I can only vaguely remember the vegetable garden that I once helped my Mom take care of in our back yard growing up. If I recall correctly, it was a short lived endeavor - a "can we pleeeease" project for a bored out of school kid - and I think that we made it through only one harvest before the good plants wilted and the weeds took over. The watering and weeding and pinching the crawly critters off of the plants was worth it for that crop of crunchy green peppers and sweet cherry tomatoes, but when the next year rolled around, I took a pass on the garden and moved on with the hard work of becoming a disinterested tween.
Somehow though, that experience must have been formative for me and my interest in growing things never really went away. As an adult, I still don’t like the crawly critters, but I do love gardening. I like getting my hands dirty and the smell of earth and mulch. I delight in the first green shoots of our irises that pop up in our flower garden each Spring and cherish the peony blooms that open so majestically for the ants and bees to play in. I feel accomplished when our hydrangeas grow bigger and stronger each year, yielding bountiful bouquets of puffy blue flowers for our table. Yet, amazingly, six years of tending to shrubs and flowers has passed without an attempt at growing food to eat. In that time, having an edible garden felt wasteful with just the two of us eating, and it didn’t make sense to try our hand at vegetables when we were either participating in a CSA or completely satisfied with the take home from our local farmer’s markets. But now, twenty years after that summer gardening experiment, Chris and I have supper club guests to feed and have finally planted our first vegetable garden together. Or, rather, let me be more truthful about that...Chris and I have had our first vegetable garden built and planted for us.
Last month, a couple of the good farmers of The Food Project came out to our house to build and plant four raised bed gardens in our backyard. While we watched and envisioned the bounty-to-be, the boxes were built, positioned in a sunny corner of the yard, filled with soil, planted with seeds and small plants, marked with popsicle-stick signs, and watered. Fearing immediate bunny destruction, Chris rushed out to the hardware store for fence supplies, and by the time the sun started to set, the whole thing was done. Just like that, I was immediately transported back to that one-summer garden of my childhood. As I looked at the delicate little plants, I felt responsible and protective, excited and hopeful, fearful of failure and yet still able to taste success. The next morning, I took care of the "breakfast watering" and felt both peaceful and content watching the water do perfect drip-drop acrobatics off the leaves on its trip down to the roots. As my friend KM would sign and remark, "Aaah, Nature!"
Now, after four weeks of sun and water, most of the plants are looking pretty good. We lost a couple of squash and parsley plants, but the carrots and beets have sprouted, the heads of kale and salad mix are going strong, the tomatoes are getting taller every day, and the eggplants are flowering. I love it all and can’t wait to pick and eat our first home-grown vegetable, whatever it may be. Stay tuned for updates this summer!