The Food Garden

I’m a rotten gardener.  I have absolutely no attention span for things like weeding or watering, and when it comes to feeding plants, or mulching, or pruning, well, for one thing I’m not really sure how, but it actually doesn’t matter because even if I did know how, I probably wouldn’t ever do any of those things anyway.  And I’m really bad at staking tomatoes.

Plants in my garden need to be the kind which cope with intense, freakish levels of interest in their early stages (I’ve never *quite* dug up seeds to see if they were sprouting, but I have been known to gently disturb the earth above them, just to see if they were about to poke out of the ground), feverish watering and weeding in their first month of life, and total neglect thereafter.

Self-seeding plants are my favourite kind, and I do quite well with nasturtiums.  And we aren’t even going to talk about Jerusalem artichokes.

But when it comes to planting things that I might actually get to eat one day, my attention span can expand to as much as several months.  Edible plants even get hand watered in summer!   And provided with bark or mulch to help them keep the water, and watched anxiously for signs of wilting.  Sometimes I put them under sheets to try to save them from the scorching sun.  Sadly, all this attention is for nothing, and I usually get very little by way of crops, despite diligent use of my bokashi bucket and even some small scale crop rotation.  I can’t even manage to get overrun with zucchini, which is truly sad.

Still, today in an act of optimism, I started my spring gardening.  I cleared what seemed like vast tracts of land, planted beetroot and carrot seeds (purple carrots and yellow beetroot, naturally), bush bean seedlings, oregano and lawn chamomile (I adore the idea of a herb lawn.  I’ve never achieved one, of course, but that doesn’t stop me trying).  I planted a mystery berry seedling (marionberry?  maybe?), dug up nettles, and plotted marvels… will this be the year I actually manage to grow a watermelon?  Clear that dreadful mess out the back?  Stake tomatoes correctly for once?  Get my eggplant to fruit? Be overrun by zucchinis?  (Oh please, let me be overrun by zucchinis!  I’ve been preparing for this for years and all my recipes are going unused…)

I’m most excited about the beetroots, to be honest.  They are my all-time favourite vegetable to grow – I love the fact that you can eat the beetroots and the leaves as two separate vegetables.  Magic!  Though I’m told you can eat carrot tops, too, and I should probably give that a try.

Of course, my really fun little plan is for the tiny concrete balcony at work.  It’s little, bare, and very sunny, and just crying out for greenery.  I’ve been given permission by my bosses to put out some pot plants to brighten the place up… and being me, I’m looking at edibles.  A pot of fruit salad sage (tall, with magenta flowers, and virtually un-killable) and lemon balm (a creeping plant and definitely un-killable) will give my scientists a source of lovely tisanes and iced teas.  Another of cherry tomatoes and basil will make all our lunches much nicer in summer – and in winter, I’ll replace the tomatoes with peas and mint – tiny fresh peas can be eaten without any cooking required.  If there’s room, I might do a pot of nasturtiums – another absolutely unkillable edible plant with gorgeous flowers.  Or maybe I’ll put in a scented geranium – more herbal teas!

I love the idea of having little pots of things that people can add to their lunches or drinks at work.  And it will make the balcony much prettier and friendlier, I think.

Besides, it’s the least I can do if I’m going to feed them all garlic fudge tomorrow…

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2 comments for “The Food Garden

  1. August 29, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Eat the nettles! They’re one of my favourite vegetables, but a bit too fiddly for me to prepare now that I have a little baby.

    Wearing gloves, pick the tender younger leaves from the stems. Wash thorough then steam until wilted. Puree in a little olive oil. Add to sauteed onion and garlic for a divine pesto to use on hot spaghetti or in risotto; use in place of spinach for incredible saag.

    I’ve had the best luck with zucchini grown from Italian seeds, available at various grocers such as Mediterranean Wholesalers and Piedimonte’s.

    • August 29, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      I thought about that, but sadly, the pictures I can find of nettles suggest that these are not nettles. So I don’t know what they are. This is always the problem I have with wild greens – I want to try them, but don’t trust my identification skills.

      Maybe they saffron thistles? I’ve found an Australian weed identification site, and they look a bit closer. They do have nasty stings and thorns, whatever they are…

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