There’s flurries blowing around the street and salt staining the sidewalk. It’s the coldest day of the winter, and the sky has that steel-gray snow-is-coming look to it. There’s no doubt: winter has finally arrived in my little Virginia town. Winter. And, yet, here I sit — bundled in sweaters and gloves and sipping hot tea — dreaming about tomatoes and peppers and homegrown artichokes.
This gardening thing can get awfully surreal at times…
But, if we gardeners want to set goals that’ll actually come true, surreal is where we’ll have to go. How else to plan for a summer of tomatoes than by selecting the varieties in January and starting the seedlings come March? We gardeners are a lucky bunch: there’s always next spring to look forward to.
Last year was fantastic. Exhausting, but — wow — fantastic. I ripped out nearly a dozen unwanted shrubs, and replaced them with blueberries and strawberries. I demolished a too-small front path and replaced it with hundred-year-old bricks, laid in wide curves around future flower beds. I moved dirt, spread mulch, laid a low rock wall, and built berms so my rosemary and thymes would enjoy better drainage than Virginia’s thick, dense, heavy, water-logged red clay usually allows. And, I planted vegetables. Lots and lots of vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, tomatillos… Every single one of them a violation of the HOA’s ban on front yard vegetable gardens, because every single vegetable went somewhere in that forbidden front yard space. And, thus, the Outlaw Garden was born.
Despite an entire year of blatant HOA-rule-ignoring, I didn’t once get into trouble. No warning arrived in my mailbox. No one came to confiscate my tomatoes. No mysterious dark-suited men knocked on my door with questions about my botanical shenanigans. (I’m a little disappointed about that last one).
If the Outlaw Garden survived the 2011 gardening season, it’s going to thrive this year. I’m envisioning an edible bonanza that can’t possibly be ignored by the neighbors. Yeah, I just might be looking for trouble…
In no particular order, here are my top ten goals for stirring up some trouble… er… planting some vegetables in the Outlaw Garden in 2012:
- Plant (and preserve) enough peppers that I don’t need to buy any pepper product (bell peppers, chili pepper flakes, paprika…) for an entire year. I’m especially excited to try growing (and making) homegrown paprika.
- Harvest my first homegrown artichoke. Harvest my second homegrown artichoke. Harvest my third homegrown artichoke. You get the idea…
- Plant two antique apple trees along the side of the garage. Begin to train them to espalier.
- Tear out the last of the euonymus shrubs along the driveway and street, including the giant beast of a shrub that blocks my view of oncoming cars when I back out of the driveway. Plant something smaller and native in its place. Red stem dogwood? Winter berry?
- Install rain barrels at each downspout. Last summer’s near-drought was not kind to my water bill. Rain barrels (and more efficient watering and mulching) probably won’t eliminate the need for the hose, but they sure will help.
- Turn a few old windows into cold frames.
- Install a trellis and little arbor along the front of the house for shade from summertime sun, and plant something fun here. I’m picturing big, rambling scarlet runner beans, just packed with hummingbird-attracting red flowers and long-storing beans.
- Grow and preserve enough parsley and basil for year-round use.
- Flaunt the garden. Chat with the neighborhood dog-walkers and stroller-pushers. Swap stories with fellow gardeners. Share the harvest with neighbors.
- Defeat the deer.
Yeah, that last goal might be a bit unrealistic…
What are your goals for 2012? Will you be expanding the garden? Growing new plants or varieties? Introducing a friend or relative (or unsuspecting neighbor) to gardening? Why not share some of your goals here? Maybe another reader has an idea that would help.
Happy New Year!!