I love growing things. Green plants in my house make me happy. I enjoy taking cuttings from houseplants that I have, rooting them and either relocating them around the house or giving them away to friends. (Eventually I will have many sets started so they’re on hand for easy housewarming or birthday gifts… just haven’t gotten there yet…) In addition to my kitchen gardening, last year I helped my mom set up two raised beds in her backyard for veggie patches. She’s a great gardener, much by trial and error she says, and I enjoy learning about plants and gardening from her. I’ve always spent time with her outdoors when she’s gardening- when I was very young we lived in an old farmhouse where there was a larger veggie garden. My mom has said that my dirt intake would have been greater if she hadn’t had the garden hose out there with us because I would pull up carrots and start eating them without concern for the dirt covering them.
Last spring, once the beds at my parent’s were full of a dirt and chicken poo combo (no more eating dirt covered veggies for me- we are very careful to wash everything we harvest!) we planted a bunch of starter plants- from onions, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, zucchini, peas, cucumber, and lettuces to a few herbs and marigolds at the edges of the beds to help keep nasty bugs away. Throughout the summer it was great (and cheap!) to stop by and pick up fresh veggies rather than going to the grocery store and was easier to eat healthy. I even swiped another onion from her when I was visiting for dinner last week. This year we’re talking about adding a trellis behind the existing boxes that will allow peas to grow up the sides while tomato plants will hang down overhead. I can’t wait to get started!
Last week I saw a posting on www.dooce.com about a new book- Grow Great Grub; Organic Food from Small Spaces, by Gayla Trail. I had to have it immediately. I’m serious about needing it immediately- the next day, after yoga, I scooted right over to Barnes & Noble and picked it up. (There’s nothing like a solid dose of instant gratification to brighten a Rochester winter day,especially when it’s a bright green book with plants all over it that makes you think of sunshine and summer!) Gayla has so much information to share; she’s written chapters on prep, composting, what veggies and herbs to select, harvesting and even canning. The organic standpoint is mainly avoiding the use of chemicals and pesticides. She talks about what to do when you don’t have ideal outdoor space or soil for your garden. Best of all, there are recipes scattered throughout, giving plenty of opportunity to make the most of your personal arsenal of fresh produce, whether your veggie patch is large or small. I’ve skimmed much of it and I can’t wait to really dig into the details and get dirt all over the pages.
There isn’t much room to do my own full veggie patch where I live, but my hope is that I might get some ideas for container gardens with herbs that could work in my kitchen. Mom and I can try other things this summer on a larger scale, and really get down and dirty in the chicken poo. (The book has already got us thinking upside-down tomatoes in a pot which lead us to the trellis idea!) Grow Great Grub highlights so many varieties of vegetables that I can’t imagine not trying many different things this year. Making new and different meals with veggies that might not be the everyday variety you pick up from the local grocer is a lot of fun, and the pride in sharing with others something I’ve made from my own garden (ok, it’s mom’s garden but I helped) is especially gratifying. Now I just need summer to get here… but in the meantime I’ll get the ball rolling by starting some seeds in empty toilet paper rolls- Gayla has a whole page devoted to that.