A bright geranium at the back of the garden, where it draws the eye. Below it is anise hyssop, which will start flowering soon with tall lavender spikes that are beloved by the bees.
It's nearly July, and across the country, gardens are flourishing in the summer sun. What's your garden like this year? Do you have a pot of mint or basil sitting surreptitiously on a city fire escape? Or a big windowbox full of salad? (Remember these 10 inspiring small-space gardens?) Or perhaps you're blessed with more space, growing potatoes and squash in sprawling beds. Tell us what you're growing this summer, and take a peek at my own city garden. I live in the city but I have a house and a small backyard. Much of the yard has been converted into beds — not because I have some fantasy of becoming an urban farmer (my husband and I are remarkably lax gardeners) — but because I think herbs and vegetables are not only delicious, but beautiful to look at all summer long.
Every year I find new ways to make the garden a little easier, too; I'm narrowing down my choices to the plants that are truly the easiest. If they take a lot of babying, out they go. This year, for instance, I didn't even bother with starting tomatoes from seed; I just don't have the right setup for it. And I didn't get out there early enough for peas and early season greens; I hardly remembered I had a garden until May this year.
So here goes — here are the herbs and vegetables I'm working with this summer:
• Tarpy spinach (bolted weeks ago)
• Arugula (ditto)
• Lacinato kale
• Green lettuce (variety escapes me)
• Red lettuce (ditto)
• Swiss chard
Early Summer Vegetable Bed
• Mustard greens
• French breakfast radishes
• Nantes carrots
• Bush cucumbers and climbing cucumbers
• Oregano (a few different kinds - I have completely forgotten which, now)
• Cilantro, which I reseed every couple weeks
• Dill, which is also reseeded throughout the summer
• Pineapple sage
• Lemon balm
• Basil (Thai, purple, globe)
• Bronze fennel
• Lemon verbena
• Italian parsley
• Thyme, lemon thyme, and silver thyme
• Champagne scented geranium
• Mint: Vietnamese, Kentucky Colonel, chocolate. (In pots all to themselves, to keep them from taking over!)
Sun Borders and Tomato Beds
• Tomatoes: Black Krim, Green Zebra, Stupice, Native Sun Hybrid, Garden Peach, Riesentraube. Also, two hybrid impulse-buy tomatoes from the greenhouse, bought in early spring and babied until it was warm enough to set them out! (Worth it — I already have two ripe red tomatoes ready to be plucked.)
• Eggplant: Fairy tale, Fengyuan, Rosa Bianca (all petite or long Asian varieties)
• Jalapeno pepper
• Raven zucchini (eerily swift-growing, prolific zucchini)
And then pots of nasturtium, zinnia, anise hyssop, catmint, and more — flowers that don't necessarily end up on the plate, but help create a garden pretty enough to hang out in all summer long.
Whew — that's a much longer list than I thought it would be. Many of the herbs have actually popped back up without any help from me. I haven't planted oregano, chives, lovage, sage, fennel, or thyme in a couple of years now. They come right back (vigorously, I might add!).
OK, your turn! What are you growing this year? Are you developing a green thumb for the first time? Or are you an experienced gardener? What are you most looking forward to harvesting this year?
Related: Margaret Roach's Vibrant Garden Kitchen
(Images: Faith Durand)