Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Are You Going to Scarborough Fair?

   When you just now read that blog post title, did you sing the words to yourself? If so, then you probably followed with "Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme..." And chances are good that you already know this blog post is all about the herb garden. Thank you, Simon and Garfunkel, for setting my most favorite domestic activity to music.

   My herb garden is a paisley-shaped piece of earth located right outside my kitchen sink window, between the house and the swimming pool. You pass it when walking downhill to either the big garden or the bonfire. It's the casual transition between what we call the "front yard" and the "smokehouse yard." It's easily the smallest growing effort anywhere on the farm, in terms of square feet, yet it has captured my heart and my imagination in the biggest way.

   It has captured Mia's heart, too. He and his feathered friends spend many hours here every day. They meander through the oregano They nibble the grassy edges but never the cultivated plants. Momma Goose sometimes nests in the basil. Sometimes the chickens take shelter behind the box woods. It's a small but lively place!


   I have wanted a magical garden in this spot ever since we moved to the farm in late 2007. I spent the first few years just getting settled and being a Mom and, you know, thinking about the future garden. I daydreamed and visualized various garden designs every time I looked out the kitchen sink window. WHICH WAS SEVEN MILLION TIMES A DAY.

   I think all I had ever tried growing here were a few box wood shrubs I dug up for free from a neighbor, a rose bush, and maybe a handful of red cannas. Oh, sunflowers and poison ivy too. But you know how they basically grow themselves.

   Finally, on a cold day this past February, I started bringing wheelbarrow loads of manure and rotting leaves to this spot. The rose bush was dying a slow death from Rose Rosette's disease; the thrifted box woods were leggy and sparse; and the earth was not even a tiny bit yielding. Breaking it up with love was my only hope. So I just piled it on. For a month or so this hard, dormant stretch of the farm received several inches of organic matter as well as the full force of my greedy imagination.

   This might not be so pretty to look at, but if you have ever busted clay with organic matter, then you know how exciting this is! And if like me you love the smell of rotting leaves and old manure on a cold day, then you can imagine the joy of this scene. This was in February, 2013.

     So for several weeks the bare earth was covered with stuff that would miraculously change it into a loamy and fertile oasis. My spades were put to good use, turning and excavating so very much crabgrass and so very many weeds. Eventually the garden centers opened for the spring season, and I purchased a flat of baby herbs plus seven million seed packets. They sat on my dining room table until it was finally time to plant. Tiny Mr. T kept me motivated.

   The chickens helped the process along by scratching the dirt, eating grubs, and generally keeping the place cheerful. 

   Once the first plants were in the dirt and watered, I had that anticlimax feeling. I sat and stared at my Herb Garden of Discontent and continued to daydream about its future glory. I decided to be patient with its slow progress and decided that even if we didn't yield enough this year to sell at the local farmers' market, that I could still love and nurture this garden in small, daily ways.


   Gradually, day by day and week by week, things have improved. The heavy spring rains flooded out some of the annuals, but overall the herb garden in thriving. 

   Last week I got serious about weeding and realized there is still plenty of available real estate in this area. It happens. I coach myself to see it as potential instead of lacking.

   After pulling and digging the weeds, I groomed everything and surrounded every plant with layers of newspaper then watered deeply. Hey... don't you love the way your hands smell after grooming herbs?  Man. Best smell ever. Basil, sage, oregano, marigold, tomato, chamomile, rosemary, mint... Not an unpleasant fragrance among them. Sometimes I rub mint leaves on my neck.

   Eventually everything got a layer of mulch, too. And by the way I am a recent mulch convert. If you don't use it, you really truly should. It does everything it's supposed to do: Control weeds, retain moisture, and look snazzy.

   The herb garden contains more than herbs, too. I am growing surplus tomatoes, roses, zinnias, and watermelon. Also several flowers and vines just on the edges. This is a little rose bush I planted around Easter. I recently thought maybe we had another round of Rose Rosette's disease happening because of the thicker, fuzzier branches pushing around the garden... But no worries! It's just a wild watermelon vine! : ))

   So thanks for stopping by. The prettier this garden grows, the more I'd like you to stop by in real life, to sit in our mismatched lawn furniture, talk about everything worthwhile, and watch the dragonflies. To smell the herbs. 

   Do you have an herb garden? I would love love love to see photos! Please feel free to share them  here on Facebook. Have a beautiful day!

"Come to my garden.. 
 I want my roses to see you."


  1. I thought you smelled like Herb the other night.... by the way... the title was lost on me... guess I just don't know quirky music...

  2. I love my Scarborough Fair patch of herbs in the vegetable garden. There is nothing so rewarding as going out in the evening and picking fresh herbs to use in your dinner. This week I made Scarborough Fair pork tenderloin - parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme chopped up and sprinkled all over before grilling. Yum.

    Your patch of herbs is gorgeous - I'm a mulch convert too!! Well done, my friend. No longer the herb garden of discontent, I'm sure.


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