“It is difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts when eating a homegrown tomato.”
Every year I fully believe I’m going to create THE.PERFECT.GARDEN. It’s amazing how completely I can convince myself of this. It is going to have perfectly balanced soil. I will miraculously find every variety of tomato/cucumber/pepper/basil/lettuce that I have been dreaming of all flavourless winter long. I will intuitively know precisely when and how to water and fertilize (naturally, of course), never letting it go thirsty or hungry, nor of course, over feeding or watering. Pruning will be handled as though I have trained as a Master Gardener. I am most assuredly not. What I am is a “Let’s See if This Works” gardener.
I head out to Richter’s Herbs north of Be Still & Eat Headquarters in Goodwood, Ontario sometime in March, when the need to smell garden soil and growing living things becomes too overwhelming to ignore a moment longer.
I will buy approximately 20 times more herbs than any individual could ever possibly need, or tend effectively. I will arm myself with mortar & pestle and convince myself that I shall begin creating my own holistic remedies. Sue me, I honestly believe this little bit of self delusion is therapeutic and I will defend that notion every single March until I die.
I will nurture these little devils under grow lights in my basement, battling (mostly ineffectively) the natural curiosity of cats until our tough climate allows me to put them out during the daytime to harden off. This won’t be until sometime in mid May. My point is that I have a LOT of time between now and then to plan. And dream.
As I’m sure many of you are in the same wishful boat, I thought I would share some of my plans for this years garden with you.
This year I will start it off right…
Looks pretty at this point doesn’t it? But oh my was THAT ever a poor layout!
1. Get the right soil and pre-plan for better drainage… remove all existing soil in raised bed, line bottom with rocks, choose appropriate soil for plants. A mushroom compost has been highly successful in the past. Mulch topping is always a good idea.
2. Carefully and selectively choose plants which will not only be good growing companions to one another, but will also be useful in the Be Still & Eat kitchen. Tomatoes and cucumbers are always a must. Lettuces and herbs of course. Beets and Swiss chard would be a nice addition. Finally, broccoli and green onions will round it all out nicely this year. You can see how this can all get a little out of hand. It always starts so innocently.
3. Visually divide the garden (4′ x 8′ raised bed) into two segments… again to allow for appropriate companion planting which as we know helps keep the pests to a minimum. I’ve been pretty lucky so far with the “Let’s See if This Works” method but I think it might be time to approach this slightly more scientifically. Of course there is no companion planting known to mankind which will deter a hungry city dwelling gopher which is this particular gardener’s cross to bear each summer.
4. Plan to organize the garden for ease of access based on harvest times and ease of pruning. Tomatoes need space obviously, as do cucumbers. Green onions and lettuces near the front as they are harvested nearly daily once mature.
5. Cucumbers are being kicked out of the garden this year and being planted instead in a section nearby. Making use of a mutual chain link fence in the back garden will work effectively as a trellis and I’m happy to share whatever cukes grow on the neighbours side 🙂 This plan will also leave a little more room for a third variety of tomatoes.
6. Use leaf lettuce as border in perennial beds. I’ve seen it done with very pretty and also dramatic results.
7. REALISTICALLY choose herbs to go into planters for the deck. I plant them with a few annuals for colour and the effect is truly beautiful.
8. Try mushrooms, garlic and sweet potatoes this year!
Finally… look forward to enjoying the harvest.
Now, if I could just figure out how to get that lemon tree to actually produce fruit!
What could be more delicious than a simple Gremolata from your very own garden!
Enjoy & Namaste!
- 1 cup loosely packed parsley, washed and dried & rough chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 lemons, washed and zested
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, optional
- Combine ingredients and serve with fish or meat. Also lovely on pasta and eggs... basically anything you would like a little zing of lemon, heat of garlic and fresh herb.
- You can also get creative with your choice of citrus. Lime or orange will work equally well.
- Depending on how I'm serving this gremolata, I sometimes use a tiny bit of olive oil to bring it together. A drizzle is all that's needed.