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Gardening

Gardening expert Rick Darke strives to create “liveable landscapes” using both natives and exotics

You won’t find the word invasive — at least in connection with plants — in gardener, award-winning author, photographer and consultant Rick Darke’s vocabulary. Meet him on March 2, when he makes the trek from his garden oasis in Pennsylvania to Annapolis, and you’ll hear about balancing natives and exotics in the garden. His talk and slide show come at just the right time for gardeners thinking about spring plantings.

Winter Cauliflower

I am at best a haphazard gardener. To my delight, I recently discovered these cauliflower, which I had given up for a loss, the leaves a lacy design after the insects had eaten their fill. I am amazed and feel the thrill of the winter gardener. I made cauliflower-cheese soup with this small head.     –Gail Martinez, Fairhaven

Out of the Hill of Giant Sweet Potatoes

The best thing about giant sweet potatoes is digging them up with seven-year-old grandson Aiden in the kitchen garden behind our house in northern Calvert County. Aiden and I picked out one of the largest hills. Mt. Kilimanjaro, we called it. When dug out, that hill yielded 55 pounds of potatoes, with one 20 inches long and big around as the calf of your leg. Another weighed 11 pounds.

Fennel provides plenty for butterflies and me

Observe and serve. That could be my motto with our fennel plants.     The larvae of swallowtail butterflies feed on umbelly plants: fennel, cutting celery and parsley going to seed. I appreciate the mature butterfly, but in the summer of 2011 I removed a number of the larvae to save my plants. I deposited them in the woods across the way. Late last year, the woods were sprayed to stop the poison ivy. The spraying meant moving caterpillars from my plants would no longer be an option.

Jelly from Heaven’s Hedges

This is lemon verbena jelly I made from my garden. While Aloysia triphylla is not reliably hardy here, I’ve had good luck with it over the last several mild-winter years. If I could only have one herb, this would be it. Heaven’s hedges are surely lemon verbena.     –Cathryn Freeburger, Prince Frederick What’s growing in your garden? Send a photo and description of your latest harvest to editor@bayweekly.com

Who Ate the Cantaloupe?

Something has been nibbling on husband Charlie’s cantaloupe. I suspected the squirrels, and Charlie blamed mice or voles. Friend Fritz Riedel happened to snap another candidate: an eastern box turtle. It’s circumstantial evidence, but very convincing. Charlie’s conclusion is a new twist on the fable of the turtle and the hare: Turtles are faster than humans at getting to a ripe cantaloupe.     –Sandra Lee Anderson, St. Leonard

Doug Sisk’s Towering Tomatoes

Those plants that are taller than me were all volunteers sewn by last year’s plants.

Bunnies Scorn Arugula, We love it

I hoped to be awash in tomatoes. I had plenty, but the rabbits ate them. I am engaged in full-on bunny wars.     So I choose to celebrate and harvest what the bunny does not eat: arugula.

Heaps of Beautiful Tomatoes

I’m so pleased with my garden this year. In early spring I built four new raised beds out of some reclaimed lumber scrounged from a local sawmill. I was rewarded with heaps of beautiful tomatoes by early July. My best producing tomatoes are Cour de Bue, an ox heart variety, Brandywines, Romas, and June pinks, another early potato vine type. I’ve been freezing tomato sauce for a while now.

Harvesting Furgurson’s Folly

In a 10-by-20-foot plot at Goshen Farm’s Sharing Garden in Cape St. Claire, my family has built a little organic city. Furgurson’s Folly, my father dubbed it.     On one end are tomatoes, fat to the point of splitting, interspersed with basil plants. On the other, two trellises host green beans, one so abundant the trellis teeters over our plot’s edge.     Between them on one side thrive jalapenos and carmen peppers. On the other, cucumber and zucchini wane.