Mastering Compact Gardening
I live for gardening season. It takes all my strength not to go out once the Seattle winter rains have stopped (worst joke, ever) and gather everything up and go to town. Except ever year that I do that all of my basil dies, my cilantro bolts, and the Starlings have a field day picking my garden to shreds and me running out onto my deck waiving my arms like a lunatic. Ben swears the birds just sit there on the edge waiting for me to see them and panic, only to fly off bird-chuckling at me. It’s a birdy conspiracy. But despite the bird-spiracy, I live for my summer garden, no matter how small it may be.
Living in an apartment and not down-home-on-the-range, makes having a garden – or at least the garden I want – a challenge. Easiet for us is simply doing herbs. But oohhhh the herbs we have. Half of it consists of various basils. I’m hopeless smitten with basil. The unfrotunate thing about basil in the PNW is that picking the right variety of basil is a challenge. You can’t turn around with out seeing Italian Large Leaf basil at the hardware store. It’s frekain’ EVERYWHERE! And for me, all four years of apartment gardening, it has died within 1 week of me planting it. D.e.a.d. I don’t know why I keep trying! Look up the definition of insanty, I’m sure you’ll see my picture right there. For me, Genovese basil has held up the best, it’s heartier and less prone to keeling over as soon as the temperature dips or the sun feels like playing a wicked game of peekaboo.
This year’s basil count puts me at 8 basil plants and they are thriving. Anything unused by the end of the season gets made into homemade pesto. I made gobs of it before leaving for my wedding last August, putting it into mini muffin tins and freezing it into cubes. It worked like a charm. Check out my pesto processing and how to make and freeze your own Pesto here. Weeknight dinner Godsend.
My other garden staples include…
Chives. Lemon Thyme. Lettuce. Cilantro – and lots of it! Spinach. And raddichio is my newest addition.
Because we have limited amounts of space on our deck – and limited sun – my favorite space saving trick is to hang the baskets over the side of the rail. That few extra inches makes sure the plants get a tad more sun through the day, they don’t take up space on my deck and when they’re draining – it all does down to the grass below and not on my deck for Huck to roll around in.
The planter boxes and adjustable hangers were purchased at my local Home Depot. The planter boxes rang in at about $10 a piece, depending on their length with the planter box hangers being $25. Worth every penny!! With a 10×6 foot deck, every inch of railing is occupied – lots of veggies and herbs abound! I love it.
If overhanging planter boxes aren’t you speed, plastic hanging baskets are cheap and hold a lot of plants, keeping them out of the way, but in easy access for harvesting and watering. I have one of these from the Home De-Pot for my chives.
Into the bottom of each planter a layer of large decorative rocks are laid out in a single layer to make sure that there is ample drainage for our plants. Then top with potting soil.
Once the planters are filled with potting soil, make a well into each spot you want to put a plant. Its important that you don’t pack the soil down too much, just move it aside until you get a hole about 3-4 inches deep, but not so far down that you reach the rocks below. Loosen up the roots from each of your started plants and place each plant into the well. Scrape the soil back over the roots of the plants and gently press down into place to secure each plant.
If you’re starting your plants from seed, get a plant starter tray with multiple wells to fill with dirt and place each seed. Once the seeds sprout you’ll have so many herbs you won’t know what to do with them all! Once sprouted, follow the same procedure for planting your starters.
When I grew up, I never understood my mom’s obsession with her garden. It was something I never had the patience for (much like sewing – and that one four year old apron project…). They were just plants, whoopity doo. But now, married to a farmer-turned-nurse and a phone call away from my near master gardener mother – I’ve got endless resources to pick apart for my newbie gardening fingers. Now I just have to figure out how to keep the dang birds out of my basil. Ben’s no help in that department, and he likes it that way. But onward I go, determined to get the most out of the limited space I have available and getting the most out of my gardening experience.
Try out a garden for yourself this year – it’s not too late. Don’t be afraid of herbs and plants, you never know what flavor combo you’ll discover next.