Designing a Garden – If I Can Do This, So Can You! May 25, 2009
I’m not sure if I’ve discussed my whole other life as a frustrated gardener here before, and I don’t have the patience to sit and dig around for past discussions. The long and short of it, history wise, is a bit of that whole “I’m turning into my grandparents/parents” thing. When I was a kid, my grandparents had a huge backyard, and every spring they planted a garden. A gigantic garden, actually. I have very early memories of this spring ritual where the tiller was brought out, and I would be given a handful of seeds to place in the holes along the furrows. I clearly remember being fascinated by the sharks teeth that my brother and I would find in the freshly dug soil – being 5 hours from the MS coast, this was odd, but if one looks at the history of the planet, it stand to reason they’d be there, as this area of the United States was once covered in water, millions of years ago.
Anyway, being a person who sits at a computer all day, I had to find an outlet for the other part of my brain. I guess the most lo-fi way of solving this issues is to dig in the dirt. I was talking gardening with someone the other day – someone who doesn’t share this love – and I had to explain what the draw was for me. To the best of my ability on the analyzation of the hobby – because this IS a hobby until I get paid for it – I figure it’s this: Every single time I plant something, I expect it to be a colossal failure. But most of the time, 99.9% of the time, I am pleasantly surprised and it’s like a series of miracles when something sprouts or blooms. It’s the closest thing I’ve experienced to giving birth, I suppose, as I am taking part in creating a life.
I started my own personal digging in the dirt thing about 7 years ago, while living in an apartment. I started with cherry tomatoes, dill, and basil in containers. That went well, so when I moved to a house with a yard, I decided to branch out. The house I currently live in had a modest flower bed. It contained what was limited to a modest amount of plants, the only two of which I can identify being phlox and lambs ear.
I decided to give things a go 3 years back and added some seedum I had in a pot that I acquired from my great-aunt’s garden. That went well – of course, you can’t kill the stuff. Two years ago, a house was built next door, and one of the workers generously gave me another variety of seedum to plant after we had talked about the flower bed – I placed it near my existing seedum. As I have a love of freshly cut herbs from the garden for my cooking, I added basil, oregano and chives – the chives were transplanted from a pot – I had started those from seed about 7 years back in my early endeavors with container gardening. Amazingly enough, they come back each year in early February, and survive thru the strange early spring snows we seem to get here in Nashville.
Last year, I got serious about the gardening project – as serious as one can get with a modest flower bed – then I put my mind to expanding things. I annexed the flower bed to run the length of the walkway to my patio – and planted hollyhock, bee balm and rose campion that I received from a friend. While planting these, a neighbor stopped by and said he had some purple canna, and asked if I wanted them. You can probably guess what my answer was. I also received four moulin rouge sunflowers from the same friend that gave me the hollyhock. I planted those and was very pleased with the result. They’re not mammoth sunflowers like most people imagine, but they got to around 4 feet in height and were beautiful. A deep maroon on the front side, with striated leaves of maroon and bright yellow on the back side. Watching them sway in the wind made me intensely happy.
The hollyhocks actually bloomed last year – they usually rock on 2nd – and the cannas and bee balm were lovely as well – the added bonus of the bee balm was the attraction of many bumblebees that pollenated the flowers and plants.
Spring forward to this year. I saved all of my seeds last year – hollyhock, rose campion, moulin rouge sunflower, etc. I filed them away in the paper bags that I take away from the local farmers market in my neighborhood. I started the seeds early, for example, with the moulin rouge sunflowers and transplanted the seedlings into the ground about a month back. I had 25 total early on, but am down to 10 at the moment as something seems to be breaking them off. Oh, I had to dig another flower bed out to accommodate the plants I wanted to set out. In that flower bed, I put 2 angel trumpet, the 25 moulin rouge sunflower, 15 gladiolas and a few tomato plants I started from seed – those are a bit of a buzzkill now, as they are 2″ tall and seem to be stalled at that size. I’m hoping they continue a growing trend.
I also have a love of the dollar store. My local one happened to have gladiolas bulbs – 15 to a package – for $3.50. I figured “why not” and purchased the bulbs, set them out & they are now bursting forth from the newly dug flower bed.
As I share an ongoing conversation over at Aunt B’s regarding gardening, she has gone on and on about Bate’s Nursery here in town. And recently, another friend, Bradley, told me about the wonders of Bates and this past Saturday sent me an invite to travel that way to look around at plants. I accepted the offer and was not disappointed. At Bates, I purchased 2 heirloom tomato plants – one being the black variety, a basil plant, as mine grown from seed seems to be stuck on pause, and 4 acorn squash plants – I meant to buy crook neck squash, but I figured I’d try this variety and make the most of my mistaken purchase. Regarding the black tomato plants – my neighbor had been given some of these last year from one of the workers on the house & I tried them and fell into instant love. I’d never seen or heard of them prior. After the trip to Bates, I promptly placed it into the soil and trusted the rain trend would take care of the rest. So far so good, as there are three blooms on that tomato plant.
In the new flower bed, which is mostly an amalgam of flowers and veggies, I popped in some pole beans as well — nothing quite like fresh pole beans from a garden — I planted those around a week and a half ago and they’re currently about 2 inches in height. Tomorrow I plan on running string around the two trellis posts in order to give them something to run up. Hopefully their growth won’t affect the dahlia that is planted nearby to infuse some color into the surroundings. I also have a hot pepper plant, given to me by my brother, and it’s already yielded a single pepper that I picked to put into a salad in the future.
The friend that gave me the bean seed told me that his have not come up yet and I’m not sure about the whole “why” answer to the question. The only thing I can figure is this — I have a TON of worms in the new flower bed, thereby – as far as I can tell – enriching the soil with nitrogen and all the other stuff worm poo provides. I have 4 bean plants that are loving life right now and that makes me very happy.
So, that’s the gardening update as of late. I need to get out and weed, but figure I can do a little at a time, as the rain is still hanging around Nashville and the surrounding area. Stay tuned, I might even put some photos of the progress here.