Last spring, I tried to “upgrade” the front yard area that is up against my house by putting down wood mulch and walking stones over the sandy, rocky mess that was there. The site faces south west with a big oak tree directly to the south, so it only receives full sun 1 hour between noon and 1 PM and then again 4 PM to sunset. I purchased two kinds of mint starts (spearmint and chocolate mint) and planted them in my backyard garden. Then (of course) I read an article about how invasive mint can be, and before I knew it, I was moving it. The front yard area seemed perfect, figuring between the shade and the borders (driveway, walkway, and house) it wouldn’t escape (we’ll see).
Over the winter, I did some Internet research to find other shade herbs (with a preference for perennials) and came up with a short list – chives, thyme, parsley, chervil, cilantro and lemon balm. I planted lemon balm last year in the backyard garden, and there were some small volunteers growing around it that I moved to the front. I picked the shadiest spot (right up against my porch) for it. Between plant swaps, AeroGardens, and extra cilantro seed, I was able to fill out the rest of this small shaded garden in no time.
With spring in full force, my thoughts have turned to tomatoes and basil starts as I’ve been trading and selling them. The Kent Community TimeBank has given me an outlet for them where I don’t need to worry about the exchange of money. The truth of the matter is plant starts represent mostly time as they have to be treated like infants so the KCTB seems to be appropriate. The basil has been more popular than I would have ever imagined, so I’ll make an effort next year to produce more.
On 5/12/2013, I attended the Foods Not Lawns Cleveland plant swap. I traded 4 tomato starts (1 Mega Cherry cutting from my AeroGarden and 3 Sweet 100 Cherry starts). In return, I received two Chocolate Cherry tomatoes, two Long Purple eggplants, and a whole bunch of comfrey plants. Comfrey is useful as a nutrient mulch because it accumulates minerals well. Just chop it down a few times a year and put the leaves in your compost or around your heavy feeders (tomatoes, corn, broccoli, etc). Who needs to buy chemical fertilizer? Not this Snarky Gardener.
The AeroGardens have been producing well, giving me Jalapeno peppers, basil, cutting celery, parsley, and tomato cuttings (for starts). The Mega Cherry tomatoes are just getting ripe, and will be eaten seconds after they are ready. I will be saving the seeds from the red pepper to see if I can get them to grow. Practice makes perfect when it comes to seed saving. I tried to save the seeds from a green one, but they never spouted. I should have better luck with the riper Jalapeno.
Of course, with all these starts running around, I planted 6 in late April and early May to get some from under my feet (even with a chance of frost still possible). This chance became reality on 5/13/2013 and 5/14/2013 as temperatures fell into to low 30’s overnight. Overturned pots became makeshift protectors inside the steel fence tomato cages. I did lose one Sweet 100 Cherry tomato plant as the pot I covered it with was too thin and holey. Luckily I have more plants where that came from.
On 5/12/2013, the first of the potato leaves poked their heads out (and were promptly frosted). I’ve been checking on them from time to time, finding a few that turned rotten. I’m not sure if this was caused by using the leaf mulch (it’s pretty wet in places) or the potatoes themselves, but I pulled any that didn’t look good. Fortunately the Snarky Gardener is smart enough to have extra potatoes that he didn’t plant the first time, so those will fill in any open spots.
This blog post is pretty much just for me. My dog River, a 5 year old Toy Fox Terrier (named after River Tam in Firefly/Serenity), is a constant garden companion. Half the reason I have the garden fence is to give her a place to roam and play without escaping into the wild. Being a terrier, she loves two things: digging and rodents. Fortunately, there are plenty of both out there. She caught a mouse just last week that was hiding the leaf mulch (poor little guy). I do have to be careful when planting because she will dig stuff up if the soil is fresh (fresh soil = mice in her mind). So I have been trying a technique of planting with just a little digging and letting her finish the hole up. Later, I put the plants in when she’s not present.