Popular culture, social media, and our peers are all embracing a trend in home gardening across the country (though few of these gardens are as radical as Ron Finley’s median-turned-vegetable-garden project in Los Angeles). A guest for dinner last night mentioned that “even Oprah is on trend now,” having planted her own garden. Here in North Alabama, the home garden is hardly a trend. Most people grow at least a couple of tomato and pepper plants every summer. And if you take a drive down one of our many county roads, you’re likely to see large swaths of lawn devoted to food, with neat rows of summer vegetables stretching over red blankets of Alabama clay.

I’ve had a garden since I moved into my house in 2006. Putting it in might take only a weekend, but the cultivation takes years. However, it’s the week-to-week management that becomes difficult. When temperatures reach 98 degrees in the shade (and stays there for days on end) keeping up with the insects, weeds, the harvest, and watering becomes quite the challenge. Making time becomes stealing time. This is why my generous fall garden was still in the ground in late May, every kale or broccoli plant flowered and well on its way to seed.

IN THE KITCHEN GARDEN - photo by Abraham Rowe Photography

I must admit, there’s something really very beautiful about an overgrown garden. The different textures that arise as tiny leaves slowly become flowers on the Swiss chard and long thin seed pods jut from the narrow kale stalks add a surprising backdrop, both wild and orderly in their rows. One of our team members has a garden in her front yard (a little bold for most southerners) and she swears her overgrown kale and collards blend right in with the landscape. Though personally, I prefer the privacy of my backyard. Gardening time is quiet time for me.

By letting things go a little bit, I’ve been able to show Maggie the complete circle of plant life, the way the kale and Swiss chard continue to grow and form seeds for next year’s harvest. Seed saving might be one of the simplest forms of recycling, and I’ve left a few plants for that reason. When the pods dry out, we will collect them for planting again in September.

IN THE KITCHEN GARDEN - photo by Abraham Rowe Photography

Rouge garlic, volunteered from previous years, is perfect for the picking right now.  As we pull up the fresh bulbs to make room for a summer crop, I make plans to chop and sauté with the last of the spinach from our local farmer’s market.

I admit that I’m already excited about the tomato sandwiches to come, even though I’ve just planted the seeds in clay pots.  Somehow, they will grow and, although I am late this year, we will have a bumper crop of tomatoes. At least, I am counting on it.

We are also all hoping that it will not be so hot and dry as it was last year. Check back over the summer as my kitchen garden grows and we report on the circle of gardening. Look for stories, helpful information, photographs, and recipes. Be ready to get a little dirty.

IN THE KITCHEN GARDEN - photo by Abraham Rowe Photography



3 comments on “IN THE (KITCHEN) GARDEN

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  1. Patti

    Our growing season has just begun here in the Pacific Northwest. Today is our first Farmer’s market! I’m very excited to pick up my farm share, and begin the season of cooking and eating our local farm fresh veggies. Unfortunately, my own yard is as big as a fingernail. But I was able to find a sunny space large enough for an herb garden. There’s something so fulfilling about being able to putter into your own backyard and pick something for your meal.

  2. angela

    I finally have a nice big space to put in a nice garden. I have been here for two summers now so my garden is slowly evolving and I am very excited for this years crop! I already have two tomatoes on one of my plants! Very exciting! It is a lot of work and very dirty, but oh so worth it, and maybe I can get my little girl to start eating some real food some day by growing our own food. She is very interested in the gardening. I do get her to munch on lots of herbs in my herb garden which is something and I am growing grapes and lots of berries for her. She promises to try at least one vegetable from the garden this year. Here’s to hoping it will work!

  3. Amy Thompson

    Gardening played such a big part of my young life and it stuck. My first crop was gourds. So, I say give your young gardener a chance to do it alone!!!