Anne Horrigan Geary: Downsizing the garden

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DALTON — I've been growing plants in a garden since I was old enough to eat dirt. Now, I'm as old as dirt and the love of gardening is just as strong as ever. Too bad my bones are not. Because of my still-limited mobility due to a broken hip, I have made the sad decision to downsize my garden — at least for now.

I had already started to downsize the vegetable plot since we get much of our produce from a CSA share (community supported agriculture) or farmers' markets. I've been planting blueberry and raspberry bushes as well as strawberry plants in the fenced garden, which helps deter some of the berry-loving critters from sharing the bounty. We will still put in a few veggies, such as pole beans because the poles are already there. Of course, there will be tomatoes too. One cannot live without sun-ripened tomatoes, at least not in this house.

However, most of the gardening will now take place closer to the back door. I've always had a few containers on the patio, but now I'm planning just how much I can squeeze onto the small paved area which is already home to the hot tub. I certainly have enough pots. Last year I grew some of the flowers for my son's wedding in containers, so there are dozens of now-empty pots.

The problem is what to grow and how much. Instead of my usual spring seed-buying spree, I am carefully-eyeing every seed packet for information on the plants' space needs. Most packages contain more seeds than I need, so I have been passing off half-filled packets to my sons, both of whom are avid gardeners too.

Lettuce is a no-brainer. Leaf lettuce is very happy growing in pots, and the foliage is very attractive in a bowl-shaped pot. I usually have two pots growing and harvest the leaves over the course of many weeks, and replant at least once during the season. This year I'm growing two colors: the usual bright green leaves of "Salad Bowl" as well as two red-hued varieties, "Lolla Rosso" and "Cimmaron". The seeds have already sprouted and the plants will be ready to transplant or thin in just a couple more weeks.

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Keeping with the red and green theme, I also have seeded basil in two colors. Those seeds have also sprouted under the lovely little grow light my husband bought, which makes it easy to start multiple plants without having to fill the windowsills with seedlings. I've never had red basil before, but think it will be fun to try making pesto with it.

Keeping with my usual practice of trying at least one new plant every year, I am planting anise this spring. I know I like the smell and taste of it, but I'm wondering how it will adapt to pot life. We shall see. That's part of the fun of gardening, never knowing exactly what will happen once the seeds are in the soil.

The one must-have in our garden is tomatoes; but this year the crop will be limited to three varieties instead of six. One is a miniature yellow pear type, sweeter to my taste than the red cherry tomatoes, and just as prolific. I get my heirloom tomato seeds from Tomato Bob in Ohio. This year I chose an early red called "Siberia" that was developed in Russia. My last pick is "Livingston's Golden Queen" because I love yellow tomatoes and it produces a medium-sized fruit.

No garden of mine would ever be complete without a few flowers. This year I'm adding to the types which attract pollinators, so I have seeded African daisies, Verbascum, and Ipomopsis. The perennials will go into the flower beds, but the annuals will stay in pots.

And I will stay put on the patio, doing most of my gardening from a comfy chair.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contritubor.


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