Garden 2.0 (2012)

What’s most exciting about this year’s garden is starting from scratch, starting to make it ours, and learning as we go.  It was great last year to have inherited a fixer-upper, and to have reaped some extra veggies as a result.  But, this year, I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do on our own.

Some of it requires some vision and planning (and charting), but there’s definitely a significant dose of “plant some stuff and see what happens.”  For example, we are keeping these charts of our seedlings, so that we know in which sections we planted them and when:

We bought a seed-starting kit, and if you’re reading this I also recommend saving any tiny plastic containers you can (they’re all great for seed-starting).  I, for one, eat a lot of raspberries and blackberries and we’ve found those plastic containers – which happen to come pre-perforated at the bottom- perfect for starting seeds.

One of the two seed starting kits we used was from Burpee (and a lot of people I’ve spoken to you have used this, with success, as well.)  And we purchased a different, but similar one, at Sprout Home Brooklyn (the best place on earth if you like to garden or just like plants, in general.)

We’ve also learned (quaint and a fun DIY) that you can start your seeds in eggshells and newspaper (though I’ve read about both being less-than-ideal, so we stuck with what we bought at the store and what plastic containers we recycled from home.)

Here’s the rundown of the new plants we are growing from seed or have already sown in the yard.

Sunflower

Black-eyed Susan vine

Nasturtium

Chamomile

Cilantro

Thyme

Chives

Basil

Dill

Onion

Radish

Hot Pepper

Summer Squash

Tomato (Black Krim, Reisentraube, and Brandywine)

Bok Choy

Spinach

Mache-verte D’Etampes (Corn Salad)

Garden Pea

Rosemary

And, though I’ll write more about our process for growing seeds indoors later, here is what some of our baby plants look like after having been transplated from the seed starting kit to larger containers – but before being transplanted to the beds outside.

We’ve also seen reappearances of three different kinds of mint and our lavender!  It’s an herb-heavy garden, and I’m hoping to get (maybe) some Kale in there, at least, and some strawberries in a window box.  The other secret dream is a berry bush – but having failed at cultivating a blueberry bush in high school, I know how tricky those can be.

We also have two seed mixes that we plan to strategically place in the yard.  First, there’s a wildflower shade mix that I’ve already spread around the back perimeter of the yard (where it’s mostly shady all summer on account of the cherry tree & wisteria – and thus normally a mud pit).  Second, and my favorite, are two vials of “Colorado Wild Flowers” that were gifts to all of the wedding guests at a wedding we attended near Aspen this fall.  These were gorgeous but, I recall, sun-loving, so we are going to try to grown them in pots – which will hopefully appear haphazard, rustic, and charming 🙂

The veggies

When we moved in late July, there were tomatoes, eggplant, squash, corn, and zucchini more-or-less making the best of a bad situation in our new backyard.

As testament to the possibility that we may be living on radioactive, toxic, mutant Gowanus soil, we plucked this freak zucchini out of our yard in August:

The corn we ultimately uprooted and discarded.  While it was kind of pretty and immediately evocative of a sort of Americana nostalgia (or, in the alternative, horror film creepiness) – it was also big and floppy (in a bad way) and the corn cobs that it produced were atrophied and not really worth the yard space:

The tomatoes, on the other hand, were plentiful and healthy and of many varieties.  It was such a pleasant surprise to find some interesting heirloom varieties (which I’ve tried to recreate in this year’s garden).

Last year’s heirloom:

I think we sliced up the above tomato (and those like him) and ate them for what they were.  But we had quite a few tomatoes last year, and so we wound up making a lot of delicious, spicy tomato sauces.

Some of our other tomatoes:

This year, we’ve stared our tomatoes from seed (ripping the old ones out of the ground once the season ended – as you’re supposed to.)  We are looking forward to:

Reisentraube Tomato

This old German heirloom was offered in Philadelphia by the mid-1800’s. The sweet red 1-oz fruit grow in large clusters, and the name means “Giant Bunch of Grapes” in German. It is probably the most popular small tomato with seed collectors, as many enjoy the rich, full tomato flavor that is missing in today’s cherry types. Large plants produce massive yields.  (Can be ordered here)

Brandywine Tomato

Brandywine, which dates back to 1885, is the heirloom tomato standard. One taste and you’ll be enchanted by its superb flavor and luscious shade of red-pink. The large, beefsteak-shaped fruits grow on unusually upright, potato-leaved plants. The fruits set one or two per cluster and ripen late—and are worth the wait. Brandywine’s qualities really shine when it develops an incredible fine, sweet flavor.  (Can be ordered here)

Black Krim Tomato

Originally from the Isle of Krim on the Black Sea in the former Soviet Union. This rare, and outstanding tomato yields 3-4″ slightly flattened dark-red (mahogany-colored) slightly maroon, beefsteak tomatoes with deep green shoulders. Green gel around seeds. Fantastic, intense, slightly salty taste (which is great for those not wanting to add salt to their tomatoes).  Black Krim is one of my best black tomatoes. Also suitable for container/patio garden. Perfect choice for slicing, salads and cooking.  (Can be ordered here)  Isn’t there something pomegranate-like about them and their dark seed spaces?

And I haven’t fully excluded the possibility of growing another variety in a pot out front 🙂  But I eat at least 1-2 tomatoes a day, on average – so there’s definitely a demand in our home that would support such a supply.