Friday, July 15, 2011

remembering the pleasure of gardening

Love that volunteer basil!

the pumpkin vine that took over the world!

bean pole teepee

these tomatoes are going to be huge!
At the end of last years gardening season, I was discouraged and frustrated. I can't remember why, but I think I had many grand plans and few of them came to fruition. As I faced this coming year, I wanted to get back to the pleasure that gardening brings me. And I think I have found it again. Here is how :

1) Low expectations. I knew this summer would involve lots of travel and that my children would need special attention with their needs. I didn't set out to grow more or bigger or lusher anything. I just wanted to get something in the ground, throw a little water on it and let whatever happened happen. So I didnt buy plants with grand expectations that I would feed our entire family with one small plot.

2) Plan for beauty. As I laid out out the garden plan, I decided to try a little of the idea of edible landscape idea. I planned the paths to go in a diamond shape, not my usual 4 block. I made our bean pole teepee the center of the diamond and lined the paths with onions. It never became the amazing gardens you find in this book, but they did look nicer than normal gardens.

3)Make it child friendly. I want the garden to be a place where the boys come to see whats growing and where I can send them to help out too. As they get older, they can tell most weeds from veggies (clover abounds in our garden), but I have found that using cardboard or newspaper as a mulch between plants helps them know where it is OK to step. The know and tell their friends, "Only step on the stones or the cardboard." This has made me much less stressed to have them out there with me.

4) Volunteer appreciation. At the end of the gardening season, I just pull out as many weeds as i can and dig under all the other plant matter. I add in some compost and manure and park the chicken coop over the garden as it sleeps in the winter. This lazy-boy system resulted in a ton of volunteers, or plants that just come up on their own from seeds fallen to the ground. I have 3-4 tomato plants that I never planted and a HUGE pumpkin/ gourd/ something taking over the back part. It is great. No work and all the fruits of labor.

So this year I go out in my garden when the weather is not too hot and I pull some weeds. I dont fret about bugs or yields, I just inhale that magical basil and tomato fragrance. I enjoy the shadows dancing on the plants and give thanks for my little square of paradise.


  1. Re: volunteer viney veggies (gourds, pumpkins, squashes) - I think they often cross-pollinate and their offspring will be very viney without bearing any fruit. Or - if you've had ornamentals in there, you might get interesting combinations the following year, but not edible stuff. This is Bryon-confirmed :)

  2. When I first saw the pictures I was going to say: no fair bragging!!! But then I read the rest of the post and will take it into consideration when I (hopefully) plant a garden again next year. The best part is, not giving up!!!

  3. hey adam, why do you have to be the garden party pooper? i love my wild vines, and the green spheres are turning orange, so they will be pumpkins!

    April, I could tell you about my first attempts at gardening on a balcony with no direct sunlight. I really do believe there is as much to learn from the process as the product. I am praying that the lessons you are learning bear much fruit.

  4. I gave up on vegetables this year and planted flowers instead.* The truth of the matter is, I needed the flowers more than the food! I do a lot of icon-decorating during the summer feasts and could have used three times as many flowers as I had last year. Plus, if I have enough then I don't feel bad decimating the beds for flowers for the house. And I really, really like flowers in the house. (:

    (And my garden food turns out awful!)

    *Actually, I did plant two sweet potatoes yesterday I had allowed to germinate on my kitchen windowsill, but I'm hoping for some nice vines.