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April 7, 2008

Where the wild things grow

After taking some time off to go gallivanting and so on, I found myself back home on Saturday with a cold beer in one hand and a garden hose in the other. That is what heralds the beginning of spring in my life, even if it does occur a few weeks after the arrival of said season. The cold beer is the tip-off.

With the new gardeners the yard is finally green and healthy-ish. They're stealthy, they come and leave and I never see them, but the hedge on the side of the house has come back to life and even the orange tree, which I never knew until this year was an orange tree because of the severe pruning skills of one Francisco, has big juicy oranges all over it and they're not half bad if I do say so myself.

2008orangetree.jpg
It looks like a shrub from this angle, but it is indeed a tree.

Every year in a fit of hope and optimism I plant a few things and spend a whole weekend getting dirty and hauling bags of soil around and washing out my rather astonishing collection of containers (years of city life and renting has made me an excellent container gardener) (if by "excellent" you mean "has a lot of pots with dead stuff in them") and then I hope it all grows and that's pretty much the sum total of my gardening experience, year after year. Although this year it's different, this year I am far less ambitious than in the past mainly because I know from the outset that my time available for gardening comes down to about twelve minutes per month, and also because I live in the valley where it will soon be 118 degrees in the shade and all things green will shrivel and wither and become kindling. And out of all the money I spent in the past two years of gardening and making raised-beds and buying great soil and soil amending stuff and seedlings and tomato cages and fertilizer and SO ON, the only thing I managed to grow in two years time has been a bumper crop of my dad's chili pequin peppers, which are still alive and thriving and I even have all these seeds for replanting this year:

2008pepperseeds.jpg


And, of course, the zucchini.

I planted two lousy seedlings last year in the raised bed out back and they took over the entire yard, producing over a hundred 20-pound zukes and filling the house, the office and darkening the neighbor's doorsteps. I got piles of email from kind readers with zucchini bread recipes and I didn't have the heart to tell them my oven hasn't been used since late 2005. The zucchini kept coming and eventually I stopped going into the back garden altogether for fear one had ensnared a small animal or was plotting a path to the main house. Finally, the gardeners must have gotten tired of the spindly long vines crawling across the back garden and one day last September I came home and the whole lot of zukes had been stripped and cleared and put out in the green can by the curb.

I was free, at last.

So this year I decided to be far more sensible about this whole gardening thing. I bought the one thing I've wanted forever, a small dwarf Meyer Lemon three, perfect for the giant empty pot that used to hold my pencil cactus, pre-2006 freeze:

2008meyerlemon.jpg

I've got my pepper plants of course, pruned and trimmed and already sprouting new leaves. And I invested $2.49 in a little group of bush cucumber seedlings, we'll see how they do. One lousy cucumber at Whole Foods was the same cost as the cucumber plant at the nursery, so I took a chance. Bet big or go home! Right?

2008cukes.jpg

And then I went out back to survey the back 40, and see what I might grow in the raised bed where the zukes had taken over. I thought I might do a pumpkin this year, or try again with the watermelon project. And out there, in the arid unloved raised bed, I spied something popping up from the dirt.


2008zuke1.jpg


2008zuke2.jpg


Yes -- it's lone zucchini seedling, popping up in my raised garden bed.

It's going to be a long summer, I see.

Posted by laurie at April 7, 2008 9:23 AM