This year, the Tribune Chronicle is trying something different for our annual "How Does Your Garden Grow?" series - they're turning me loose in the garden.
Now, this isn't that big of a stretch. I've been gardening since my husband and I moved into our Warren townhouse almost five years ago, and I've always enjoyed writing about and taking pictures of my garden exploits. This year, however, I'm going to be sharing those exploits each Wednesday in this column.
Unlike my friend and coworker Kathleen Evanoff, I am not a master gardener. I also don't have much of a yard, so most of my gardening is container-based. My philosophy toward gardening is essentially, "Let's put this here and see what happens." In other words, I'm your average, amateur Trumbull County gardener.
Tribune Chronicle / Mary Beth Wyko
This is the start of my cottage garden. I have plans to fill in that grassy section with more flowers.
I actually started my garden a few months ago. Last year, my husband and father-in-law built me a grow light so that I could start seeds in my basement - this is my second year of starting seeds, and it's worked out pretty well. I had a day off work Monday, and since the weather was nice and is expected to stay that way, I spent a couple of hours outside getting my garden in order.
I like to plant a mix of vegetables, herbs and flowers. The majority of my plants came from seeds grown in my basement, though I've supplemented with a few store-bought plants, and I intend to include a few more as the spring and summer progress.
This year, my vegetable garden consists of tomatoes - cherry and regular; peas (a first-time experience for me); jewel-tone and tapas peppers for me; and habaneros for my husband.
Though my tomato plants took off like gangbusters in my basement greenhouse, the peppers didn't do all that well. I planted four varieties of peppers (six peat pots of each) and only wound up with four barely-sprouted plants. I stuck them into planters anyway; we'll see how they do.
I planted my peas directly in my planters a few weeks ago, and they're already up and starting to climb the trellises I've provided for them. So far, so good!
I also have two pots of miniature strawberries that I grew from seeds last year. I kept them outside in their pots over the winter, and they have grown back lush and green and currently are producing fruit.
The herbs I'm growing this year include basil, oregano and sage. I planted lavender and chives, but like the peppers, they didn't come up. I might reseed the chives directly in a pot - they grew pretty well that way last year.
I'm trying something new with my flower gardening this year. Our townhouse has a little plot of grass out front that's partly sunny, partly shady. I decided that this year, I want to turn that plot of grass into a cottage garden.
Cottage gardens are characterized by an informal, dense mishmash of assorted flowers and herbs and plants, perfect for an informal, casual gardener like myself. My budding cottage garden contains a hydrangea plant that I picked up on sale for Mother's Day, columbines (one of my favorite flowers), daisies, pansies, violas, alyssum, nemophila, impatiens, laurentia, and my favorite geranium, Rozanne. With the exception of the hydrangea, impatiens and the geranium, everything is grown from seed. I transplanted my geranium from another part of what's now my cottage garden, and since it's the first time I've transplanted something, I'm hoping I did it right. The next week or so will show whether or not I was successful.
I plan on adding to my cottage garden throughout the summer. I definitely want to edge it with stones, like some of my neighbors have done, and I put up a shepherd's hook for a hanging basket - now I just need to put together a basket for that spot.
I've also got some flowers planted in my sunnier back patio space. I fell in love with salvia last summer, so I have a pot near my back steps. I've also planted morning glories, stock and cosmos. I've grown morning glories - another one of my favorites - and cosmos before, but this is my first year for planting stock. I'm hoping to have some bright and fragrant flowers this summer.
So that's my garden, and I'm looking forward to sharing its progress over the next few months.
Share your gardening tips, hints and stories with me at firstname.lastname@example.org