Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fairy Tale Ending Part #1: Pick Fresh Herbs from my Backyard Garden

My fairy tale ending always included a garden of some sorts. In particular, this garden included a luscious blend of fresh herbs, their scents mingling in the air in a minty, spicy, fragrant sort of way.

The thing is, after living in the desert for over a decade, it kind of makes me a laugh a little.

The idea of a garden in the desert is an oxymoron of sorts, a juxtaposition at very least.

While we were able to cram quite a bit into our little plot of land (don't you love the six foot tall cinderblock walls? cozy huh?), a garden was just not one of the things that made the cut. 

I am pleased, however; we were able to fit in a grill, barbeque island, double wide lounge chair, swimming pool, and jacuzzi.

There was even room for a putting green for the hubby, who loves to golf. I think this officially wins me wife of the year for giving him the nod for this.

But there wasn't room for the garden.

We had tried our hand at gardening years ago, in our previous house. While successful in the sense that our vegetables did fruit, something in the soil here is so much different than back East. Desert soil is this reddish brown color, dry and sandy with a hint of clay. The tomatoes were so acidic I had to add heaping teaspoons of sugar to the marinara sauce, and the eggplant tasted bitter. The only thing that came out half decent was the bok choy. As Italians, though, we weren't particularly familiar with the vegetable; it had been an throw-in at Home Depot, something grabbed and plopped onto the orange flat bed in a moment of overzealousness.

After that summer's harvest, we covered up the garden with the same small rocks that pave the entire surface of both our back and front yards. In Arizona, we don't plant, water, and mow grass. We just cover the whole darn yard with rock, and call it a day. As hot as it gets, after all, you just can't kill rock, right?

So...I didn't have much going for me in ways of convincing the hubby and daughter that a garden was the way to go. Nonetheless, I hinted. And nagged. And oh so conveniently left open the newspaper to ad advertisement for Moon Valley Nursery.

In the end, my husband, who might I add has the patience of an ordained saint, made this compromise with me: 

No garden. Yes to whatever you can put in a pot or right in the ground.

Whooooo-hoooo! I was psyched.

We ran out to get the herbs that afternoon. After much careful deliberation, I chose three perennial favorites of mine: basil, parley, and mint. Basil is a must have for marinara sauce, parsley compliments almost all of my chicken dishes. Together they serve as the foundation for a perfect pesto. Mmmmm! Mint has always made the most soothing teas for me to drink at the first sign of tummy distress.

We got home, and I carried them out back with the tenderness one would expect to accompany carrying a small bird. Then I went in the garage to get the terra cotta pots to plant them in.

The thing is, we didn't have any terra cotta pots.


Always one to be resourceful, and not wanting to venture out in the 100 degree heat to make another trip, I quickly pondered my options. Why not plant them in the ground? We paid less than $10 for all three. I figured it was worth a shot.

And so, not falling short of my fairytale expectations, it worked like a charm!!! Those little tiny seedlings rooted into the desert soil, and are still alive a month later! I am so proud :)

This garden doesn't have scrolled wire fencing lining the edges, and it's slightly smaller than my ideal English cottage backyard garden, but it's still an herb garden. Part #1 of my fairy tale ending has been accomplished. I don't even let the scenery (ahem, garbage cans) get in the way of enjoying it ;)