Lunchtime Poll

LTP: 2/21

It’s that time of February when everything is both brown and gray at the same time, at least here in what our local government insists on calling The Heartland. It’s finally spent a few days above brass underpants fresh from the freezer cold and I started seeing a few tiny green things trying to grow in my yard, so my winter mehs are starting to lift a little. 

This LTP is for the gardener Persephoneers.  I am not a good gardener, but I try hard and I have the best intentions.  What’s charming and invigorating in May is a chore when it’s deep-fryer hot in July. Especially when I’m bravely and vainly challenging my July nemesis pair, milk thistle and Japanese beetles. (What the hell kind of mutant DNA is in thistle, anyway?  It can grow four inches of ugly, stinky plant overnight. Scientists, you need to look into that shit.) In spite of my foes, each year I make a series of trips to my local nursery and get all the baby flowers, green stuff and cocoa shell mulch I can fit in my budget.

My favorites are pansies, roses, flowering tobacco, hollyhocks, dusty miller and daisies, which give me a nice mix from spring to fall.  At least for the things that live through the summer.  My soil is almost solid clay, although I’ve been adding gypsum, various aerators and good dirt for nearly ten years.  During the heat of summer, especially in a drought like we’ve had in the past few years, the water just sits on top of the soil.  Plus, as I mentioned, I’m lazy.

What about your gardens, readers?  What plants do you love? Which ones do you avoid?  Do you stick to flowers or have you tried an herb or veggie garden?  Tell me all about your green thumbs in the comments.  Hopefully I can learn something or at least live vicariously through you.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

15 replies on “LTP: 2/21”

We just bought a house at the bitter end of August, so I’ve had to wait all winter to re-do our side yard/back yard. We have a tall retaining wall that I’m planning to line with bougainvillea and jasmine for the smell and the pretty flowers. Other than that I keep my arbitrary Edelweiss and 19-year-old cactus in separate pots. Tried some forget-me-nots my boyfriend brought me from Alaska a couple years ago, but it’s too hot here in the summers.

I volunteer at an urban farm, which I love because I can pretend like I have a green thumb when all I really do is help pull weeds.

At home, I usually grow a few pots of your standard cooking herbs and I always try to grow a few veggies in a container. I find lettuce to be pretty easy (and useful!) Plus since it’s a cool-weather crop, I don’t have to bother with it once things get really hot.

I’m a month (and several thousand dollars) away from owning my first garden!

Yesterday was the annual Home and Garden show and I most certainly carried around a free lettuce plant in my hoodie pocket. He is the best lettuce plant. I named him Fred. (at the moment he is in a pot on my window sill, waiting for the garden to arrive)

I don’t have a yard, so I’m limited to a massive pot of orange kalanchoe that I started 10 years ago from my mom’s 30 year old plant. If you live in a fairly warm place, get one – it’s very pretty and impossible to kill. When I do have space for a little garden, I will have white irises. I will also have magically procured some gardening skills by then… ahem.

I moved to a beautiful suburban neighborhood in North Carolina last year, so I’m finally able to garden. I’m into vegetables–I like useful stuff, and I’m not into flowers (although I planted 100 tulips bulbs last year because we happen to have really soft soil, so it was easy, and I love tulips).

My recommendation for vegetables? Do container gardening. It’s a thousand times easier than gardening straight in the dirt–there are almost no weeds to pull, your dirt will be as good as you make it, and if the weather gets bad, you can pull your plants right inside to keep them safe! I did lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, beans, and cauliflower last year. The broccoli came out really bitter, so I’ll have to work on that (but it grew like hotcakes, even after winter came! I never watered it or did a damn thing, and it grew about three feet tall and is still thriving!), but the lettuce and tomatoes were great.

We also planted a fig three that produced the very first summer, and two blueberry bushes that I hope will give us blueberries this year (they did last year, but there were so few, we just let them grow naturally and didn’t pick them). I’m putting in raspberries this weekend, and we have peach and apple trees, too.

It seriously is so much better than killing yourself on your knees in a muddy, weedy pit of a garden. (What, your garden doesn’t look like a muddy, weedy pit? Clearly, you are a better person than I am.) I was too cheap to buy those big, rectangular plastic tubs from Wal-Mart or Target (plus they seemed like an awful lot of plastic), but those are ideal. It’s important to punch or drill several holes in the bottom for water drainage.

Since I didn’t have those, I used the left-over 3-gallon pots our little fruit trees came in, plus several large, cheap plastic pots I found our neighbors throwing away (presumably after they bought pretty pots to hold their plants). They worked great. My best friend used the big tubs and did even better–she had four-foot-tall cucumber vines, 6-foot-tall corn stalks, tons of strawberries, and an entire jalapeno bush growing in hers.

My mother-in-law, who is a brilliant and die-hard gardener, says that raspberries are an early spring plant and they should be going in the ground NOW if you live in the South. We were just talking about them yesterday, and I said I wanted some. I live in North Carolina, and she said, “Go to the nursery TODAY and get them! They’ll be fine even if it gets cold again!” I thought I had to wait until summer, but she swears that they should go in really early.

We guerilla gardened in a vacant lot across the street last summer and reaped a ton of tomatoes, pumpkins and sunflowers, but it was murderous work. There’s no water source over there, so we were lugging gallons and gallons of water across the street every day. Not to mention the mutant urban weeds that required daily pulling. We’re in the garden planning stages right now, looking at that lot and inwardly groaning. I’m thinking about just throwing down some grass and wildflower seeds and just building container on the sidewalk in front of my rowhouse.

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