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Garden Anywhere

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Small spaces make beautiful places

By Katie Jackson

From Baby Boomers who are downsizing their lives to Millennials who have yet to upsize theirs, more and more people are living in small spaces, which often translates into less and less space for traditional gardening. But you don’t have to have a yard to be a gardener. You just need sunshine, water, a good soil mixture and a little ingenuity.

While we typically think of gardens as outdoor spaces, the term “garden” refers to any space where plants and nature are shown, grown and enjoyed, including tabletops, rooftops, driveways, walkways, alleyways, parking lots, highway median strips, balconies, walls, windowsills … you get the picture.

Houseplants are, of course, the easiest way to bring something green and growing into your life and there are oodles of beautiful tried-and-true options to fit any décor, lighting and indoor climate condition and level of gardening skill. Or tap into the latest everything-old-is-new-again trend: terrariums of all shapes and sizes!

But why stop there? Many ornamental landscape plants can also be grown in containers (pots) and, thus, grown successfully inside or in small outdoor areas. Azaleas, roses, gardenias, viburnums, aucubas, hollies and jasmine are just a few of the common landscape plants that do well in pots. Bulbs and other herbaceous perennials and annuals also can be tucked into pots or planted in small patches of open ground such as along the edges of driveways or walkways, in medians or around mailboxes.

Truth is it’s easy to find a plant to fit almost any environmental condition and space as long as you can provide them with a good quality growing media, protection from extreme temperatures and the right amount of sunlight and water. Ingenuity comes into play when you’re trying to adapt to the design needs of your small space, but there are lots of options for that as well.

Raised beds can be installed anywhere, as long as you’ve got the right growing conditions.
Raised beds can be installed anywhere, as long as you’ve got the right growing conditions.

For example, raised beds and tiered planters can be installed almost anywhere, from the rooftops of apartment buildings and houses (and I even saw a dog house with a garden on top) to balconies, patios or concrete driveways. Not only do raised beds make gardening easier on your back (less bending and stooping required), they also allow you to create your own soil rather than relying on the quality of existing soil, thus providing your plants with the very best of growing conditions.

If you have only a tiny corner or a wall area to use for plants, consider growing things vertically — espaliers, trellises, arbors, plant towers or frames built against a wall can take your gardening to new heights and planes.

Need to move your garden around? You can buy plant saucers on wheels, fill a child’s wagon with potted plants or put wheels on old garbage cans, buckets, boxes and other interesting planting containers. Want a more whimsical garden? Use an old birdbath filled with potting mixture to create a little raised garden or use a sealed pot or fountain to make a water garden. Want something that requires less water? Create a rock garden filled with cacti and succulents.

If you’re craving freshly grown fruits and vegetables, don’t despair! You can grow many of these as well in small spaces. The same raised beds and containers used for ornamental plants can become home to everything from tomatoes to corn to squash. Hanging baskets make great pots for strawberries and peppers. Lettuces and other greens will grow beautifully in pots. Many fruit trees and shrubs can be grown in pots or espaliered against a wall. Gourds, grapes, blackberries and other climbing plants can be grown on a trellis. And all sorts of herbs can be grown in pots indoors or out.

If you need ideas for your small space try a Pinterest or a Web search. The options found there are so plentiful they may overwhelm you. If you want some detailed professional advice on how best to maximize your garden space, check out the books Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space by Mel Bartholomew or Apartment Gardening: Plants, Projects, and Recipes for Growing Food in Your Urban Home by Amy Pennington. Your local county Alabama Cooperative Extension System office and plant nurseries are also great sources of information.

One way or another, you can make space in your life for plants and keep your gardening going no matter where you live.

Worth the Drive: Bayley’s Seafood

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Delectable dining at the home of the West Indies Salad

By Jennifer Kornegay

One of the main draws of a beach trip (at least for me) is the access to an abundance of fabulous fresh seafood. And the saltwater species I enjoy most is crab. Buttery sautéed crab claws, fried soft-shell crab, crisp-tender crab cakes, herb-laden crab stuffing piled on top of a blackened fish filet: They’re all respectable options.

But the best way to eat this sideways-skittering crustacean is in a uniquely Alabama dish, the West Indies Salad. It’s basically a bowl of crabmeat, lightly embellished with vinegar, onion and oil. Only in this unadulterated preparation can you truly taste the crab’s delicate sweetness and appreciate its silken texture. And only at Bayley’s Seafood Restaurant in Theodore can you eat the original incarnation of this treat that’s become an icon of coastal cuisine.

Bayley’s is a humble spot, a low ceilinged, tiled-wall seafood restaurant of the old school that puts the bulk of its attention and energy into its food. Bill Bayley Sr. opened the first version of Bayley’s in 1947, but closed it in the early 1980s. His son, Bill Jr., who had no desire to be in the restaurant business, was working in the construction industry at the time.

“My wife and I would go out and eat seafood, and I’d bite into a fried shrimp and get nothing but the batter, and I thought, ‘I could do better than this,’” he said. So he did. “I decided to re-open the place. That was 20-something years ago.”

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He stuck with what had worked before, adding a few items, but keeping most of the classics, including West Indies Salad. “It knew we had to keep that, and boy, we sell a lot of it,” he said.

