PLAY IN THE DIRT

Calling all rookie gardeners!! Not you, flower lovers, but those of us that want to eat what we might grow! Ever feel overwhelmed at the thought of planting something in your yard, pots on a deck, or try your hand at a kitchen window herb garden? Well, I did.

If I put pots on the deck, the caterpillars often had a smorgasbord while I ended up with sticks in dirt. If I tried my hand at a lovely kitchen window herb garden for my winter cooking, invariably I drowned them. Ugh. So whatever gave me the audacity to think I should consider a large patch of ground outside? Right in a spot next to woods… you know, deer? My husband just scratched his head, walked away and must have thought, ‘oh, this ought to be interesting’!

Two years in a row I tried to plant big stuff in that spot so as to best utilize its size. Year one, I grew pumpkins and melons. The plants looked small enough and therefore manageable. I planted them up and down rows of slightly mounded dirt. By mid-summer the vines had begun to invade and strangle each other like something from Jumanji and by harvest time what fruits and vegetables hadn’t been eaten by insects, I managed to pick about half a dozen things still eatable. I had a totally new respect for farmers.

Year two, I bought a huge bag from a farm supply of wildflowers. If I couldn’t eat anything out of that large patch of ground, maybe the butterflies and bees could. They grew beautifully! I marveled at the array of beautiful flowers almost as tall as me and the continuous feeding of butterflies and bees. So satisfying.

Year three (this year) I went out to the patch in April to see if any of the wildflowers showed signs of returning. I poked and prodded in the dirt and all could find were these weird tubulars. They looked like parsnips but they weren’t. Decision time. What could I grow after I dug up all these miserable tubulars, that the deer won’t eat, I won’t kill and I could actually use? HERBS!! Yes! I will try my hand at herbs.

I went to a garden shop to discuss which herbs deer wouldn’t eat. They said if a plant has a strong smell, chances are the deer won’t eat them. Hmmmm. Lavender? Yes, they said, that would work. Well, I love lavender in herb mixes, desserts (think panna cotta) and if all else fails I can use it in my salt bath. Herbs de Provence? Hmmmm, now I must really be going off the deep end. Well, why not! And so, I went crazy planting!

I first planted 24 lavender plants. After 3 weeks, and none had yet died, I decided to add to the garden: oregano, sage, rosemary, fennel and mint. Much to my surprise, everything took off and grew! The oregano was the biggest surprise, especially since I had tried those little buggers in small pots in my kitchen window and they always dried up. Apparently they like room to play! They spread and spread. Yay!!

Now it is Autumn and I am delighting in the fruit of my labor, drying everything and bottling for winter and holiday gift giving. As winter approaches I will attempt to protect my delightful new project by covering the plants with evergreen branches. I read it will protect them from snow and ice. We shall see.

I hope you too will experiment a little and have a blast playing in the dirt! xo

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