For those of you who follow my blog, you may remember that I got the gardening “itch” way back in March and as a result I planted spinach and beans in my tiny vegetable garden on St. Patrick’s Day. The spinach (a veggie that actually likes to grow in cold weather) has done great and I have been able to use it in several recipes including my Trader Joe’s style Eggplant Parmesan and my Herbed Spinach and Feta Pizza (coming soon!). The beans were less thrilled about being planted in the winter and have taken their sweet old time coming up, but now that May has arrived they have suddenly taken off and are starting to look like real bean plants.
It’s amazing what can grow in 10 days! Garden on April 15th (left) and April 25th (right). You can see the spinach in the front and the beans in the back.
Matt and I enjoy listening to Mike McGrath’s organic gardening show “You Bet Your Garden” on NPR (the archived podcasts are great entertainment for long car rides) and we’re trying to take some of Mike’s advice to improve our garden this year. According to Mike, a good “yard waste compost” (a mixture of shredded fall leaves and nitrogen-rich green matter that has had time to break down to a soil-like consistency) makes the best mulch and also provides great nutrition and disease control in the garden. We’ve been religiously composting our kitchen scraps all winter and now that it’s getting warmer out we’re hoping to start seeing some fresh compost in our spin bin composter soon!
Potted cherry tomato plant that has been “mulched” with partially composted shredded leaves to retain moisture.
I have several plants around the patio in containers, including two cherry tomatoes from my neighbor, a planter with chives, marjoram, marigolds, and a day lily, a combo of sweet and chocolate mint, and a serrano pepper plant. I’ve been really impressed with the brightly colored orange, red, and yellow marigolds so far — they’ve been blooming continuously for a few weeks and have a lovely fragrance. Apparently they repel insects so they’ll come in handy when our summer mosquitoes arrive!
Chives, Day Lily, Marjoram, and Marigolds on the patio
Now, back to those beans… When I planted them in March I imagined having fully matured bean plants by now so I planted them across the entire back half of my garden. Since the bean plants are clearly not ready to sprout beans anytime soon and I want to plant my basil in that same exact spot, I decided to transplant the strongest beans to my new strawberry patch. Apparently beans and strawberries are “companion plants” so I figure that they will enjoy cohabitating the same small strip of my ever-expanding garden.
The transplanted bean plants are now scattered throughout my new strawberry patch.
Perhaps the most exciting additions to our garden this year are our two upside-down tomato plants. I know that the whole upside-down growing gimmic is a bit of a fad and I’ve read lots of criticism about it on the internet, but after having a giant tomato plant take over my garden last year with its long, snarled branches and watching its tomatoes sit on the ground and get eaten by bugs, I decided that hanging plants sound pretty promising!
Hanging tomato plants with thyme and parsley.
Rather than purchasing the tupsy-turvy type of hanging tomato bags, we selected two large galvanized buckets from Home Depot and Matt drilled holes in the bottoms for the tomato plants to feed through. When it came time to actually plant the tomatoes, we lowered the buckets to below eye level and Matt held each plant at the proper height (burying the stem up to the first true leaves) while I carefully added soil-less potting mix. We topped off each bucket with herbs (thyme and parsley) and then covered the surface with partially composted leaves from our compost bin. I’ll be interested to see how these plants do over the next few months!
Close up of the bottom of one of our hanging tomato plants: We threaded pieces of an old t-shirt around the base of each plant to hold the dirt in and drilled holes around the perimeter of the buckets for drainage.
Overall, I think I spent about 12 hours working in the garden last weekend and I enjoyed every minute of it. I had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of vegetable gardening season all winter and I am so excited that it’s finally time to start planting! What are you planting in your garden this Spring?
Mint plants on April 15th (left) and May 5th (right).
Gardening Update – One Month Later 4.17.12
Gardening… On St. Patrick’s Day! 3.17.12