I like to use the entire month of January to come up with resolutions, clean the house, tidy up loose ends, etc., etc. I don’t think that it’s reasonable to expect me to do Christmas things AND get my life in order just in time for that “fresh slate” thing on January 1st. People, I have limits. (And, if I miss January, there is always Chinese New Year in February!)
My mantra for the garden this year will be: “simple and full of flowers.” I’m expecting Major Life Disruption in the form of a baby who is due to arrive right smack during the busiest time of the gardening season. Now, my initial instinct was “No problem! I can strap kid on and do EVERYTHING that I usually do!” But then I decided to not be insane lower my expectations for myself, and after mulling over it for a little while, I came up with a plan. I present it to you in three parts.
Part 1: Vegetables—Plant Only The Easy Ones
This is a year to grow the vegetables that I really love, tried-and-true varieties, not just the ones that I am curious about. Thus, I will not grow new kinds of tomato. I will not flail over peppers. I will not try growing the spiffy vegetables featured in Mark Diacono’s book. I will save up all my vegetable curiosity for next year. (When kid will be a toddler. Note my boundless optimism.)
Things that will make the cut:
—Sungold tomatoes. I couldn’t bear not to grow any tomatoes, and these do really well in Portland and are sunshiny, sugary goodness personified.
—Basil. You CANNOT grow tomatoes without basil.
—Carrots. Love ’em. Easy as pie. (Hmm, carrot pie?)
—Lettuce/salad mix. Also very easy, especially in the spring.
—Garlic. Check. Already planted (and coming up!)
—Beans—the pole variety. Tasty and have the added advantage of decorating vertical surfaces.
Part 2: Use The Vertical
I have some fences in my yard that are, well, not the most attractive specimens. I think they would be much nicer with something in front of them. Preferably something green, and I wouldn’t say no to flowers. After seeing pictures of the lovely espaliered apple tree in Ivette Soler’s new book, I’m thinking of trying to plant a fruit tree up against one fence. I don’t think I’ll do the fruit tree this year—but I might grow those pole beans on a screen up the fence. I’m tempted to plant those invasive, but oh-so-lovely, blue morning glories. Maybe if I planted them in a row of containers they wouldn’t spread? Has anyone had experience with this?
Part 3: Plant A Profusion of Flowers!
In some ways, having an excuse to relax in the garden for a season is kind of nice, plus it gives my garden beds a rest from the intensive work of growing vegetables. I’ve started thinking that growing lots of flowers in my “resting” beds would have the dual advantages of being mighty lovely AND attracting some beneficial bees, bugs, and butterflies to the garden. I’ll grow some calendula, some cosmos, and some members of the Umbelliferae family. I’m planning to grow some sweet peas up all the rails on the front porch. I’ll be checking my gardening books for more flowers and herbs that will attract beneficial bugs. Once I have the bugs, I may even install a bird bath, since few things crack me up more than watching birds bathe.
During the process of planning to scale back, I’ve dipped into Sydney Eddison’s book quite a bit. The lessons that she puts forth ring true regardless of WHY one is scaling back. Plant things that require less maintenance. Ask for help when you need it. Reassess what you need and want from your garden. This summer, all I need is a lazy place to sit and enjoy—and dream up ambitious plans for the future.