Friday, May 16, 2014


For the first time since we moved into our house 13 years ago, we've planted a real garden. Oh, we've tried a few things in the past, including an herb garden in the front yard (the survivors of which have been a 12-year-old pot of chives and an indomitable rosemary bush), and some tomatoes (imagine this: they don't grow well in clay, and apparently they expect to be watered). In the past two years, we've also tried three times, and failed three times, to grow mint, although I have high hopes for the sprig I found when we hacked back the rosemary earlier this spring.

I'm pretty good with indoor plants, though. My great achievement of the winter involved coddling a grief-stricken portulacaria afra back to vigorous health in our claw-foot bathtub upstairs; indeed, it was that victory that gave us the confidence to try coddling some outdoor plants this year.

Reinvigorated elephant bush is happy to be back on the porch for the summer.

We took our friend R's advice and built a raised bed. S built the frame out of some pine 2x4s; then he and E leveled the ground in front of where a gutter drainage pipe empties into the yard. We put the frame down over some mole-barrier cloth, filled it with several years' worth of beautiful dark compost from our immense compost pile, and topped it off with 10 sacks of organic soil.

E and I planted tomatoes (one heirloom variety and two kinds of cherries), herbs (basil, parsley, and sage), jalapeño peppers, watermelon, and yellow crookneck squash that should have been zucchini except someone had put it back in the wrong spot at Home Depot and I didn't notice the label until we got home. We also planted sweet mint in a terracotta pot and put it next to the garden bed, and we carried the big pot of chives from the front yard to the back yard so they could mentor the newer herbs. Finally, we planted radish seeds, to fill space until the squash and watermelon take over.

We did all of this at the beginning of May--a little late, but better than the previous never we were accustomed to. The weather was lovely and cool, and 2014's mosquitoes had yet to hatch.

Now, every night, squirrels dig holes in the dirt, and every morning, we fill the holes in. Generally, the squirrels avoid the larger plants, but one day we found shredded basil leaves in one of the holes, and the radish seedlings have been rearranged and buried a few times. We had dutifully followed the instructions on the radish seed packet, planting them 6 inches apart, but when R came by and visited the garden today, she gave us permission to live exuberantly and do whatever we want, so I planted 50 more seeds, 3 inches apart, in the space between herbs and peppers: some to defy seed-package authority, some for the squirrels to dig up, some for the squirrels to bury, and some, hopefully, for us to eat.

We had 3+ inches of rain last night, to the great pleasure of the tomatoes.

Early indications suggest that we will have at least three cherry tomatoes.

Shredded basil in a squirrel-dug hole. The squirrels will have tomatoes to play with 
later this summer, but where will they find fresh mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil?

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