In the Garden:
February, 2012
Regional Report

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Over a cup of tea , Joyce makes a rough garden sketch and we discuss a planting timeline based on the Renee's Garden and Baker Creek Heirloom seeds we selected.

You Like Tomatoes, I'm Fond of Squash.

Joyce enjoys telling stories of gardening with her young son in the suburbs. She's since moved to a tree-shaded property; her son's flown the nest. I have a sunny garden spot in the neighborhood and literally need a hand this season. Rehabbing my fractured right arm and shoulder could take six months to a year.

We've decided to collaborate. "Gardening together will be fun," Joyce assures me as she rough sketches a garden design for the 20- by 30-foot plot. "Where did you plant the tomatoes last summer?" she asks. "We'll put them elsewhere this year. Rotate the crops." She likes partnering, is a natural at cooking and sharing meals with friends. She's excellent at interior decor and furniture sales, an accomplished artist, and plays well with others.

I'm excitedly reading details of the three kinds of zinnias Renee's Garden sent -- heirloom 'Cut and Come Again', double-flowered 'Berry Basket', new 'Cha Cha Cha'.

Tomatoes? "Yes, I had three Black Krims and a volunteer cherry tomato. There." I point at her drawing. "I don't eat tomatoes though. Nightshade family. Not good for arthritis." Maybe three plants in the far corner, where the bush beans were, I venture.

How about six or ten? Joyce suggests, writing "Tomatoes" and outlining a huge area. "I promised some to Evan" (her son). I hold my tongue. Ten will take up a quarter of the garden, I think to myself. What about the summer and winter squashes, yellow and green filet pole and 'Rolande' bush beans, 'Baby Persian' and 'Endeavor' pickling cucumbers we agreed on....

She mentions the weedy-looking corner I've packed with native echinacea, asters, monarda, and helianthus, bordered by oregano, chives, thyme, shallots and more. "That's 8 by 10 feet," she calculates.

I stand my ground. Those stay, though the dead stalks need to be trimmed. Unfortunately I can't hold pruners, much less cut anything back. I know what to do. I'm just unable to do it. I am a professional gardener, the Boss. Sometimes easy-going, also demanding and impatient I've been told. Occasionally I fold, walk away mumbling, annoyed, in a sulk. Though I try to play well with others, it can be a stretch.

We quickly agree the early snap and shelling peas are best climbing the north edge wire fence, parallel to tepees of mid-season pole beans. Basil and lettuces are good companions among tomatoes. Cukes could climb tepees mid-garden. Bush beans in last summer's scallion corner perhaps?

Joyce pencils in two existing paths.

What about planting hills of 'Summer Scallop Trio', 'Supersett' crookneck, and new French 'Astia' bush zucchini squash in front of the pole beans?

And the 62 'Northern Rainbow Sampler' onion plants? Joyce offers to plant those on her day off. Bordering the tomatoes would be fine and the far west edge. Not near the beans though; seems onions and bush/pole beans aren't compatible.

I'll be starting seeds indoors under grow lights -- lettuces, beets, basil, Brussels sprouts, baby cabbage, Baker Creek's 'Charentais' melon.

What about the zinnias? I ask, seeing no open space left. And my experiment with exotic squashes 'Galeux D Eysines', 'Pattison Strie Melange'?

We could fill an additional 6- by 20-foot strip, Joyce proposed. She's on that. My part is arranging to get bamboo from a Swarthmore friend.

The phrase "It takes a village" comes to mind. Also "Be gracious," as a friend recently suggested.

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