Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Variegated Nasturtium September 20, 2008

I seem to be one of the few folks who can’t figure out how to reliably grow nasturtiums. Every year, I either sprout the seeds or direct sow them, and nearly every year most of the plants fail. This year, some did okay, but others stayed miniscule, like this one.

Teeny variegated nasturtium

I should have put something in to show the scale, but it’s barely 3 inches across, as opposed to others from the same seed packet that grew to span nearly a foot with many showy orange or yellow blooms. The tiny blossoms of the fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus) visible in the photo give at least some idea – they are probably no more than 1/2 inch wide themselves. I have no problems growing that plant, it wants to take over the entire garden!

I’ve heard that nasturtiums don’t like too much water and don’t care if the soil is fair to poor, but that doesn’t explain my troubles – several were planted in the exact same bed but the results were completely different.

I liked the variegation concept initially but then, on the plants that looked less healthy, it was hard to tell from a distance which parts were light by design and which were just sickliness showing.

I love this cheerful plant with its bright, edible flowers and rambling habit, but can’t seem to get it right. Does anyone have any hints?


Whidbey Island Garden August 19, 2008

We didn’t see any parking strip gardens on our vacation, but then again we didn’t spend much time in towns or near sidewalks. Mostly we were out in the countryside or on the beach, so the only garden we saw was planted and tended by the woman who kindly rented us her home for a few days. She has an organic “pick and pay” setup where folks stop by, take what they want, weigh it and pay on the honor system. It’s not a huge patch for a rural zone, but it dwarfed what most of us city folks can manage to shoehorn into our tiny lots.

Whidbey Organic Veggie Garden

She had a lot growing out there, nicely laid out and well fertilized with compost and chicken manure. Since we were staying there, she told us to help ourselves. It was great fun to head out there with a basket and pick a few things every day. There were a few blueberries and raspberries left, but mostly we homed in on the salad stuff, like edible flowers (borage and a variety of colors of nasturtiums) and fennel:

Harvest Basket (Fennel and Edible Flowers)

We hope she’ll let us return again – we had a great time and the garden was a huge part of the enjoyment.

Whidbey Pick & Pay Garden

If you are interested in her garden or the possibility of a stay in her lovely cottage, her name is Maggie Jacoby and she can be reached at 360-579-4238.