Archive for Thursday, April 10, 2008

City gardening offers new challenges

April 10, 2008

Someone once wrote that the only land you can ever really own is the dirt you get under your fingernails by working the soil. If that's the case, then I've gained some more real estate after this last weekend.

Ah, spring the time when a young man's fancy turns to love and an old man's to home-grown tomatoes.

Spring has been late this year. It's been so cold, it's only in the last few days that we've been able to summon up the energy to clean out the dried-out husks left over from last year and get ready for that annual exercise in hopeful optimism, otherwise known as the spring planting.

Truth to tell, our planting is a bit restricted these days, as we live in one of those planned communities with postage-stamp yards. Except for a few roses and a few border plantings here and there, we've made the transition to container gardening.

There's something almost primeval about this urge to plant. Quite a few years ago, before we moved back to the city, the house in which we were living had virtually no back yard, so we planted a pretty good-sized garden in the front. It was the talk of the town, even for a few years after we returned it to grass. But that's another story.

Last weekend, we set out the herbs three varieties of thyme (quite a bit actually survived the winter, as did the chives), two of oregano, two of parsley, two of rosemary, sage, dill, cilantro and, of course, some basil. These all are planted in several different containers on the deck, just a few steps away from the kitchen. We also set out a few shade-tolerant ornamentals in the shady space near the front door.

In the back, we'll also have half a dozen or more containers with ornamentals and, we hope, some plants to attract butterflies and birds. Those will go in next weekend along with, presuming we can find some space for them, a couple of tomato plants. I may try one of the hanging tomato planters again this year, though they've not been very successful in the past.

That leaves the water garden. My water garden began life as a 100-gallon horse tank, two feet deep and about four feet long, that I found in an area farm supply store two years ago.

This year we're going to try it without the fish. My attempts to keep fish in this impoundment have led to nothing but frustration for me, although I suspect the creatures that have feasted at its shores might have enjoyed their repasts. Each year I've started with about five fish of varying sizes; this population has more or less swiftly dwindled to one and finally to zero.

Principally, I blame the raccoons. Understand, I've never interrupted one in its depredations, but they have left a little evidence. Mostly this been secondary to their thefts of the fish and bird food out of the plastic seat/container in which I store the food, along with other supplies and sundries, on the deck.

Last summer I began to really notice that the fish and bird food were disappearing quickly, so I found some cheap plastic containers with compression-type lids and put the food in them. That worked for two or three days. Then one morning when I went out on the deck I found the container on the deck, more or less intact save for the tooth-marks around the top edge, four or five feet away from the seat/box where I'd stored it. I figure only a raccoon would have the dexterity to open the lid on the box, extract the container and drag it away.

So, no more fish. We'll have to content ourselves with a waterfall, relying on chemical additives instead of fish to control the mosquitoes.


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