Herb Garden @ Rumours

Prepping the bed

On Wednesday, which may well have been the most gorgeous day of 2010 so far, Christy Shuff (owner/operator of Rumours Art and Wine Bar on 12th Avenue South) invited me over to play in her small garden at Rumours, and I could not resist playing hookey.

It’s usually against my religion to plant annuals before April 15. Despite the date’s dark associations for U.S. taxpayers, it’s also the date Zone 6 gardeners can feel reasonably certain the temp won’t dip below freezing again until Halloween or so.

Christy and I tore into Home Depot and hastily filled a cart with basil, green peppers, strawberries, common sage, arugula, rosemary, plus a sedum “stonecrop” groundcover and a couple of flats of marigolds for color (and a supposed bug-repelling property, I’ve heard).

I’ve never planted strawberries or arugula before, but it seemed like it might be fun to give it a try. The arugula’s a cool-weather lover, so Geoff the chef will get to harvest a little immediate salad gratification before we replace it with tomatoes in a month or so. I’ll be interested to see whether the strawberries deliver any good eats.

Hey! At least the gloves match the clogs.

I had three basil plants in the ground before I recalled the teachings of Mom: do not plant basil if the mercury is going to dip below 50 degrees. I ripped those suckers out of the ground, repotted them, and took them home to keep warm. We’ll plant the basil after tax day and add some Italian flat-leaf parsley whenever Home Depot gets any in. (Anybody seen any at your local nursery?)

The planting was the easy part. We dedicated the first three of the five-or-so hours we spent digging to the most important part of gardenmaking: prepping the bed. Some of the prep work had been done the previous year, but a serious network of grassy weeds remained, and the soil was very rocky and compacted, with a heavy clay-like consistency. We pitchforked and sorted clumps, pulling out mounds of rhizome-y weed roots and rocks, then added a couple of bags of manure and several bucketfuls of a manure-peat mix that I keep in a trash can at home for such occasions. (Some people stow cold beer in the fridge for emergencies, I maintain a can of manure and peat. There’s no accounting for dorkdom.) That seemed to loosen the soil a bit, although I imagine it could have used about twice as much. On the next warm day, we’ll pour on a little compost tea and hope for the best.

Oh, and by the way: my favorite achievement of the day was the acquisition of a reverse farmer’s tan. I sunburned my arms all the way from sleeveless shirt to long blue gloves – red arms and shoulders, white wrists. So hot! How do I forget every single time to apply sunscreen on the first day out? How old am I?

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