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Much will be said in the coming weeks and months about Michele Owen’s amazing new book Grow the Good Life, most of it by me. (With that link I send you to IndieBound, the website of independent booksellers, in hopes that you will pre-order a copy through your local bookstore and let them know that you feel this is a book they will need to order in significant quantity come February, when it is released.)

Anyway, the book, which I read as a galley (and you can, too, if you’re in the media and casting about for books to review), is about the most beautifully-written, entertaining, and literary argument in favor of vegetable gardening that you will ever read. No charts or tables here; no lists of instructions; no silly diagrams or seasonal checklists.  (I hope to never see another seasonal checklist again.  Is that too much to ask?  I fear it is.)

Michele’s book got me all fired up about re-establishing a vegetable garden in my backyard, in spite of the chickens, and in spite of the year-round chilly Pacific air that keeps me from growing tomatoes and other things I really want.  Potatoes!  Kale! Peas! What’s wrong with that?  Grow what works, and lots of it. That’s what I took away from Michele’s book.  Since moving to Eureka, my vegetable garden shrunk from dozens of ambitious beds to a few edibles tucked here and there.  But it was time to change all that.

Then I got home and found out that I’m hardly going to be around at all next year.  So this would be a vegetable garden that my husband would have to take care of while I travel.  Hardly seems fair.

So my edible madness has gone in a new direction:  fruit!  Perennial, easy-to-neglect fruit. You might think fruit trees require a lot of care and monitoring; you would be wrong about that.  My apple trees don’t even get watered anymore–even the local apple farmers have taken to watering their orchards only two or three times during our rainless summers, and they have to make a living from their apples.  Mine get no water, no pest or disease control, and a little food or mulch if I happen to think of it. 

So.  With the help of Timber Press’ Growing Citrus: The Essential Gardener’s Guide,  I selected four citrus trees that I’m hoping will be happy as houseplants.  (Martin Page, author of this book, cautions against this on the grounds that they need more light, but they’ve got my best south-facing windows, so we’ll see about that.)  From the incomparable Four Winds Growers I have ordered:

A Meyer Improved lemon

A Bearss lime

A calamondin (acidy orange fruit that can sub for a lime and produces year-round indoors)

A chinotto, the sour orange fruit that shows up in Campari and other such liqueurs.

Outdoors, I’ve got these coming from Forest Farm Nursery and Raintree:

Sloe berry (aka blackthorn, Prunus spinosa)


Black currants

A tart English Morello cherry

A Damson plum

(and by the way, to make room, I am evicting some big, burly phlomis and buddleia. Well, I am hiring someone big and burly to evict them. Out with the ornamentals, in with the edibles.)

This is in addition to my already-established:


Tayberries, loganberries, blackberries

Blueberries (which I have yet to eat because the chickens get them first)

Two apple trees (a Honeycrisp and Liberty, planted in the same hole, which is something you can do when you have little space but need two for pollination)


Assorted herbs–rosemary, sage, oregano, chives, parsley, and the like

The odd seasonal thing stuck in my straw bale garden if I’m around–lettuce, squash, etc.

Not bad for somebody who’s not around enough to take care of a vegetable garden! Thanks for the inspiration, M.  Read her book, and you, too, will go edible crazy. I promise.

Posted by

Amy Stewart
on December 8, 2010 at 5:07 am, in the category Eat This.