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It starts at home with summer edible gardening treasures
Special to the Gateway
Published: 03:02PM June 25th, 2008
Still thinking about putting in a vegetable garden this year? Seems the end of June is a bit delayed, but there is still time to get it going. Start at the local farmers’ market on Saturday morning. With such a lag in our warm weather, it seems the rush for veggie starts is still out there. Odds are, you’re not going to find the early cool-season growers like peas or lettuce. But tomatoes and peppers are an easy find, as well as eggplant, squash and pumpkins. Toss in a cilantro plant and green onions, and you’ve got the makings of a salsa garden. No room in the garden still means you can have edibles. Creative and artistic veggie plantings can find their way into all shapes and sizes of garden spaces. Find a sunny spot and plant them in containers. Use pots at least 2 feet wide and tall to maximize your choices of plants to grow.
Cluster groupings of three or more pots for best effect. Play with height and texture: A Bay Laurel topiary or columnar apple tree will add an upright accent in the center of pots, while prostrate rosemary can tumble over the edges.
Small edible gardens will need compact growing vegetables and herbs. Compact and dwarf varieties to look for are “Patio” tomatoes, “Lemon” cucumbers, “Fairy Tale” eggplant and “Spacemaster” bush cucumber.
Herbs include “Minette” basil, garlic chives and “Hidcote” lavender. Large varieties can have a pot of their own.
Spice up with an herb garden. Most warm-weather herbs are just hitting their stride as summer warms up.
For a culinary touch, look for basil, oregano, Italian parsley, chives or Rosemary. Add aromatherapy with lavender, lemon verbena, lemon thyme or mints.
Once you have used fresh herbs, you will never look at the little jars in the grocery store quite the same again.
What to grow? With so many herb varieties to choose from, start with a theme like culinary, aromatherapy or crafting. Then choose what herbs you will actually use.
Don’t bother growing herbs that may not be harvested for use. Save room for more of the things you like and will enjoy weeding and caring for rather than yanking out because they spread all over or grew too big and woody.
Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow when you meet their cultural needs. Most like full sun or a good quality of warm sun for most of the day. They thrive in loose, organic soil.
Amendments like well-rotted compost will add nutrition and help the soil structure. Well-draining soil is a must, since most have Mediterranean roots and hate wet feet.
The best way to learn how to cook with herbs is to get to know their tastes, whether strong or delicate.
Sue Goetz, CPH, is a garden consultant, designer, speaker and writer from Gig Harbor. Visit http://www.thecreativegardener.com or e-mail questions to be answered in this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.