Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Vegetable Garden Fits on the Porch

Thank goodness the growing season for vegetables starts later in northeast Kansas. With moving and all from Texas, I was running behind getting my crop in the ground. Back there, my son-in-law in Houston is already picking tomatoes off his plants. Matt is an engineer and very precise in these matters. He has apparently put in a plot large enough to see on Google Earth, in the backyard of the house that he and Mere, my middle daughter, bought last year just off the freeway heading into downtown.

I am decidedly not an engineer and have already endured the dubious joys of trying to raise a large vegetable garden while keeping a day job. Let those far younger than me have the fun of weeding, battling pests, and finally figuring out that one ends up giving away most of what is produced. At least I did.

My enthusiasm for planting anything in the ground here in Junction City quickly dimmed after the previously mentioned bout with chiggers, compounded with a quick survey of the rocky soil outside my abode. I opted for buying 15 clay pots in which to plant my vegetables, all of which are now arrayed neatly on the front patio. That’s where I spend an hour or so most early evenings relaxing, listening to NPR and decompressing from the day — before reloading to write, print photographs and work into the night.

I have five Celebrity tomato plants, three jalapeño plants (not a day passes that I don’t eat jalapeños with at least one meal), basil, cilantro and rosemary. I have no idea why I bought the latter spice, except it smelled great.. My fiancé, the beautiful mystery companion still professoring in Texas, doesn’t know why I bought rosemary either.

As usual, she thinks I’m a bit daft but loves me anyway. I should have gone ahead and bought parsley, sage and thyme and headed on out to Scarborough Fair. I don’t have a clue what to do with rosemary except sniff it and admire its appearance. Everything else that I planted I know how to consume or use in cooking.

The house wren that is apparently building a nest in a birdhouse left by a previous resident on the patio appreciates neither the addition of this crop nor my daily appearance. She flies out of the house, perches on a branch across from the porch, trills at me, flies back and perches on the birdhouse, looking down at me, wishing I would go inside. We finally seem to be making our peace after some days together.

I hung out a couple of bird feeders here on some existing hooks on trees with squirrel protectors, brought from East Texas where they are required. The yard squirrels here thus far are utterly uninterested in the bird feeders. I’m sure at some point their East Texas brethren will pass the word up north that there is a new sap in town, with money to burn on free food, and the party will commence. But so far, it’s just chickadees taking occasional nibbles out of the feeder. I love those little birds and haven’t seen them since living in New Hampshire, 40 years ago.

The day before I went to the nursery and spent $100 on pots and plants, a large doe pranced around in my yard as I returned from my morning walk. She eyed me as warily as the wren did. I eyed the doe cautiously as well. I’ve published a couple of stories in papers I’ve run of folks getting run over by panicked deer defending their babies. One woman I knew slightly even had her leg badly broken by a Bambi gone berserk.

Eventually, the doe crossed the street and disappeared down the ravine. After relating the story to my BMC, she pointed out my garden on the front porch likely will be excellent grazing material for the deer, not to mention the rabbits, who hop around with aplomb while I read each evening.

We’ll see. I could string some hot wire if needed, since there is an electrical outlet on the porch. That would take care of the deer and probably even the rabbits if I had both a high and low wire. Of course, I would almost certainly step into it and shock myself when wandering off to answer the call of nature, which is one of the fringe benefits of living on an isolated piece of land in the middle of town.

Think I’ll just take my chances with the deer and rabbits.
Originally published in the Junction City (Kansas) Daily Union on June 12, 2010.


  1. We're eating tomatoes with every meal now and still can't keep up with the crop. I can't wait until the jalapenos and okra are ripe.

    I'm so jealous you get to see bunnies in your yard!

  2. Funny enough, the rosemary is the only plant you have that the deer will not eat. That is, except for the jalapenos. That one may take them a time or two to figure out what the burning sensation is. The rosemary is excellent on chicken or homemade foccacia—I highly recommend.

    Good luck with gardening up there. Hope your tomatoes are as successful in Kansas as they were in Texas.

  3. I have jalapeños starting to come out, but that's about it. Of course, I can pick basil at anytime. Appreciate the advice about rosemary. Julie will be here Saturday for nearly a month and will put all the herbs to good use, I'm sure. Tomato plants look good but no blooms yet.