He shared how the now-famous dish made it onto Bayley’s menu. “It was back in the ‘40s. Dad just whipped some up one day and brought it out to a customer, a dentist from Mobile, for him to try,” Bill said. “He loved it and told dad to put it on the menu. Now, you can get it other places, but it’s not like ours.”

His dad never hid the recipe. He even gave it to the local Junior League, and they published it in their cookbook. But Bill Jr. is right. While you can get West Indies Salad plenty of places, it’s not quite the same. Bill explained why.

“The key is using cider vinegar. You can’t use white vinegar,” he said. “And you have to put the oil in first, then the vinegar, otherwise the oil all goes to the top.”

Just-caught crabmeat from the Gulf is another essential ingredient, and that’s all Bayley’s ever uses. “I never use frozen crab or crab that came from somewhere else,” Bill said.

Sometimes, this can prove problematic. “If I can’t get it, I don’t serve crab,” he said. “I had some folks walk about the other night because we couldn’t get crab due to the weather.”

West Indies Salad is definitely Bayley’s signature dish, but it’s not the only thing worth eating there. In the 1960s, Bill Sr. came up with and served his lucky customers another first: fried crab claws. Today, they are Bayley’s bestseller. Other crab creations include the crab omelet, baked crab and crabmeat au gratin.

Not so crazy about crab? Go for the fried oysters. Wearing a scant coat of seasoned cornmeal, each bite delivers a burst of briny deliciousness.

Or you could opt for fish. “We sell a lot of flounder, but we only do it whole, no filets, and we do a whole flounder stuffed with our crabmeat stuffing that’s pretty unique and something my dad taught me how to make,” he said. “And we do fresh mullet too, but those are the only two fish we do.”

Next time you’re near the beach, make your way over to Bayley’s, an institution of good eats in our state. And order the West Indies Salad, an Alabama original that’s still done best at the place that did it first.



Bayley’s Seafood Restaurant
10805 Dauphin Island Pkwy
Theodore, AL
(251) 973-1572

Alabama Gardens: Gardening to-do list

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‘Listing into Summer’

Developing a gardening to-do list

Katie Jackson

This time of year, as the number of gardening chores and opportunities increases with the temperatures, trying to keep up with all the garden projects we want and need to tackle can be difficult. But there is a special, almost magical, gardening tool that always comes to my rescue: the gardening to-do list.

For me, a to-do list helps weed through the clutter and, when I get to check things off as complete, offers me such a sense of satisfaction. And though I firmly believe that list-making should be a personal endeavor, sometimes it helps to have examples as starting points, so here’s a glimpse at how I “organize” my to-do lists—and a glimpse into how list-obsessed I am.

I begin my listing process in January by developing an annual garden manifesto that chronicles all the things I’d LIKE to accomplish in the coming year (which is not to say I WILL accomplish them). I also keep a short, cryptic month-to-month list that reminds me of the major things I need to focus on each month. For example, January is my “Plan and Prune” month, April is “Plant and Fertilize” month and November is my month to “Winterize and Organize.”

I post both the manifesto and month-to-month list near my desk as constant reminders of what’s coming up and I also keep copies of each in a spiral-bound notebook (I still like to hold paper in my hand, though more tech-savvy folks might do this on a computer) and use that notebook to make and keep more lists—yes, MORE lists.

Among those additional lists is a masterlist of all the typical garden chores that might occur in any month, which I divide into five categories: Prepare, Plant, Maintain, Monitor and Enjoy. Not a very clever list, but one I can use throughout the year to develop my monthly plans. Here’s my philosophy behind each category:

Prepare. I list all the things I need to do before I get started with a project or chore such as work and enhance the soil, get equipment and tools ready for use or select and buy plants, seeds or other supplies.

Plant. This category includes a list of all the things I want to plant during the year including fruits, vegetables and ornamentals, and a list of general planting dates for each of them.

Maintain. Here I keep a list of all the chores that are likely to be necessary in the coming month—water, mow, prune, mulch, weed, deadhead and the like.

Monitor. In this category I list all the things I need to keep an eye out for during each month—bugs, weeds, disease, nutrient deficiencies, new growth, ripening fruits and vegetables, etc.

Enjoy. This is actually my favorite category. It’s where I list ways to enjoy the garden more, including events I may want to attend, the dates of full moons (I love looking at the garden in moonlight), names of books or publications I may want to read and all the things I should appreciate each season in the garden such as birds, blooms, changes in weather, etc.


 

April Gardening Tips

  • Clean out garden sheds and storage areas.
  • Begin to mow lawns regularly as needed.
  • Sod new lawn areas.
  • Plant summer and fall-blooming bulbs, summer annuals and bedding plants.
  • Plant berries (strawberries, blackberries and raspberries).
  • Start seed for heat-loving vegetable crops such as beans, corn and melons.
  • Transplant tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and sweet potatoes into the garden.
  • Get a copy of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System publication “Planting Guide for Home Gardening in Alabama” to help determine planting dates for summer fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep track of rainfall amounts to determine the moisture needs of your plants.
  • Feed the birds.
  • Celebrate Earth Day (April 22) and National Arbor Day (April 24).