The Garden Returns: Playing With Our Food

December 6, 2010 § 6 Comments

Sometimes you don’t realize just how big a part of your life something has become until it goes away and then comes back. When it’s gone, you might not even notice the void; you fill it up with other activities, people, outings. But as soon as it returns to your life, you feel more centered, happier, and like the world’s a better place.

Have you ever felt that way? For me, this realization occurred when I finally got to go out and garden, after a summer of our backyard being carved up, tromped all over, and rebuilt. I’ve been monitoring the weather for any respite from the rain; as soon as the drops stop falling, I dart outside.

In between the showers from the sky, I’ve managed to plant some fruits and veggies, which we’ll enjoy primarily next spring, though some will offer themselves up for winter meals. Digging in the dirt, giving edible plants new homes in our veggie beds, even cleaning up fallen apple tree leaves: suddenly, I felt a sense of peace and fun that I didn’t realize I was missing these past few months.

First, I wanted to get in our strawberry patch. After doing the exact opposite of what I was supposed to last year (click here for the life lessons I learned from that), I thought I’d actually plant them when and how I’m supposed to this time around. So following Golden Gate Gardening’s advice, I planted a patch of 18 plants in November, six each of Sequoia, Seascape and Albion varieties; the first is a “June bearing” type that should produce a short season of strawberries next spring, while the latter two are “day neutral” types that should bear next summer and fall.

The new strawberry patch

A month later, after I’d pinched off all of the flowers to let the plants put their energy into growing versus producing fruit, most of the plants look vigorous and are growing new leaves…

Strawberry soaking up autumn sun

…though a few Seascapes look just plain sad. (Any advice on how to perk this baby up? Please let me know in a comment below.)

Raggedy-Ann strawberry. Hope it's not giving up already

We put in five blueberry bushes, two types so they’ll cross-pollinate. I’m supposed to strip off all flowers the first spring to let the plants grow, but it’s going to be very hard to forgo those berries for a year.

Blueberry bushes

And whenever berries do appear, I’ll have to be good with critter control so the birds and squirrels don’t eat them before we get to. I already had to stare down a squirrel this morning. Perhaps bird netting and an air pistol should go on my Christmas wish list. Hmm.

Blueberries producing the beginnings of flower buds

I tucked French shallots into tiny berms of earth…

Shallot bulb getting a home in the dirt

…and a mere two weeks later, the first green shallot shoots pushed their way through the dirt. You can cut the shoots to use like chives, which I’m excited about as I always need chives but never seem to have them around.

Shallot shoots

Next summer, I’m hoping to be able to dig up a basketful of bulbs to mince for salad dressings, slice for shallot and red pepper curry, and crisp in oil to top fried rice.

We had to put the majestic artichokes in pots while the backyard was dug up, and they didn’t like it much.

Droopy artichoke

But I’m not giving up — and apparently, neither are they, because you can see they’re still producing little green shoots. So I’ll replant these in the ground and see what they manage to do. (Have you done this before? If you have any advice for me, please leave it in a comment below!)

New leaves emerging in the artichoke pot

I also put in a row of ruby streaks mustard greens. Thanks to their prodigious growth, soon I can snip them for salads and stir fries.

Spider web of mustards

I’m also curious to see if the hot-pink roses parading along our path produce enough hips to use in tea and maybe rosehip syrup, for pancakes and cocktails (breakfast of champions, right?).

Hopefully the rain remains at bay tomorrow so I can plant favas for ground cover and garlic for next summer’s harvest, dig in those kitchen scraps I mentioned in my recent post here, and renew my collection of herbs and flowers in patio pots. Because now that the garden’s back, I can’t wait to go out and play.

What peaceful and/or fun thing could you bring back into your life this week?

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§ 6 Responses to The Garden Returns: Playing With Our Food

  • It’s always wonderful to watch plants grow. Great pics 🙂

    • Thanks, Nicky! I took photos of our garden progress this past spring/summer (my first gardening foray ever), and I just looked through them all the other day. Really amazing to look at the plants’ progress and recall what they felt, smelled, and tasted like at each juncture.

  • Iya Santos says:

    lovely! when i go home to our house in the province this christmas, i will check if i can take photos of our plants! 🙂

    i like seeing plants grow. it’s a simple yet profound reminder that a Supreme Being really exists! nobody else can create such amazement!

  • mai truong says:

    Stephanie, I love hearing about your garden literally coming back to life. The photograph of the shallot bulb in particular is really beautiful. What a great shot! the way you feel about gardening is EXACTLY how I feel about yoga. I leave my practice and I’m busy with so many other things. But as soon as I’m back on the mat, I wonder what on earth I’ve been doing all this time, and how I could have possibly not been practicing? It is a wonderful feeling and I’m so happy you have found it in gardening. Good for us readers to relish in your successes and replicate your tasty meals!

    • Mai, Thanks for sharing what makes you feel good! Yoga is also a fun- and peace-inducing activity for me. I’m sad that the damp, cold rain is not inviting me outside today, as I was hoping to get garlic bulbs and fava beans planted. I guess this is what happens when you don’t get that done in November pre-winter rains!

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