SUBURBAN SUSTENANCE

eu43016-1006

SUBURBAN SUSTENANCE

            Anyone who is the slightest bit attuned to fashion trends in horticulture
knows that the kitchen garden is hot.  Five
years ago, major shelter magazines devoted little or no space to vegetable
gardening or home fruit growing.  Now
both are front-page news.  At the
Philadelphia Flower Show, where the theme was gardening in the next
century, edible and ornamental plants mingled with wild abandon.  Ten years ago I had a neighbor who specialized in voluptuous roses and
brawny kohlrabi.  At the time I thought he was highly unusual.  Now I know he was a fashion pioneer.

            Every year I try to grow something edible in the midst of my flowers.  Last year it was sugar snap peas and heirloom tomatoes.  The sugar snaps were delicious, but the heirloom tomatoes were
disappointing.  I chalked up the
failure to a low rate of pollination, a high incidence of innattention and the
damage done by a lengthy drought.  I
may also have selected the wrong cultivar for my particular circumstances.  This year I have picked a different variety and recommitted
myself to diligence in its upkeep.  I
will do my level best to surround my ‘Brandywine’ plants with bee-friendly
flowers to encourage pollination.  I
will mulch my tomatoes within an inch of their lives, and hand-water them
through the worst of the expected summer drought.  If, despite my best efforts, ‘Brandywine’ turns out to be
less fruitful than I hope for, I will abandon heirlooms and invest in a few
‘Big Boys’ next year.

            We had a strawberry patch in our first garden, because I am a hopeless
romantic about strawberries.  It was
the one and only time that my husband participated in bed digging, and it put
him off that particular pastime forever.  Despite
the double digging, zealous rock removal and soil amendments perpetrated on that
bed, our strawberry crop was disappointing.  I developed an inferiority complex about growing strawberries that lasted
for nine years.  This year, however,
I have decided that it is time to face my fears.   I will invest in a terra cotta strawberry pot, fill it with a mix of
potting soil and compost, install new, everbearing strawberries, and plop the
pot down in the sunniest spot, even if that spot is in the middle of my
driveway.  I’ll just have to
remember to avoid hitting it with my car.

            All the gardeners in the glossy magazine spreads grow scarlet runner
beans, which have exceptional edible and ornamental properties.  Since I am a decidedly matte person perpetually pursuing glossiness, I
have decided that it’s time that I too grow scarlet runner beans.  My beans will be trained to grow up the trellising that is already in
place on the side of my back porch.  The
red blossoms will look wonderful with the yellow trumpet vine flowers that are
already there, and it will be easy to pick the beans.  From a lazy person’s perspective, scarlet runner beans are wonderful.  You can pick them young and eat them as fresh vegetables, or
you can let them age on the vines and use them as dried beans for winter soups.  This way I can go on vacation and prepare for next winter at the same
time.  Maybe I can be even more
efficient and give away attractive bottles filled with my dried scarlet runner
beans next Christmas.  After all,
that’s what the people in the glossy magazine spreads do.

            In my last garden I was the Queen of the Raspberries.  That would have been more of an accomplishment if raspberries didn’t
practically grow themselves.  I
started with one black raspberry cane and ended up with about twenty, which was
enough to give us quite a respectable black raspberry harvest, with enough
leftover for the birds.  I become
extremely bird-friendly on the days when it is too hot to pick raspberries.

            I probably won’t grow raspberries in this garden because of space
restrictions.  I may grow
blackberries, because the weedy things are already here, and, at this moment,
growing them seems easier than trying to eradicate them.  The flowers are beautiful in spring, and the berries have an interesting
flavor.  I will feel no guilt at all
about hacking back any unwanted canes, because I know that every time I hack one
back, two more will spring from the ground in its place.  Eventually I will have a blackberry problem, but there are many worlds to
conquer, both horticultural and otherwise, before that happens.  Who knows, by that time, I may have worked out a scheme to make millions
of dollars selling blackberry jam over the Internet, proving once again that it
almost always pays to mulch your beds and remain optimistic.

 


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