This week I attended a program called "Armchair Gardening" at the presented by Assistant Librarian Willa Broughton. It was a rather broad program, covering every gardening topic you could think of, but there were some helpful suggestions for those who are already longing to start gardening in February.
Her overall theme was how to start planning for your garden, and this is the time to do that.
I have an extensive network of perennial beds and a lot of fruit trees because I'm a big believer in low-maintenance gardening. Because our soil's so bad, I tend to do a lot of research to find what thrives in clay soil that goes from wet bog in the spring to brick in the summer.
And I confess: I don't have a vegetable garden. After years of trying, I just gave up. Our soil requires extensive amendments and the only creatures who got to enjoy the sad, shriveled veggies I was growing were the deer, the bunnies and the groundhogs.
I'm not going to all that trouble to feed the wildlife. Let them forage somewhere else.
Also, for most people, vegetable gardens are just too much work. They're very time-consuming, and if you get behind, the bugs and the weeds win.
Having said that, I do grow herbs every year and find that very manageable. I grow rosemary in a pot on my porch, and five or six other herbs in a small patch in the side yard I've devoted just to growing herbs.
As an aside, rosemary will also keep forever in water in the kitchen year 'round. Just submerge the stems in water and roots will form.
Herbs require a fairly small plot, so even if your soil does need amendments, it won't require the expense and effort of a larger garden. You'll save money and cut back on waste. A bundle of herbs at the supermarket can cost around $4 or $5, but if you don't use it all within a specific time frame you may go to grab those leftover herbs in the crisper and find they've turned black.
When you grow your own, you can just pick what you need when you need it.
Herbs can also be easily grown in containers. If you have only a small space, or have a steep lot or a large lot and don't want to have to hike or trek back and forth to your garden, you can set them right outside your door.
As for now, start with looking at your yard and figuring out where you get full sun and where your property is fully or partially shaded. Herbs generally do best in full sun. Think about the herbs you use the most often. Basil is popular, as are rosemary, oregano, parsley and cilantro. Measure the area where you're thinking of planting, and figure out how much space you need.
It's much too early to work the soil, but once you have those preliminaries worked out, there's plenty of time to chose your seed and start it indoors. This also gives you time to do a little research. For that, I recommend the library and the helpful gardening librarian.
The library will be hosting a series of gardening events over the next few months presented by master gardeners from the Allegheny County Cooperative Extension :
- March 10: The Wildflower of North Park -- Learn how to incorporate wildflowers into your home landscape.
- April 7: Peonies and June Perennials -- Learn the secrets of a glorious perennial garden.
- May: Vegetable gardening. Date to be announced.
Registration is required.
Cannellini Beans with Rosemary, Garlic and Anchovies
Don’t let the anchovy in the title scare you. These are delicious and an excellent, quick, healthy side dish. I always have rosemary sprouting on my kitchen counter, and if I don't have any anchovies, I use anchovy paste.
- 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- Swirl of olive oil, about one tablespoon
- ½ tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ tablespoon fresh rosemary, snipped into small pieces
- 2 or 3 anchovies or ½ tablespoon of anchovy paste
Heat medium skillet over medium heat and swirl olive oil in pan. Add rosemary, garlic and anchovies or anchovy paste, heat and stir until anchovies or the paste have melted and the mixture is smooth and well-mixed. Add beans and heat through.