Category Archives: Home Gardening

One Garden, Please!

It’s time to plan the garden. In my case, it’s time to create the garden out of the area I left barren in the back yard when we moved into the new house a year ago. Our soil is mostly rocks, so it isn’t possible to just till it up and add compost and seeds. I also want to plan for the least maintenance, so I need to adjust the automatic sprinkler system to water the garden.

I contacted the landscaper our development is now using and spent a pleasant 30 minutes discussing my dream garden with Tim of Water-Rite, Inc. He immediately steered me away from raised beds. He pointed out that the area I wanted to use was already well-contained, all it needed was a bed of good garden soil. I didn’t need new sprinklers, just changes to the existing zone of sprinklers. I liked the idea of not building raised beds that will eventually decay and look shoddy. Also, with the new plan I could change the area to anything wish in the future without having to dispose of the raised beds lumber and hardware.

I’ll also have the sprinklers extended to water my hanging baskets from above. I’ll have to come up with some other weight lifting regimen vs. daily plant watering. And I’ll be able to take a long weekend without coming home to dessicated hanging baskets. The cat can care for herself for days, but plants need lots of attention!

The price tag isn’t cheap (about $500), but this is an investment that will pay dividends for years to come. I spent about $200 last year on self-watering containers, potting soil, and plant starts. My new garden will have far more growing potential. Now I’ll have to go browse the seed aisle!

My First Tomato

I’ve been watching my three tomato plants as they have been doing their plant-thing. The Early Girl is being true to its name and produced the first ripe tomato. My plant has at least 20 tomatoes set and more blooms a-blooming. I took the advice of Marie at About Gardening and pruned back some of the tomato blooms in hopes of getting more ripe tomatoes.

First tomato on vine

My cherry tomato plant is also putting on lots of fruit and the first one is now yellow. I have a third plant, which I think it another large tomato, and it is only now beginning to show some tiny tomatoes.

Oddly enough, I’m not a fan of fresh tomatoes except in BLT sandwiches. In part, that is due to commercial tomatoes being tasteless bags of squish. Home-grown tomatoes are the only ones worth eating for taste. But even then, I believe they need the proximity of bacon and mayo. And so, I had my first BLT of the season:

BLT sandwich

Where is the L, you say? While I have some lovely heads of organic lettuce and my own lettuce growing outside, I actually don’t like lettuce on my BLT. It makes the B and T slide around too much. But if you say BT sandwich, folks don’t know that is. Really, it’s a BMT for me, as the mayo is an essential ingredient.

Review: The tomato was perfectly sized to make one sandwich. But the thick bacon overwhelmed the balance of the sandwich so I couldn’t really taste much of the tomato. I need to get some of the humane local bacon and see how that works.

Sunday Parkways – and Front Yard Gardens

My walking buddies and I enjoyed the Sunday Parkways car-free day in North Portland last Sunday. This event was held by the city of Portland to promote walking and biking. I am no stranger to North Portland. One set of my grandparents lived in St. Johns and we visited them each weekend. The University of Portland is my alma mater. And I’ve grunted my way through these streets 7 times for the Portland Marathon, let alone dozens of training walks.

It was nice to see the area when it isn’t mile 20 of the marathon and I just want to sit down and die. The walk started from Kaiser Interstate Clinic, near Overlook Park. Immediately I was struck by how many front yard gardens and even parking strip gardens we passed by. I guess this is a big trend for Portland. Last year I heard Mark and Dave on the radio complaining about them, Dave just thought that they made the neighborhood look less classy. I found an interesting selection on, Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden And Your Neighborhood into a Community. Sounds like it’s a movement!

Personally, I don’t want my veggies growing where everybody’s dog can pee on them. I’ll keep my veggies out back where I have better control over access to them. We live in a new subdivision and have only a tiny patch of lawn out front anyway. I loved seeing this 10-foot high artichoke, along with other vegetables in one front yard. I can see why the neighbors might look askance!

Artichoke in front yard garden

Nobody Told Me About Bolting

Penne with Spinach or ChardMom never grew lettuce or spinach. My parents had a large garden, but neither was a fan of cooked greens, and lettuce other than iceberg was a foreign idea in our neck of the Tualatin Valley. And so, late in life, I finally have a sunny spot to have a container garden or raised beds. My first purchase was a pre-planted salad and herb bowl from Shorty’s Garden and Home in Vancouver. I was so tickled at being able to pick my own salad that I bought more lettuce and spinach starts and planted them in containers. Things went well through May. I plucked tender greens from my plants every other evening for our salad. But in early June, the spinach suddenly put out arrowhead-shaped leaves and sprang up in height. I am currently listening to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) by Barbara Kingsolver and discovered this was bolting. When lettuce and spinach sense a higher temperature, they start sending up a bloom. When they do this, their leaves turn bitter as they make themselves less tasty to grazers like me. While it’s possible to quickly trim them back and keep the good-tasting leaves coming, often you just have to sprout new plants instead. I finally pulled up the spinach and used the remaining leaves in a batch of Penne with Spinach, Red Peppers and Feta. I also am growing my own red pepper plant, so eventually I can roast and freeze my own peppers for this dish. And I’ve ordered a home cheese making kit so I can replace the feta with fresh mozzarella. As for the container garden, I’ve replaced the spinach with some Swiss Chard starts I found at Shorty’s. And I’ve got seeds for a non-bolting spinach and mixed lettuce.