Taken at the fantastic “Cactus Garden” in the countryside outside Santiago de Cuba. I am sad that I only had a few minutes to breeze through a guided tour (all in Spanish) of this beautiful garden. Every single used tin can in this photo holds a small cactus cutting — an example of true thriftiness and recycling at its finest.
I desperately need to clean up my rooftop garden. Desperately. Double desperately. It’s horrible how long I’ve let it got this year really. The warmer Fall temperatures were wonderfully evil and I just went with it pretending that Fall would continue forever. I rewarded myself for cleaning up at the community garden so early this year. I can put it off a little longer, I said. It will be just like last year, I said. There will not be snow until January and by then everyone will be freaking out and talking about the blooming crocus and dandelion flowers and how the end of the world is neigh and it won’t matter that some of the pots weren’t empty or that the strawberries never did get replanted from the big pot into the ground.
And now I am in this dilemma. It has already snowed. The ground is probably frozen. I say probably because I haven’t had the courage to check. I would take a picture and post it here for you to see what I am talking about but that would mean having to look and I can’t bear it. I avoid looking out there entirely preferring to pretend it doesn’t exist. From memory and the occasional tiny peek I do seem to recall an assortment of clay pots that are usually emptied, washed and put away by this time every year prior to this one. I’m pretty sure that tender Echeveria I’ve been over-wintering indoors for years is now dead. The shiso was never harvested. Lifeless bean stalks cling to string and a few remaining lantern-like tomatillos hang from leafless branches.
Today would be the perfect day to get out there and do it already. The sun is shining, the temperatures are above zero, and anything that was recently frozen is probably melted after yesterday’s torrential downpours. I could cut back the plants, remove and wash the terra cotta and be done with it. And I would be totally on it too, I really would, except that I have come down with a terrible cold complete with body aches and a nose that runs like a faucet. So instead I will go back to bed with a pile of hankies and a warm tea, putting those self-preserving powers of denial to work for one more day.
Sitting down to write this, my first thoughts are to apologize for the slow down in updates recently. I consider writing to assure you that the slow down is merely a glitch in workload and I will not stop writing here during the winter season because gardening is a daily thing for me that does not stop it merely shifts with the seasons. While I’m at it I want to apologize for the header that still says “early Fall” when we all know it is proper Fall now. As I sit here a list of assorted lagging details run through my mind and I entertain the idea of apologizing for each one like something in the room that needs to be acknowledged before our relationship can move on. Or a clearing of my throat. “Ahem. Hi. Is this thing on?”
I wonder what it is about internet writing that brings that out? Is it the feeling of an informal and personable context? Is it the assumption that I am sitting down to speak directly to you and you back to me? When I sit down to write an article for a printed magazine I don’t think to begin with apologies and casual shout-outs. “So… Uh, sorry this is my first time writing for this magazine but you know how it goes, I had other stuff going on and insert excuse here. Before I kick this off I just want to say hey what’s up to so and so whom I met last week at such and such event.”
Okay, enough banter. Let’s talk about garlic.
I should preface these instructions by stating that I am not a garlic eater however I love to grow the plant. I think it is a beautiful plant worth growing regardless of personal taste, requires little effort to produce a good crop, is self-perpetuating (you can use this year’s harvest to produce next year’s crop) and it is especially useful as a pest repellent crop warding off insects like aphids and Japanese beetles. You can also crush garlic cloves in water and make an organic pest spray. Because garlic is easy to grow it also makes a good crop for trading with other food gardeners and friends.
During the spring and summer months I grow indeterminant tomatoes (large, vine plants) in large garbage bins like this one purchased for $10 each a number of years ago at the local Ikea. The flat grey colour has faded significantly over the years but the containers are still holding up under the wear and tear of hot summers and winter heaving caused by fluctuating temperatures.
I typically fill each container with a single tomato plant and surround it with 4 basil plants. With the weather being warmer this fall I decided to try and keep the rooftop deck productive AND aesthetically pleasing by replacing the spent tomatoes with attractive, cold-hardy edibles previously growing in smaller, individual containers. This also allowed me to get a head start on clean-up bringing in some of the smaller, terra cotta containers that will eventually come indoors for the winter.
In This Container:
- Tri-color sage
- Pansy (will keep flowering. Flowers are edible.
- ‘Lacinato Blue’ Kale aka ‘Dinosaur’ Kale
- ‘Red Bor’ Kale
- Cinnamon Basil (not cold hardy but surprisingly still going strong.)
Everything in this container is edible. Unfortunately, while we were away a squirrel made a hearty lunch of the dinosaur kale but everything else is still thriving and ready for picking whenever we need a bit of sage for our eggs, some flowers for a salad, or kale to flavour a soup.
I spotted this lovely gold and dark purple seasonally appropriate container combo at Fiesta Gardens recently. While I am generally not a fan of the traditional seasonal mixed container, this one is a simple concept with a limited colour palette incorporating unusual plants like the ‘Red Boar’ Kale centre piece that is edible and insanely inexpensive if you start it early in the year. Even still a plant that size at this time of year runs between $6 and $10. I would guess that the price of plants for a container like this (not including the price of the container) would total approximately $50-$100. It’s pricey, a little out of my league — I’d replace the Heuchera with something cheap like black or yellow pansies to lower the cost.
Plants: ‘Red Boar’ Kale [centre], Chrysanthemum [middle ring], Heuchera ‘Black Beauty’ [edging].