This year, I planted a vegetable garden, a project that had long been germinating in my head. For personal reasons, I had more time than ever this Spring, and a
desire need to be inspired by life. My father, an avid gardener, had moved to a desert retirement community, and left me with seeds (of hard to find Korean vegetables and herbs, like Korean bellflower, and chui namul) from his decades-old vegetable garden. They were begging to be planted. And pragmatically speaking, I thought that having my own vegetable and herb garden would yield me so much food, as well as foods that I could not easily find at the grocery store. The possibilities seemed endless!
And so I dragged in 32 bags of planting soil against doctor’s orders, convinced my husband to tier part of the hillside in a neglected part of our property, and embarked on a months-long project that would see me through physical and psychic crisis, become raided by a gopher, entertain my wiener dog no end (she likes to dig for gopher), and provide us with physical and psychic sustenance.
Over the season, I planted the following: rose geranium (thank you to a friend who gave me a cutting), anise hyssop, Korean eggplant, beets, Korean radish, chamomile, French tarragon, chervil, chives, Korean chives, green onions, parsley, mint (in a separate container of course), French garden sorrel, carrots, Korean perilla, dill, shelling peas, Korean chrysanthemum leaves, basil, brussel sprouts, Korean bellflowers, and Korean chui namul.
Yes, it got a little crowded, but it seemed every week, I would take home a fascinating packet of seeds or a seedling and stick it in the garden somewhere. There had to be room, I wanted to grow so much!
Of course, the gopher who began visiting the garden at its burgeoning height, helped with making space, for better and for worse.
The gopher ate the following plants (in their entirety!), pulling them underground for his dining pleasure: chamomile, French tarragon, chervil, carrots, dill, shelling peas, brussel sprouts, Korean bellflowers, and Korean chui namul.
So you see, he ate half the garden. I bought a ultrasonic emitting “gopher/mole peg” and stuck it into the ground, but apparently, that didn’t deter him. I let my wiener dog into the garden (to her great delight!) and allowed her, every month or two, to root through the ground and dig into his tunnels, leaving her scent and therefore trying to deter him, but to no avail.
I was sad–I didn’t get to see the Korean bellflowers bloom, or taste the Korean chui namul, or even harvest a sprig of French tarragon, or even have one cup of tea with the chamomile–nor did I get to use chervil, and use the fines herbes I’d planted! The gopher ate them all before I could have a taste. He pulled down entire brussel sprout plants before I they even matured! But next year–next year, I’ll plan my garden out right. I’ll plant in containers, or line the garden with something impervious to gophers. Or, because I just don’t have it in my heart to kill the gopher, I might just plant a surplus so maybe there’ll be enough to share.
But I got to eat part of the garden as well. With the basil, I made pesto. And used the sorrel for soup. The herbs finished and garnished a numerous amount of dishes. The anise hyssop was steeped in cream for a licorice flavored creme. I julienned and steamed radish with rice for a quick lunch. I was able to harvest a few pea pods to make a a great pasta dish with leeks, peas, and chives before the gopher devoured the pea plants in their entirety. Oh, and I ate innumerable carrots, uncooked, straight out of the ground, relishing their fresh garden sweetness.
Now it’s harvest season, and the garden has begun to lag–the carrots, beets, green onion, and radish have all been plucked and eaten, and the Korean perilla still stands remarkably tall and robust, but it has begun to flower and go to seed, a road that the anise hyssop took a few weeks ago, its licorice scented flower heads turning into seed pods. I think I’ll tempura fry the perilla leaves for a snack soon. And I won’t forget to collect the seeds so that I can share with friends, and have more to plant next season.
Happy Autumn everyone.
p.s. friends: if you’d like some seeds, let me know.