Through the rest of the month, as we celebrate Spring and a return to the garden, I'll be screening videos from The Garden Girl. The Garden Girl, Patti Moreno, is an inspiration to aspiring gardeners everywhere. She'd never even touched a trowel until the birth of her first daughter, and now she's established an urban garden paradise at her home in Boston. You can read the first half of my interview with Patti here.
Casa: Are there any plants that you consider no- or low-fail for folks who consider themselves to have less than a green thumb?
The Garden Girl: Mint is pretty hardy and a perennial which means it will come back year after year. I love using mint as a garnish to my lemonade. Last year, mojitos were the house cocktail all summer; I had friends lining up for my summer parties. There are tons of different types of mint. My most prized variety is Chocolate Mint — it's wonderful in coffee and hot chocolate and on ice cream. If you choose something you really love to eat, I think you’ll have more success. Another no fail crop is parsley and oregano. Simple and easy. Like most people, my family eats a lot of lettuce, which is easy to grow in the Spring and Fall, but needs a lot of water in the summer.
Casa: What has been the biggest project you’ve taken on?
The Garden Girl: The biggest project I’ve undertaken was building my new Urban Sustainable Living Garden last year. It’s around 500 square feet and the perfect size to grow enough for a salad at lunch and a vegetable at dinner the entire growing season for a family of six. It was a lot of fun, but the hard part was videotaping the whole process so I could share with others. Adding the video component slowed the process down, because I ended up doing everything at least three times! But I am really proud that I was able to do the whole garden entirely by my self. Ideally, you want to involve your family and neighbors, but I wanted to really show that the system of gardening that I’ve developed can be accomplished, by following through and being committed. I’m only 5’2” so if I can do it, you can too.
Casa: Can you tell us a little about some of the animals you have at your garden?
My bantam chickens are awesome. They’ve become pets of mine. I strongly suggest getting bantam chickens if you are interested in getting livestock. They are about the same size as a pigeon. They are also very trainable. I have Silkies who are perfect for the city because they can’t fly, but my favorites are my Aracauna bantam chickens that lay green and pink eggs. My hen "Rocket" is so cool. She thinks she's an eagle and tries to fly everywhere. Their eggs are delicious and about 2/3 the size of regular large eggs you get at the grocery store and taste so much better. Don't get roosters, it just makes your neighbors angry. I also keep angora rabbits and regular rabbits. I shave the Angora rabbits every three months and spin their fur into yarn, which I make into gifts and hats. My other rabbits just dig and turn the soil for me.
Casa: What are your favorite food crops?
The Garden Girl: Lettuce, lettuce and more lettuce. Growing up I had no idea there were lots of varieties of lettuce. This year I am growing, four season lettuce, bib lettuce, radicchio, kale and arugula. Arugula is so good. It is a huge hit at my mini farm stand I run during the weekends. For herbs, mint and as many varieties of Basil as I can grow from sweet basil to lemon to cinnamon. Fresh basil makes such good pesto sauce that when I entertain I never have leftovers. My other name is the Tomato Lady. I grow mostly heirloom varieties, but my favorite is Mortgage Lifter. Even the name is great. Mortgage Lifter got its name from a farmer who developed it during the depression of the 1930s. It sold so much on his home farm stand that within eight years he had paid off his mortgage. Now that is a tasty tomato.
Casa: What are your favorite flowers to grow?
The Garden Girl: Nasturtiums, which are edible flowers. They add great color to salad and taste peppery. I had a lot of fun with a cool variety of marigolds last year. I love perennials. Peonies are my favorite. I love seeing them bloom and multiply year after year. I have an area in my garden that is a perennial garden that is beautiful all year long. This year I want to get a cutting garden going and be able to have flowers in vases all over my house. I can't overlook my roses though. Not only are they pretty, but living in the city, I have them planted along my fences and under my windows making any trespassers who trespass wish they hadn't.