By Edith Morgan
Remember the victory gardens during World War II? If you are my age, you know what I am talking about. But today, once again, we city slickers are getting our hands dirty and trying to raise things we can eat and things we can enjoy looking at and smelling.
So what does a frustrated gardener like me do, on a 70’ by 70’ foot plot, most of which is occupied by the house, which faces north and shades the lawn? The city maple tree in front also throws its shade over much of the front, and my neighbors’ houses are close enough and high enough so that only a sliver of sun reaches the yard during the day… Of course, the nights offer protection, since there are no high winds or floods to worry about.
I have a sliver of land to the west of my house, which is home to a rock garden, where grape hyacinths, lilies of the valley, and dusty miller grow in wild profusion – this year, all I had to do is pull out various invaders, and severely prune back the climbing roses and, rose of Sharon, and mock orange bushes that all vie for life space where once grew a very tall pine tree, which I had to have removed (at great cost) as it grew too tall and too close to the house. Over the years I found that Mother Nature would fill in the space left by the stump, overcome the acidity of the soil around the pine needles, and gradually fill in every available inch of land. So at every season we all enjoy the fragrance of various blooms, and can sit on the porch and breathe in the ever-changing air.
But of course we HAD to have something we could eat also: on the narrow strip of land beside the house, to the east of the house, where the sun occasionally reaches in the middle of the day, we have a raised bed, maybe 8’ wide and 20 ‘ long, where my various vegetable and herb experiments grow. This year I have two kinds of tomatoes, four of each, growing in their cages, and one each, in pre-fertilized pots, of herbs like dill, lavender, sage, oregano, mint, and lemon balm – the lemon balm having spread out over much of the bed, unhampered by me as I love to go out and lop off a piece and crush it and smell it. A couple of anemic rhubarb plants grow every year on their own in the west corner of the garden bed, and a brave curly parsley plant comes up on its own yearly. After Passover a couple of years ago I stuck a piece of horseradish into the ground at the north corner of the raised bed, and lo and behold it has grown large fronds and white blossoms this year. I just leave all these plants to “do their thing”, and harvest something now and then.
At the southwest corner of the house, in a small circle of soil, several everbearing strawberry plants have taken hold, and we have just eaten the first ripe berries of the season – an indescribable taste treat compared to what we are accustomed to from the store. In the middle of that circle an old tire serves as a planter for yarrow, chives, onions, and a sedum in the center. Tulips, bleeding hearts, and several kinds of daisies share space with the strawberries, as well as other as yet unnamed flowers.
Beside the house on the west, where the blue rain barrel is now full, peonies and Solomon’s seal and ground cover grow beside the tiny back porch. And a jack-in=the=pulpit has this year doubled, so now I have two. The single May apple that my friend gave me has multiplied and hides the whole bottom of the rain barrel.
I know I have friends and neighbors with space who raise peppers, lettuce, radishes, and all such great vegetables. The city has just planted fruit trees (apples, pear, peach, and plum) at Newton Hill, but I haven’t enough room in my yard. What DOES flourish in every shady corner is the great variety of hostas, with their beautiful leaves and flowering late summer spikes. Worcester is a great place to grow all sorts of things!