Anyone who’s followed my blog for more than a little while knows that I love my gardening season. LOVE. Nothing else in my life gives me quite the same feeling: anchors and elevates me all at the same time. Gardening is my soul food.
Back in Portland I grew green feasts in my raised beds every year; I relished the yard work and fancied myself an “Urban Gardener Extraordinaire!” Then after the move to Santa Barbara, I continued my green ambitions, growing all my precious plants in clay pots and wooden wine boxes, along with various other creative upcycled containers. In Portland I kept a Meyer Lemon tree in my living room, because the citrus wouldn’t withstand the Pacific Northwest winter, but I just couldn’t bear to live without it. And in Santa Barbara I began a love affair with tropical exotics like passion fruit and dragon fruit. It’s all been a grand adventure and now, moving into this brand new house right on the eve of Gardening Season 2016, it’s been nothing but PURE PLEASURE just diving on in to this next great fertile landscape.
Yeah, okay so it was a rough start. Lots of potential to be sure, but the yard that I inherited was pretty dang neglected, and I spent the first few weeks and months just cleaning, weeding, mulching, and salvaging what few plants I could (there was a mighty aphid infestation — that towering brassica you see in the foreground sadly couldn’t be saved — and powdery mildew covered much of the foliage throughout the front yard). It’s been a lot of work, but ultimately I was able to prepare a lovely new space, and I even uncovered a few real treasures!
Here’s some progress pics of how my urban homestead has been coming along so far this year . . .
I started with the side yard, a simple strip of dirt all along the length of the house. But I saw the possibility it contained, and set about preparing the bed for planting. I’m so excited to finally be in a place where I can grow vegetables directly in the ground – sort of a first for me!
This year I’m growing a few varieties of tomatoes, and of course a few of each of my other favorite veggies. But, I still receive a local organic farm box each week, year round, so I often feel like I have enough fruits and veggies to keep us fed on the daily. Which is awesome, because it really frees me up! I can grow the stuff that I really love, like exotic fruits (passion and goji and pinapple, for example) and the stuff I like to have in abundance for preserving (tomatoes, strawberries, basil, etc), and the stuff I can’t get locally (like vegan protein – I grow a lot of beans for drying!). Plus this year I’m growing lots of flowers for cutting (fresh flowers around the house are just so joyful, don’t you think?), and I’m also really focused on herbs, both culinary and medicinal (like calendula, chamomile, echinacea, bee balm, mint, etc).
This is one of those treasures I was talking about! This is epazote, an herb that hails from Mexico and Central America, and that’s considered semi-native in southern California. It’s a wonderful culinary herb (cook it with beans to reduce gas!) and it’s also brewed medicinally as tea. One day I heard a quiet rapping on my door, and opened it to find a teeny tiny old Mexican woman who didn’t speak a word of English (not at all uncommon in my neighborhood). She was pointing at the giant epazote in my front yard, and pantomiming plucking, and it was pretty obvious she was asking if she could pick some. Of course I nodded, and she was so stoked!
When I first moved in here the epazote was huge, but completely covered in fungus which had shriveled the leaves and turned them black. It’s been such a pleasure to carefully prune this precious plant, and treat the infection, and slowly nurse it back to health. It’s so happy now!
Strawberries! Of course I had to plant a whole little strawberry patch for Waits, all along the front of the house. 3 dwarf varieties and 3 of the standard-sized ones. He picks a few every day when he comes home from summer camp. In the same little bed I’m growing marigolds and blue boys, plus lots of basil, a bee balm, and a lemon balm. Plus I’ve got some leeks and shallots ready to transplant. All of these plants (strawberries, basil, leeks/shallots) are considered “companions”, and the flowers are great for attracting beneficial insects and other pollinators.
Another most incredible discovery that came with the house — this is native American sacred tobacco. It’s different from the European tobacco they use in cigarettes, and it’s considered to be one of the four sacred medicines by local indigenous peoples. I’ve been reading about how to properly use sacred tobacco, or Semah, because it’s important to me to respect the spirit of this plant. Honestly, I feel honored to be able to tend it in my garden — it feels like a gift. Semah is a powerful plant, full of magick and medicine, and I intend to do right by it.
And that, my friends, is just about that . . . for now. Actually, my garden already looks completely different than it did in these pictures (taken a few weeks ago), and I’ll be updating again soon. But for now, YOU tell ME — what are you growing?? I want to see pics! Please leave a comment down below and if you can, post a link to your blog or a picture of your awesome 2016 garden, so that we can all share in your joy!
As gardeners, we all know the bliss of feeling our hands buried in cool soil; of plucking sun-warmed vegetables from the vine; of carefully tending our seedlings and watching them flourish. So please, share your bliss! We’re all dying to see it!
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