
It is a work in progress but I'm frustrated that it is not comparing with my earlier visions.
It is a little bit of nature in a concrete jungle, but I'm creeped out by the nature it so constantly and rudely reveals to me.
It is starting to produce vegetables that will hopefully be edible, but it's taking such a long time.
I know all of you gardeners out there will probably chastise me for my impatience because that is part of the joy of gardening, isn't it? To prepare seeds and nurture seedlings and feel the pride of growing something with your very hands. And though I may sound impatient, I do enjoy every minute of working in the dirt while working on my tan. I stroll around the property every morning, pruning dead leaves and watching my peppers grow. And I remind myself daily that gardening is a learning process and for only my second season, I'm not doing half bad. But I would like to use this space to record my lessons learned and my ideas for next gardening season. So here goes…
Backyard: The first year that I decided to garden I was determined to pretty up the front yard and, to that end, had planted a tomato plant and basil plants. However, I became afraid to eat the bountiful offerings because my aunts always suggested that someone might have peed in our yard after the AA meetings across the street. Lovely. So this year I resolved to plant all edible items in the backyard where I only have to worry about stray cats, the occasional squirrel and an identified rodent that once gazed at me from the dark garage in the middle of the night with horrifying eyes.
The contents of my Edible City Garden include: Peppers: Dave suggested that it might be pretty to plant a large selection of peppers, most of which I will have no idea what to do with if they ever come to fruition, and even claimed he would plant these himself. In true Dave fashion, he came up with a brilliant idea but failed in the execution - gotta love him. I wound up buying the pots, plants soil and planted:
Jalapenos: The fiery little peppers seem to be doing well and I currently count three. At least I know I can put these suckers on a heaping plate of nachos.
Banana Peppers: Have no idea what to do with these guys, but they are looking great!
Bell Peppers: The only pepper not entirely foreign to me, I dream of the day when I can slice 'em up and make any one of my favorite dishes. Though I should give them to my Grandmother, who is obsessed with peppers and is so proud that things are growing in her concrete backyard.
I may even be growing a 5th variety that I can't name at the moment.
Tomatoes: I had moderate success with my tomatoes last year, though a few succumbed to blossom end rot. You'd think I would have learned my lesson and adjusted the calcium levels of my soil this year, but no such luck. Yet everything is looking OK. I've planted:
Early Girls: Had two of those growing but a crazy storm blew in this week and seems to have shaken the plant loose - it seems to be dying a painful death but I haven't been home in daylight for the past two days. Oh well…
Better Boys: So far, so good…
Roma Tomatoes: Never a favorite of mine, but I'll have three to eat this summer.
Basil: I'm starting to believe that I have a special talent at growing basil - or maybe it's just very easy to grow? Anyway, it's doing fine and I'll be making prodigious amounts of pesto this summer.
Thyme: Looking good! I really have to start making some more dishes that utilize thyme. I love it with mustard - it makes the most amazing sauces.
R.I.P. Dill & Cilantro: These herbs are apparently too delicate for my heavy hand. The cilantro was doing great until I decided to transplant it a few weeks ago. After contributing to only two Mexican-themed breakfast burrito creations, it was put out of its misery.
Dill - I just love the way it looks but have never cooked with it. Now on its deathbed I haven't even season once batch of potatoes. I think I know what I'm making for dinner tomorrow night!
Rounding out the backyard are some non-edible selections for color and general enjoyment.
Petunias: I think my pictures are misleading because it looks like I actually can maintain these delicate flowers. Most have died since this photo shoot.
Unidentified: I don't know the name of this plant - but I love them, and I've had lots of success growing them over the past two years.
Morning Glory: Ah, I hope these will become my pride and joy sooner rather than later. Last year Dave suggested covering the chain link fence that keeps our neighbors out of the backyard with this fast-growing plant. By the way, that is a literal statement. My neighbors are constantly trying to get in our backyard and stopped speaking to us when we finally told them off. But that is a story for another time.
Dave did execute on this particular project and we mounted window pots to the bottom of the fence, planted the morning glory, and let nature take its course. By early August the entire fence was covered. I proceeded to harvest and dry the seeds and save them for this season to see what magic I could muster. I've been happy with the progress of these plants so far and am posting this picture - though I'll post another next week that shows how they've grown since then. They haven't started climbing the fence or trellis yet, but I remain optimistic. Though I have learned some lessons here about not putting too many seeds in one peat pot and not planting the morning glories so close together. But they were so small that I got ahead of myself.
If it were possible, I'd plant morning glory around the entire perimeter of the house to keep out the nosy neighbors, random bathroom seekers, and other undesirables. But, I've read that they are poisonous and, as much as I hate my other neighbors' constantly barking dog, I don't want to kill it.
That's the end of the City Gardener's first installment.