Friday, May 16, 2008

Gardening by the inch?

By Lonnie Cruse

I'm sure some of you have seen the show GARDENING BY THE YARD on HGTV with host Paul. He's totally insane, so I can relate. But personally, I garden by the inch. Strawberry pots here, old fashioned washtubs there. Works for me because I recently harvested my very first strawberries. Yes, I've planted them before. No, they haven't produced. Sigh. But THIS time I have berries. Okay, THREE berries, but it's a start and more are ripening even as I type this. The strawberries are growing on my front porch along with petunias to attract the hummers to the hummer feeder and some sort of vine one of the lovely librarians gave me last year when I attended an author day at the Crab Orchard Lake Library. It grew a little last year but is making every effort to take over that end of the porch this year and I'm letting it. The huge pot beside the petunias is filled with rosemary.

Last week, out back of the house I planted five tomato plants by the side of the porch steps. I put them there because the area gets full sun (assuming it ever stops raining) and it's close to the brick base of the porch. I've observed from watching friends grow tomatoes that those who plant them near a brick wall get the best and largest crops. I'm assuming it's because the brick gets hot from the sun during the day and holds the heat at night, like a hot house. Whatever. It works!

I'm trying something new I read about to control weeds, hoping it works. I put newspaper on the ground first, wet it down so it would stay, then put four wheelbarrows of dirt in the area (yes, I dug three of them and transported, hubby joined me and dug/transported the fourth. He also transported some bricks for me to line the area so he won't mow over it.) After I planted the the tomatoes and "hilled up" the dirt around them, I put more wet newspapers around the plants, watered them down, and covered the papers with just a bit more dirt. The newspapers are supposed to keep weeds out (and they biodegrade over time.) It looks a bit messy, but if it works . . . . I also planted marigolds in a row around the tomato plants which does a good job of keeping worms off the plants. Supposedly the worms that usually destroy tomato plants won't cross a line of marigolds. I hope they know that.

Now, I usually, um, cheat with my tomatoes. Meaning I slip over to McPlants in Metropolis and buy one of their hot house tomato plants that already has blooms AND baby tomatoes in early May. Unfortunately, this year, while they had plants a foot tall or better, NONE of them had blooms and/or tomatoes. What IS this world coming to? Really. So I bought one tall plant sans blooms and four small plants, and we'll see. In July, if I'm lucky.

To the right of the porch are two antique washtubs, (oval) one with rosemary (I adore rosemary, use it to cook and I often put it in the pages of my journal, just for the smell.) Next to the rosemary is the tub with two kinds of mint, regular and pinapple. The pinapple doesn't smell as good (I'm an olfactory person, if you hadn't guessed) but the varigated leaves are lovely.

A few feet further down is a huge square washtub with the rest of my herbs, chives, marjoram, thyme, basil, etc. All but two of the plants in that tub made it through the winter and I replaced those. The rosemary stayed green all winter, including surviving the severe ice storm we had, and while the mint hid in the bottom of the tub, it came out at the first sign of spring.

We have a HUGE yard, so I could easily garden on a grand scale. But it's really too difficult, between the deer and the bunnies (yes, I've tried every method known to gardeners to discourage them, but they seem not to have gotten the memo on that) and our 2.2 acres used to be a corn field and we assume all the spraying, etc has made it so difficult to grow things. I have a few roses and other plants out, but it's a challenge here. The porch and the areas nearby seem to be the best place.

The three strawberries I harvested and ate were delicious. Can't wait for more. Love using the rosemary with chicken or in spagetthi sauce. And this container gardening is small enough for me to maintain without killing myself. If you aren't a gardener, or think you have a black thumb, may I suggest some container gardening on your front or back steps? It's fun and very satisfying.

And if you would love to be a writer but are afraid to tackle an entire manuscript, how about container writing? A chapter here and there? Bit by bit? You'd be surprised what you can harvest that way. Good luck with it.


Ilana said...

I've container gardened tomatoes before with limited success. It seems that squirrels and chipmunks will eat them. I'm moving to an area with lots of deer, so I'm going to need coping techniques. I like your idea of container gardening and shall try it this summer.

Molly said...

our family loves container gardening! Since we live in a tree heavy area in the foothills of the Cascades, we have limited sunny spots. When we use containers with wheels we can move the post around to follow the sun. It's great because we don't have to compete with the slugs for our tomatoes. My kids love to take care of the plants and often rearrange them. It keeps the "landscape" fresh!

Lonnie Cruse said...

Hello fellow container gardeners! Thanks for stopping by. I had more strawberries from the one container. Guess I'll try them again next year. Let me know how your tomatoes do.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Container writing. What a great concept.