Every year I plant a tiny “garden”. I have to call it a “garden” as opposed to garden because it is usually a pretty laughable attempt at horticulture. I am determined to someday be a real gardener. Like many things in my life when I aspire to do something, I just start, and learn as I go along. (This blog is a good example, or see my upcoming triathlon post, that’s another hack activity!) My desire to garden comes from a childhood with a father who was an avid gardener. I grew up in a home where despite our diminutive 1/4-acre urban backyard we had concord grapevines climbing up the side of our garage.
Raspberry bushes lined up in rows along the back fence, five active beehives that produced honey were tucked behind the garage, and rows of assorted vegetable patches lined the rectangular perimeter of the grass.
My father passed away when I was thirteen, and though we helped him in the garden as children, clearly none of his practical gardening tips stuck with me. I was given a love of vegetable gardens though, and a great appreciation for their products, as well as aspirations as an adult to grow my own food. I clearly remember the satisfaction of plucking a plump raspberry off the vine and popping it into my mouth as a kid, or running out to pick a cucumber for my mother to use in that evenings dinner salad.
As a mother I want to pass on to my own children that understanding and appreciation for where food really comes from. Thus, much to my husbands’ frustration, my garden attempts have been going on since we got married and have had homes of our own. Admittedly my gardens have never been pretty, and yes they do become overrun with weeds, but every year, from the tangled mess, I have had the deep satisfaction of picking at least a couple of cucumbers and tomatoes to make a salad with. I use my rosemary picked from the garden on my roasted potatoes, and the basil in tomato mozzarella salad. The sage is sautéed with brown butter to top butternut squash ravioli, and the mint goes into our mojitos. So despite my fumbled attempts at a real garden so far, every year it gives me some small satisfaction.
This year we have green beans growing by folly, the seeds were apparently in the dirt we filled out garden patch with last fall. Just as we went to pull out the wild looking yellow flowered vines as weeds, my daughter exclaimed, “look they are green beans”!! Sure enough they are! We added a few tomato plants, some cucumbers of course, the sage has come back from last year, and despite my daughters attempt to eradicate them thinking they were weeds, a few scallions survived as well. I added a jalapeno pepper plant for good measure, and would still like to add some cilantro and rosemary, but they were out of the plants at the store.
My 9 and 7 year olds were kind enough to help me plant. I was quickly stripped of my gardening gloves and trowel, and as I found myself digging a hole with my bare hands while the two of them scuffled over a tomato plant, I was reminded of why I need to be patient with my gardening goals. Now we just have to sit back and let things grow. I swore I would keep my garden weed free this year, but I most likely won’t. Someday I will be one of those women in a big floppy hat and button down men’s shirt happily digging in my cultivated garden for hours. Until our agrarian future sets in, the occasional harvest of homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers will have to do.
Any of you real gardeners out there have some advice for a novice?