Thursday, February 25, 2010

Garden Planning

March 21st is the "First Day of Spring," and while I am wondering if it will actually be the first day of Spring, I am hopeful. For someone who enjoys colder weather, who has always counted winter as one of her favorite seasons, I'm kind of done with Old Man Winter. It may have been the two weeks of solid temperatures in the teens or the ever-present threat of snow without really seeing much that finally did me in, but it's over. The love affair (for this year) has concluded, and I am ready for the first fresh days of Spring to arrive.

Of course, when I think about Spring, I think about planting. Sometime in my early to mid-20s, I caught the gardening bug from my mother. I'm not sure when it first bit, or when I first cared, but I am now a bona fide garden junkie. I like flowers and vegetables equally, though I've done much more flower gardening in the last few years due to necessity.

Before I moved into the new rental, I was living in a rental that had out-of-control flower beds with some girlfriends. I say this with no bit of exaggeration. They were out of control. While my landlord was a nice enough woman, neither she nor her husband really grasped the art of gardening, and the front beds at the house were a tremendous mess of all different varieties of flowers planted too close to one another and choking one another out.

Think of it as the floral version of Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Even after all of the weeding and pruning and fussing that I did each spring/summer, another plant would inevitably poke its head through the soil and start attacking and destroying its neighbor. It was exhausting. My vegetable dreams were dashed in a pathetic attempt to tame the flowers, and I have longed to have a yard that's fuss free for a while now.

Enter the new house. Sparsely planted with annuals, I have a bare canvas on which to begin my efforts this spring. Granted, the yard is fairly tiny. I have to admit to myself that I'm probably going to need to reel in my grand vision if I really want to have anything grow successfully. With that being said, though, I have high hopes that I'll at least be able to get in the staples that I've been dreaming of planting.


If I've failed to communicate how deep my love is for tomatoes, it's only because I haven't written enough. I adore tomatoes. It's primarily because they're so versatile. From marinara sauces to pico de gallo to (my new favorite) tomato preserves, the uses are almost endless. During the summer, I'm a huge aficionado of the tomato topped with "salad." As in, I love a fresh tomato, sliced "bloomin' onion-style" into segments, and dolloped with tuna or chicken salad. I also dig on slices of chilled tomato sprinkled with kosher salt and black pepper. And does anything beat a caprese salad? I think not.


I have not failed to mention how much I love spicy. The jalapeno is the ultimate in spicy but not unbearable. I've tried my hand at Habaneroes, and outside of the realm of a good habanero-pear jelly, I'm just not a fan. So while I might toy with the idea of other hot peppers in my garden this summer, I am definitely jonesing for some jalapenos. Fresh pico and guacamole, you shall be the staples of my summer barbecues.


Say what you will about the ugliness of the beet, but I think most people miss the point. Beets aren't supposed to pretty, they're supposed to be tasty. While some people would disagree that beets are even in the same vicinity of tasty, I find them to be quite delicious. On a salad, nothing beats a good beet. Plus, I can appreciate a beet's honesty. A beet isn't going to pretend to be something that it's not. It's going to put it out there in big bold letters - I TASTE LIKE EARTH - and so it does. Personally, I have to respect a veggie that knows its roots (bad pun, I know) and isn't ashamed of them. Go beets!

 Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are what I think of when I think of summer. Vibrant in color, varying in sweetness, they are the crisp focal point of a summer's worth of gardening labor loved. Grill them, saute them, or slice them and serve them with ranch dip. A bell pepper is going to be the stalwart companion to many of your favorite recipes, and they are oh-so-good roasted. Having a gas stove has never been more of a joy than it is when you discover your ability to roast a sweet red bell pepper.

Of course, I'm also toying with a number of other potential plants. Tonight I'll be cooking up my first bunch of kale and, depending on the outcome, I may take it on as another possible garden resident. I'm also researching peas and beans and squash, all of which I think would make for a lovely, colorful backyard display. Okra has also wiggled its way into the mix, mostly because I'm absolutely in love with fried okra and because okra makes a kickin' pickle. I'll stay away from the stewed version, which I think looks a lot like snot, but I'm a-okay with the other faces of okra. Since picking/canning is on my list of things to learn how to do, okra may not be a bad place to rest my good intentions.

I'll once again remind myself that I have to come to terms with the size of my backyard. Constant reminding may actually lead to comprehension at some point. As I'm reminding myself of this, though, I'm going to point you in the direction of some really helpful gardening reads. PW rocked a redux of her raised flower/vegetable bed tutorial in mid-February, and I think you should take a look. If you're living in Missouri, like me, then you may also find the MU Extension's "Vegetable Planting Calendar" helpful. I know I did.

I have a lot to do in the next few weeks if I'm going to be ready to roll for the early planting season that begins in mid-March. I also have a lot of building work to squeeze out of Shannon. Luck is going to need to be on my side. Luck and a giant stack of fresh-baked peanut butter cookie bribes.

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