Saturday, April 16, 2011

Trashcan Herb Farming

While rereading my last post (man, time flies when you’re ignoring your muse) I realized how narrow our window is to eat greens from the garden. In January I was still waiting for them to get big enough to pilfer from – we usually leave the plant in the ground throughout the season and just steal some leaves for the evening salad. It seems like we just got started with that when the warm weather came rolling in and the bitter taste arrived with it. Chris sampled one of the most tender, youngest leaves today and had to immediately spit it out. The plants are still there and look hearty and proud, but they taste like old news and will soon be relegated to the compost pile, forced to offer themselves up to the cycle of life, returning as fertilizer for some future batch of radicchio, arugula, butter and romaine. We didn’t leave the country this year in March like we often do, so we were home enough to walk smugly past the lettuce section of the produce department for several weeks. Still, I wish the cool weather had hung on just a little longer because store bought salad just doesn’t hold a candle to our crop. The good news is Chris was very diligent and got an early start with the salsa garden; tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro are all well on their way to our pottery “chips and dip” platter. “And the seasons they go round and round.” (Thank you, Joni.)

We’re finally figuring out placement for our herbs. They seem to be such fussy, fragile things – not unlike me. They wilt easily without enough water, get fried with too much sun, droop without enough sun, are easy prey for bugs – again, much like me. I’ve had a “shade garden” in a circular area among the live oaks by the driveway for years. I filled it with hostas and creeping ivy and caladiums in a wheel barrow. It’s not a true shade garden though; it gets some nice gentle morning light and then another caress as the sun goes down. Don’t ask me what direction it faces, I’m lousy at making those kinds of calls. I’m more of a left/right gal than north/south. It’s close to the kitchen door and right next to the trashcan and recycling bin, so the area naturally gets a lot of attention from us. No matter how busy we are we’re tossing wine bottles and newspapers pretty regularly, so we notice what’s going on in the vicinity.

Chris started piling his pots of herbs there and at first, I’ll admit, I felt like he was encroaching on the little slice of fern laden forest heaven I had been trying to create for so long. I soon noticed that the herbs all looked very happy in their new home. It is super easy to water and to scoot out there and pinch off some basil for the chef. He does know what to do with those herbs so I am more than happy to have them in the shade garden/mini trashcan herb farm. They also look lovely and fill up the space that really wasn’t flourishing like I had hoped it would. And if you can grow something that is pleasing to the eye and the palette, why on earth (so to speak) wouldn’t you?