Notes from the Summer Garden

The perfection of a home grown tomato! More to come about our first garden...

This summer my husband and I planted our first urban garden with the help of my mother-in-law. Without her guidance and work ethic, we never would have been able (or thought) to remove the 17 bags of overgrown ivy from the patio. We attempted to practice the square foot gardening methods in our largest bed in which we planted spinach, radishes, Swiss chard, collard greens, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, eggplant, carrots, oregano and sage. The collard greens grew immediately and have continued to grow all summer, and even now are bigger than ever. The collard greens were much less bitter than your average collard which made cooking with them quite easy. Sauteing the greens in a bit of red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, a spoonful of spicy mustard and a pinch of sugar was all these greens needed to be a simple and delicious side dish. The cayenne peppers were an unexpected success giving us 6 large red peppers. We froze these cayennes and hope to use them throughout the winter in our chili and other spicy New Orleans dishes that I love to cook.

In our other garden bed, we planted 6 tomato plants which have been the highlight of our gardening experience. The tomatoes were by far the most successful and satisfying plant to grow. These tomatoes were tasty and sweet with a very thin skin. If it weren't for the fat, thieving city squirrels, we would have had 4 more plump red tomatoes. The squirrels also stole each and every strawberry we grew from our potted strawberry plant. Next year we need to find new ways to combat the squirrel issue (guns/poison).

In planters, we tried to grow cucumbers however they were bizarre. We ended up with two semi-normal shaped cucumbers and the rest were strange golf ball sized yellowish green things. Our hope with the cucumbers was to grow enough to always have a jar of homemade pickles in the fridge. Oh well maybe next year.

For the next growing season, I think we will focus on tomatoes, herbs and cucumbers instead of trying so many different plants in such a small space. In doing this, I did learn that I have the gardening gene from my mother. What an accomplishment it is to grow and tend to something that will give you something beautiful and edible in the end if cared for properly. Gardening brings us back to the earth, back to the soil. These days we buy food in grocery stores having no clue who grew it, where it came from or how it got there and the worst of it-we usually don't care. After this gardening experience, I realize that I do want to know where my food comes from if it isn't from my garden. I do care.

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