Daily Archives: June 13, 2012

The First Vegetable You Shouldn’t Grow


(lettuce growing in a pot by our backdoor for easy pre-dinner picking)

Did you notice that double post I did on Monday? I was feeling quite wordy that day and thought I’d be clever and write two posts. One to publish right away and another to share another day. Only out of habit I pressed ‘publish’ on both! Well, anyway, you think that’s honey, not brood? You’re probably right. Man, I’m dying to open that hive back up and look again.

So, last week Sara commented here saying that she’s getting ready to plant her first vegetable in a pot. She asked me what were the best things to start with. It made me think back to the very first thing I ever grew in a pot, and then I laughed, as it was probably the very worst thing to start with.

(it’s easy to catch pesky broccoli eating caterpillars when the growing pot is close by)
I first started getting the gardening bug in college, but with only rented rooms in apartments and houses my growing opportunities were nil. Instead I’d spend a great deal of my time studying and drawing, walking and daydreaming at my school’s Urban Farm. It was also around this time that I got interested in cooking and spent many a Saturday morning watching Jacques Pepin cooking shows on PBS. (We still to this day love watching him, we recently figured out how to work our DVR and he is the only thing we routinely record.) In one episode he made something with leeks, maybe soup, I don’t really remember. What I do remember is the way it looked when he cut it open. He’d hold one up in the air, upside down and insert a knife into the white part and pull straight down through the dark green stalks, give the leek a quarter turn and repeat. Then he’d rinse those strips of leek and slice them on the cutting board. It was beautiful so see those thin slices of green leek and his deft knife skills. Anyway my senior year of college came around and I finally had a small backyard in this house I was renting. I was fresh from spending a garden/art/culinary inspired semester in Italy and I was eager to grow something I could eat. Even before fall classes began, I went to the garden store, bought a pot, some soil and leek seeds.

I am here today to tell you that if you are new to gardening, looking for successful results and are headed straight into a rainy, cold Oregon winter, leeks are the very last things you should try growing. Leeks, when grown from seeds, take two years before you can harvest them. I had nine months until graduation. Once I saw how slowly my little shoots were growing and how cold and rainy the weather was becoming I quickly abandoned my gardening project.

(oregano, broccoli & basil growing below it all in a wine barrel)
So since leeks are out, what do you think Sara should grow since she’s brand new to gardening and has a pot and some soil? How about lettuce or radishes? Basil surrounding a tomato plant? Try some beets or chard or spinach. What about herbs? All of those things are relatively easy to grow, fit well in a pot and most importantly give you almost immediate results. Once you get your first taste of success, you’ll be tempted to try another pot and then another. And before that you will have a full fledged garden on your hands. But take it from me don’t start with leeks.

What’s the first thing you’ve ever grown? Was it successful?


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