I don’t think I’ve ever done a “Best of” gardening list* but it seems about time to get started. I have done a “Things Killed” list but this year I’m going to accentuate the positive. Picking favourites is difficult for someone like me who tends to favour several things at once. Be warned that what’s on my list today might not be on my list tomorrow… or might not have been on my list yesterday.
Favourite Plant: Ack! This was a hard one. My personal gardening practice leans heavily towards the useful. I’m not really into growing flowers unless those flowers are useful to me in some way. Most of the plants I grow can be harvested at some point and used for food, medicine, beauty products, or scent. That said, I really fell madly in love with grasses this year and my favourite is the native Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum). It’s a beautiful and tough native that grows well in a variety of soil conditions. People are also starting to use it as an alternative energy source. So you see it does fall into that usefulness category afterall.
Favourite Vegetable: This was also a tough choice but it would be hard not to say ‘Black Pear’ tomato considering the incredible fuss I made over it back in the summer when it was in season in my garden. Oh god, how I miss slices of fresh tomato served on a fried egg sandwich!
Favourite Herb: Basil has long been my favourite herb period. Of course when I say basil I don’t just mean plain ole’ sweet basil but include the myriad of varieties, flavours, and colours that are available. So we can always safely assume that basil is a perennial favourite and my number one, period.
Getting that out of the way it would seem that I really developed an appreciation for calendula this year. I’ve been gardening in an alternate plot at my community garden over the last few years and this plot is fairly over-run with calendula. Calendula grows as a hardy, self-seeding annual in these parts — once you’ve got it, it’s not hard to keep it. While I pulled lots of plants out, I also left quite a crop in and was able to harvest large handfuls throughout the summer and fall. I decorated the apartment with calendula bouquets, ate lots of fresh calendula leaves and petals, and dried loads of flowers for future use in cooking and hand salves. It’s such a simple plant but it’s usefulness and hardiness has slowly gained my devotion to keeping pockets of it in the garden.
Most Improved: RADISHES I grew successful radish crops! This is such a joke considering that I have long known how to grow radish successfully in theory, yet had failed time and time again when it came to the application of that knowledge. This year I kicked ass and it was radishes all around!
Best Lesson Learned: I finally cracked the nut that is avocado seed growing. I plan to cover this topic extensively in a future article however I will say that after lots of experimentation I have hit on a method that works well and isn’t that silly 70′s era method that involves trying to balance an avocado pit on toothpick stilts. What you end up with is a real, busy tree and not a thin, leggy stem with three leaves on top.
Favourite Garden Book: I’ll admit that Michael Pollan’s “Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education” is not a new book. I started reading it in 2005 but it was early 2006 before the ideas in it had stewed around in my brain long enough to have a real effect on my consciousness. The entire book is about “rethinking our relationship with nature” and it was the starting point for evolving my own ideas about how we can rethink our view of The City from this out-dated and extremely limiting “concrete jungle” concept into a place where we (as a part of nature) can co-exist with nature.
* Turns out that with some digging I found this old list of top 10 houseplants.