Sunday, September 4, 2011

Back Garden

In Britain, they're called back gardens. I have a backyard. And a front yard, and a side yard (technically two, if you count the 3-foot strip of weeds between the house and the driveway). But for a time in my youth, I lived in a house with a back garden. It came with the house my family rented when we lived in England, and it was very nearly exactly what you envision when you hear the term "back garden" - there were orderly sets of herby disorder along two sides, a small structure for storing garden implements, and a laundry drying line, with just enough room for a few small children to play tag. And there were hedgehogs, and martins, and occasionally geese, if they wandered too close from their foraging in the farm field behind our house.

Early Summer Vigor
Well, I almost have a back garden again! Thanks go to my husband. He is a man of ideas and action, and when he thinks a thing he does a thing. We bought our house in 2004, and it has undergone such an amazing series of transformations... Anyway, among the the most recent of these is the backyard. This spring we put in a flagstone walkway from the deck to the gate, and a small kitchen garden. I went overboard with planting in that 2.5ft x 8ft space; 5 tomato plants, 5 types of basil, green onions, carrots, string beans, mint, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, fennel, dill, bell peppers, sage, rosemary, garlic, parsley, cilantro. The tomatoes and basil have been beyond heavenly, and we've had several batches of beans. As for the rest, well - I'm sure they were fine, but I just couldn't find them! The basil and tomatoes decided they were the rightful heirs to this plot, and the rest were left to their crowded corners, shaded and slightly stunted. I thinned out the herd yesterday, and found many of them still hiding. The carrot seedlings were not thinned; they are stubby little things and slightly bitter. I would be too if I'd been forced to live like that. Likewise the green onions - I have a mass of skinny white things that I don't know how to clean well enough to make them worth my while (they, too, should have been thinned). The Thai basil, while pretty in its purply ruffly youth, is now slightly bent and discolored. I gave up on the fennel, breathing it in as I tossed it into the compost pile. I'm making another batch of pesto, and have pulled off the last green tomatoes. I'll saute those carrots in lots of butter - that will give them a much sweeter disposition. Maybe next year I'll have a better sense of what to plant.

Which leads me to why were outside, doing this trimming - we finished the back garden! Mostly. In the spring when we started, we placed stones and mulch on two sides of the deck and across half the back of the house. Then came summer. (pause for time passing). Then we found just the right time to finish the job (the timing of things is very carefully considered; it has most to do with gauging the disposition of the workers involved - namely the two children and me; Mark was ready as soon as he found the conditions favorable). And now there is a back garden, in need of more planting. I think we will consider more carefully this time.

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