On Extravagance, Design, and a Nerdier Way to Manage Weeds
No. 6 | Fall Gardening in Greenville, SC
I’ve been trying to think of a way to communicate this thought—one of those whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts kind of thoughts.
I haven’t found a compellingly simple way to phrase it, but I can illustrate it with this example:
If you’ve been to my house for dinner during grilling season, you’ve probably had this chicken. It’s a favorite TJ and I can tag-team on autopilot.
A simple, reliable grilled balsamic chicken—but soooo good. Rich and crispy edged and smoky. Dripping with olive oil. Showered with fresh herbs. Sometimes embellished with feta or parmigiana. Sometimes gifted with tomatoes.
Anyway... lest I make you hungry... I’ll move on.
It’s a positively indulgent dish if you know just how many herbs go into making it taste so good.
When I make it for a crowd, there’s probably $20 worth of basil, rosemary and oregano in just the marinade, if you were to buy them from the grocery store.
Then another $5’s worth sprinkled on top.
Who among you would spend $25 on just the herbs for GRILLED CHICKEN?
None of you. (Nor me.)
But when I make this chicken, I’m actually doing my plants a service. They want the haircut. They respond by producing more.
It’s extravagant if they’re store-bought,
but it’s prudent if they’re home-grown.
Do you see the magic?
There are things you can have in your life because you garden that you wouldn’t be likely pay for—and the act of gardening itself is actually one of those things. How would you decide what to pay for a daily habit of fresh air and moving your body and wondering at insects and improving your microbiome’s health and developing your palate and cooking more creatively and always having a gift to share with a friend who drops by... and... and...
I could go on.
The whole of what gardening brings to your life is greater than the sum of its parts. And it can’t be reduced to “But how much money did you save on X?”
Because, for one, you’ll taste things you would never have been able to justify buying at the grocery store—and you’ll add good things to your life you may not have even known you wanted.
Fall is my FAVORITE time in the kitchen garden. Snipping salad leaves to counterbalance the roasted dishes, and fresh herbs to enhance them. Cherry tomatoes until frost. Garlic poking up through the ground. And far less pest pressure. If you've never tried, this is the year.
What I’m Reading & Listening To
I’ve been in my new house a year now. The kitchen garden has been built. The privacy hedges have been planted. Now I’m finally turning my attention to designing the front yard. So naturally I’m reading and listening to a lot of design resources right now. Fall is the best time to plant trees and shrubs here in the Upstate!
Garden Design by David Hicks
Random, yes. I picked this 1982 book up from the Greenville Literacy Association’s Really Good, Really Big, Really Cheap Book Sale back in August. David Hicks was an English interior designer. David has strong opinions, and the gardens in the book are formal and aristocratic—not my typical style. But it’s giving me ideas.
I’ve found I really like garden books written by interior designers (On Garden Style by Bunny Williams is a favorite). They tend to focus on the structure and flow of a space, more than on horticulture, and I think we home gardeners often need to start there.
These two recent episodes of the Joe Gardener podcast were also timely.
Lastly, and I’m sorry I can’t recall where I heard it, but I recently listened to Margaret Roach describing her approach to managing weeds on a podcast and the lightbulb came on for me:
Learn to identify the plants you don’t want around (weeds), and know what they look like at different stages in their lifecycle. Learn whether they’re invasive or not. Whether they serve some bigger, important role or not. Be curious.
Learn how each spreads so you can learn how best to manage them (e.g. if you don’t want dandelions, you’ve really got to get that deep taproot out, not just stop them before they flower).
Then GET AHEAD of their reproduction. For many things, that means you can’t be lazy. You’ve got to catch them before they go to seed.
I’ve started snapping a picture and moving it an album called “Weeds” on my phone each time I see something I don’t recognize. Then I research it and label it: Is it invasive or just annoying me? How does it spread? Is it essential to any wildlife?
Margaret’s approach is far more responsible than throwing herbicides at everything we see. The more we learn the better we can steward our land.
What I’m Growing
Tomatoes: Blue Berries (a type of cherry tomato I’ve been saving from seed for years) will keep going until frost. I tried Nicole Burke’s method of pruning off the branches and leaving the suckers on my determinate tomatoes this year, and I can say with 100% confidence this results in more tomatoes.
Herbs: Rosemary, thyme, green onion, oregano, parsley
Ground cherries: Still going strong.
Lemon squash: Still going strong… and honestly, it didn’t really get going at all until the last few weeks. Go figure.
Garlic: I’m waiting until mid-October to plant it and it will stay in the ground all winter. If you’re going to give this a try, wait until the weather cools off. You want the garlic to sprout this fall but not get too much growth on it until next spring.
Brussels sprouts: Experimenting. Not expecting to get much but I wanted to give them a try.
Fall Plant Sales
Oct. 9-13 (online) SC Native Plant Society
Oct. 13-14 SC Botanical Garden in Clemson
Fraylick Farm is taking orders for fall bulbs and tubers now.
Fall Plant Share
The September Plant Share event at Shoeless Joe Jackson Park was a blast! Thanks to everyone who participated. We’re already eyeing another date for the spring. Stay tuned.
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