Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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March 24, 2014

Cathie Shaffer: High hopes for summer: 3/25/14

ASHLAND — I’ve decided to do some gardening this year. No, I’m not reverting to the rows of fresh veggies I once grew. Instead, I’m going to use flower boxes and pots to grow herbs and tomatoes.

My decision followed my purchase of a magazine that included a packet of heirloom tomato seeds. Originally I thought I’d just pass them along. But then I realized how long it’s been since I stepped out my door and picked a fresh tomato for dinner.

If I’m going to put out some tomatoes, I might as well grow the herbs to go with them. My mother, she of the legendary green thumb, grew parsley, chives, thyme, mint and a dozen other such plants. Surely I can manage a variety or two with some success.

Because of the houses, roads and foliage around my place, I don’t have a good place to plow and plant. So I figure I can move flower planters and pots to wherever the plant they will contain can grow best. I’ve got some reading up to do, but I’m pretty sure no matter what I pick to raise, something will need full shade and something else will need full sun. Portability seems like a good idea.

Now, anyway. I may not feel that way when the containers are filled with dirt and seedlings and need to be yanked hither and yon. I do have a wheelbarrow, though, so the actual transport shouldn’t be that hard if I enlist a little help with the loading and unloading.

A bumper crop would be more than welcome because I would love to entertain outside all summer long. See this, I hope, is the year I finally turn the back yard into something special. Yeah, I leaf through those house and garden magazines to pick up ideas. Why, I wonder, shouldn’t I have a magnificent outside space like the ones they show?

A recent trip to the home improvement store gave me one reason. That stuff they show is pricey. While I’d love to have a white picket fence that never needs painting enclosing the grass, it’s a bit out of my landscaping budget. So are the fantastic trees and exotic flowers they tend to use.

The furniture in those magazines is a far cry from the plastic chairs and hand-me-down glider that surround the fire pit behind the house. And while I’d love to have an outside cook space like one created of brick and rock, a grill like the one a happy actor is using would set me back a couple of weeks’ salary.

What’s needed out there is a magazine for people just like me. Forget the lawn makeovers. Give me advice on how to lay those concrete pavers from the big box store so weeds don’t grow between the cracks.

Advise me on ways to disguise the cracks in the patio space without either resurfacing or buying a weatherproof rug to cover up the damage.

Find some clever transformation of a couple of five-gallon buckets and some old welcome mats into classy seating. Show me how to design a flowerbed of common annuals that doesn’t look like birds dropped seeds and things just grew.

Yeah, maybe I have high hopes. But just once in my life, I’d like to invite people over and accidentally hear them say, “Wow, this is beautiful!” instead of “Have you ever seen dandelions so thick or crabgrass so high?”

CATHIE SHAFFER can be reached at cathieshaffer@zoominternet.net

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