By Jamie Balke
Explorebigsky.com Columnist

S.O.S, Martha Stewart follow-up: Victory!

In previous columns, I described my fledgling efforts to turn my black thumb green. It began with guilt over watching languishing plants wither on my scorching west-facing porch, and a fear of repeating my mistakes. This propelled me to the library, where I began diligent research on container gardening, as well as gardening in the West.

The words of a person I loved and respected followed me as I embarked on this endeavor. She once told me that if you are going to do something, do it the right way. I believe she was trying to convince me to do a better job of washing her dishes at the time. She was like a grandma to me, and her name was Florence.

I’m happy to report my gardening efforts have been a smashing success. Rather than watching plants gradually shrivel and die at my doorstep, I’ve enjoyed puttering about my porch, smelling flowers, pulling the occasional weeds and plucking spent blooms from vibrant, healthy plants.

Parsley that I started from seed for the benefit of my pet, Joey the guinea pig, and chives grown for my benefit, have both grown well.

As I’d hoped, purple coneflower and lavender thrived in the hot and sunny conditions. While I waited for these flowers to come into their own, I returned to the nursery in search of some instantly gratifying annuals. The end result is a container bursting at the seams with marigolds and bright red begonia blossoms. Florence planted marigolds.

The most recent porch development has been the rampant growth and blossoming of several dwarf sunflower plants I started from seed. I find this to be exciting, particularly after last year when I planted flower seeds that never sprouted and spent the summer watering pots of dirt. All recent successes on the patio pale in comparison to the out-of-control strawberry plants.

The strawberries have gone berserk. Taking over the entire available space in the pot and sending cascading runners onto the porch, they’ve yielded fruit bursting with a flavor that’s intensely sweet and tart. The runners fall onto the barren planks of the patio, and I wish I had a huge garden bed where they could spread.

Plans for next year are already in the works. The first step will be another trip to the library, which will hopefully yield a beginner’s knowledge of how to grow hops, as well as information on the finer points of carrot gardening. This way, I hope to contribute ingredients to my friends’ home brewing efforts as well as garden fresh carrots to feed Joey’s addiction.

I’m pleased to say with the best intentions of doing something properly and a small amount of research, what began as a casual interest in gardening is becoming a dedicated hobby. I like to think Florence would have approved.

Jamie Balke believes her thumb is becoming a brighter shade of green.