Tuesday, April 8, 2008

And we're off

I've never been a gardener. I can keep houseplants alive, but they survive in spite of me, not because of my horticultural talent. While my mom kept small garden patches in my youth, my greatest contribution to their life cycle was eating raspberries. My gardening education, in other words, has been inadequate.

The thing is, I have this lovely little patch (pictured above) in front of my house. It's spent most of the last five years overgrown with weeds - like I said, not a gardener - but last year it occurred to me that perhaps it could become, well, sightly. And useful. I wasn't working nights anymore, and I needed something to fill my evenings. So I started pulling weeds and digging roots.

I don't know how long it's been since anything grew in that spot on purpose, but there were a LOT of old roots and crap in there. After awhile I went to Target and bought actual gardening tools - a trowel, a hand rake (apparently called a cultivator), a kneeling pad, and gloves - so I could attack my bit of earth with greater vigor.

Once I dug it up, though, I couldn't figure out what to do with it. Was it too late to plant? If not, what did I want? I bought a couple of herb plants at the farmers' market, then went out of town before planting them and killed them. I did manage to get the mint going, but you could set mint on fire and it would still take over your yard. Pretty soon the weeds came back. My little plot sat empty and sad, a monument to my indecision and sloth.

But lo, a new year didst come upon us, and the seedlings didst return to the Lowe's Garden Center. And it was good.

So this year I'm really and truly going to plant stuff. We'll see what happens; this is more complicated than I imagined. You put seeds in the ground and water them, right? Snort. Different things need to be planted at different times, and at different depths. Some plants like their soil more acid; others prefer it alkaline. I have two small plots with completely different types of soil, and at least one of them is going to need assistance if I want to grow anything there. I am not a good organizer. There are a hundred different points where this project could go off the rails.

If it does, though, I'll write about it. I'll be keeping a journal of my horticultural maiden voyage. If any gardeners out there have tips for me, or if I do something hideously and shockingly wrong, tell me. I can take it. I'll also be writing about the garden's progress for the McClatchy newspaper Web sites.

Wish me luck, and let the games begin.

My plot from the side. Note the four plants my landlord unexpectedly planted one day while I was at work. I hope they haven't gotten too comfy, because they're moving.

This is the sandy strip under my kitchen window. I'd like to use it, but I'll have to test and see if anything will grow there.

From my perspective here (facing the street) this is the left side of my yard. I'd like to clear out the area by the stones and maybe plant some berries.


Rob said...

While you've only known me as an inner-city resident, I am at the core a country boy. I've spent years and years gardening and growing everything from potatoes to corn to eggplants. I laughed at the cultivator part.

My recommendations:

1. Decide what you want to plant first. Shade and sun are more important at this point. If I remember correctly, you have a very shady lawn. You may not be able grown plants that love sunshine.

2. After deciding what you want to grow, test your soil. Adjust accordingly. Add lime to make it more alkaline. To make it more acidic add sulfur.

3. Catch and use gray water to irrigate. That way you don't have to worry about drought and the outdoor watering restrictions.

4. Don't throw out your food scraps (at least not all of them). Buy worms and start composting. Not only is it more environmentally friendly, but the result will be very good for your garden.

OK, I'll live vicariously through you. I always miss gardening at this time of the year.

utenzi said...

Good luck, Kristen. It sounds like Rob is a good source for advice.