I finally put in the garden! And little green things (read: cotyledons) are popping up all over the place. Under the watchful eye of the resident purple martin, who is nesting in the birdhouse cluster nearby, I've been getting the raised bed boxes in order. The purple martin didn't mind letting me get a close-up this morning, the brave little thing. He (or she...I can't tell the difference and I'm too polite to ask) sits on my re-purposed lab frame* like a beady-eye manager, chirping orders at me until I get too close for comfort.
One of the best things about these raised bed gardens my husband built for me is that there's virtually no weeds to pull. We use a mix of mushroom compost, peat moss, and vermiculite, which also helps with moisture retention. It's so easy to work with and the plants really love it, so much so, that I wish I had more than four boxes so I could plant even more!
I've mixed things up a bit this year, opting out of a "trial and error" box, and using all four raised beds for veggies we know and love (except for the black zucchini plants I've never tried before). In the past, the boxes have had a theme, and this year is no exception.
The "Snack" Garden
Radishes, sweet peas, and cucumbers, oh, my! I have 7 rows of radishes just peeking up out of the soil, perfect for munching as a snack or adding to a summer salad. The lab frame is the perfect frame for the sweet pea runners and cucumbers. The peas are just sprouting up along the base, while the cucumbers stand sentry in the outer corners. I call this the snack garden because none of the produce requires cooking, just a light wash and perhaps a dash of salt.
The "Salsa" Garden
Filled with tomato and pepper plants, this box is the basis for some of the best salsa and spaghetti sauce. I have two different types of tomatoes this year: early, meaty medium sized fruit-ers and sweet, slice-able fruit-ers. I wanted a cherry or grape tomato plant, too, but I didn't have a chance to start my own from seed, and those varieties are hard to come by out here. For peppers, I planted a variety of hot banana, jalapeno, and super spicy chilis.
The "Herb" Garden
This year, our hearty chive plant is really taking over. I've already thinned it out and given some of the spawn to friends, but still, the plant is a beast. Dwarfed by the massive chive is boxwood basil (bottom corner), Thai basil (middle), and German thyme (top). Already, I've used the basil for some Thai Chili Chicken and Lime Basil Chicken. Sooooooo good!!! The rest of the box is seeded with cilantro and dill, with some space reserved for a delayed cilantro planting so we don't end up with coriander all summer long. (Note: Cilantro and coriander are from the same plant, the cilantro describes the green leafy bits and the coriander is the seed. Once the plant is seeded, the leaves lose their bright green taste, so I put in multiple plantings to keep it fresh.)
The "Green" Garden
Green beans, green onions, zucchini...perfect for side dishes. The green beans and pole beans popped up overnight, and the zucchini along the back are joining the party. The green onions were seeded last fall, so they're almost ready to go.
I love how quickly the garden is springing to life. There's something satisfying and miraculous in planting a seed and watching it grow. It's good for the soul and the senses: the feeling of the dirt beneath your fingers, the smell of the damp soil, the sound of the purple martins flitting by, the verdant colors as the garden grows, and the amazing taste of fresh picked, sun warmed, garden fresh produce.
"The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses." - Hanna Rion
*A lab frame is a sturdy metal rack used by chemists in the lab. I rescued this one from the lab where worked, cleaned it, painted it, and stuck it in the garden as a trellis. It's quirky, but I feel good that I was able to re-purpose it.