I read an article one time about a man who taught gardening to inner city children. He claimed that people who love and work with plants are less likely to turn to a life of crime. I do not have his experience, but I have to agree that working with the soil and helping things grow gives you a serenity that can be hard to find any other way.
My boys (husband included) won’t let me garden in the yard any more after three trips by ambulance to the emergency room from fire ant bites. I am allergic. I have found some outlet for my love of gardening in big planters on the deck where I grow tomatoes and banana peppers and, this year, mint. Some years I grow dill, others basil, and still others oregano. Any one who has raised herbs will know that my love of dill is a fool’s errand. Dill is fairly tender and wilts in the strong summer sun. Not great for an unshaded deck in Georgia. The oregano took off like wildfire and grows well under any circumstances, but it got a little woody and straggly, so out it went.
Mint is great. It smells really good, and it adds the perfect freshness to iced tea. I know, I know, you’re going to say, “You can’t grow mint on a sunny deck! I grows in the shade and loves lots of water.” Yes, I know that. However, I love it enough that I am going to give it a try. It will require great diligence in watering to keeps its roots nice and moist, but I feel ready to take on the commitment.
On to tomatoes. Remember Steel Magnolias? Annelle (Darryl Hannah) asks Ousier Boudreaux (Shirley McLaine) why she grows tomatoes if she doesn’t like to eat them. Ousier answers, “Because I’m an old Southern woman and we’re supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. Don’t ask me those questions. I don’t know why, I don’t make the rules!” I think of this every time I plan tomatoes. When I started, I was not an old Southern woman, but now at 57, I’d have to say I’m getting there. I didn’t like them either, but I grew them because that is what everybody else was doing. Fortunately my husband loves them. They are fairly easy to grow, as long as you remember to water and get rid of those lousy green caterpillars, you should be good to go. Now, I like them too, so I grow the big beefeater ones for sandwiches.
Banana peppers, you say? Why banana peppers? Why not just regular ol’ green peppers? Because regular ol’ green peppers don’t get as big as I need them to be for things like stuffed peppers (a family favorite), but banana peppers grow great. My husband came up with the idea of saving the jar of brine when we are done with store bought peppers and just slicing ours up and putting them in there. It works great! And we eat banana peppers on sandwiches and salads year round.
Finally I always plant a few marigolds around the bases of the other plants. My mom loved marigolds and planted them every year on our patio in the house where I grew up. I love the way they smell, and they are so cheerful and sunny.
So there you go. It is a long way from the English cottage garden I aspired to after our trip to England in 2004, but at least it gets my hands in the dirt.