We have caught fresh food fever at my house. This past weekend we happily partook of our first fresh-from-the-garden salads this season featuring baby kale, baby arugula, baby spinach and chard. We topped them off with little bitty baby radishes and a few snipped up chives. It was so good, so easy and so healthy!
Everything from our homegrown salad came straight out of our little bitty city yard with its small garden that used to be a sandbox, a couple of chickens, a pear tree and several whiskey barrel planters. I never had a vegetable garden growing up, so if I can learn to do it, so can you!
Even people with very little space can grow fresh greens or produce without tilling up the yard. When I first started, I only wanted salad greens and fresh herbs, but now we plant a few bigger items such as tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onions. There were several years of trial and error (including some hideous mutant sweet corn) and a few years where we planted the wrong stuff in the wrong spot, but it was always fun to decide as a family what we would plant for the year.
The following books are all available from the library and might give you some needed inspiration for your space, big or small.
“The Edible Landscape” by Emily Tepe will show you how to create quite a bountiful garden using landscape spaces and climbing trellises. It includes several great diagrams on how to plant up landscape corners, borders and of course raised planter beds. You will love Emily’s 10 Favorite Container Edibles.
Many readers don’t have a yard, or share it with neighbors in apartment buildings or condo associations. Pick up “The Edible Balcony” by Alex Mitchell. This book is loaded with beautiful pictures and terrific suggestions on how to have an amazing balcony or porch garden. An old ladder will triple or quadruple your pot space and certainly gives off a vintage farmer vibe. Do you have a sunny window sill? Try a Pimm’s and Mojito pot with fresh mint, wild strawberries and borage. After all, gardening can be hard work and you might want a cocktail when you get done.
“Fruits and Vegetables in Pots” by Jo Whittingham has really good pictures in step-by-step order of how to plant culinary pots such as hanging baskets and strawberry planters (those weird pots with holes out the sides.) It also teaches how easy it is to grow microgreens such as chard and cress in terra cotta flower pots. Sprouts are very delicious on salads, sandwiches and to garnish soup. Microgreens only take about two weeks to crop.
My go-to favorite garden plants are my herbs. I love being able to clip fresh cilantro for homemade guacamole or a sprig of the freshest basil for caprese salad. I even enjoy drying the herbs at the end of the season and keeping the seeds for next year’s plants. “Homegrown Herbs” by Tammi Hartung is a wealth of herbal information. This book includes planting diagrams, tea and medicinal recipes, harvesting help and encyclopedia-like entries for 100 common herbs. After my most recent reading, I have been inspired to plant catnip, so I can make cat toys for Christmas! I hope you find something to enjoy as well.
Off the Shelves is published Sundays. Each week a different Kenosha Public Library or Community Library staff member organizes reviews of a handful of books available through the library system.