For the last couple of years I have toyed around with the idea of having a garden again. I have not had one in years, or maybe a couple of decades. However, I knew that, should I put in all the work to till up a space, weed, pick rocks, plant and water - it would all be for naught without a cyclone fence and possibly an armed guard 24/7. Between the deer and the turkeys and the rabbits, I could be reasonably certain the critters would have full bellies long before I was able to harvest so much as a grape tomato.
So early this spring I decided on an herb garden on the deck. The herb garden idea was quickly expanded to include a "salsa garden." I later added cucumbers and a few varieties of lettuce. Before I knew it, I had a 6-foot banquet table full of little seed greenhouses.
Here was where I learned my first lesson. Well, two lessons, really. If you are going to start with seeds (which, of course, are cheaper than starting with small plants or seedlings), do not skimp on the seeds themselves or the medium into which those seeds are sown. I started out thinking dirt is dirt. Well, of course that is not the case. I cannot say how many sprouts came up out of that bargain dirt that were not what I planted.
Of course, in the beginning, I had no idea. So I spent some time watering and tending my share of weeds. I also found my share of disappointment in bargain seeds. Not so oddly, all of the Burpee seeds I planted came up. I had more pepper plants in three varieties than I knew what to do with, so I found a home for some of those before they got out of control.
So, those were the first lessons I learned as I re-entered the world of gardening. Later I bought some tomato plants as well as other rosemary, oregano, basil and sage. At that point, I still was not entirely sure which of my herbs was coming up and which little peat pot contained nothing more than weeds, although I had my suspicions. I also bought two kinds of lettuce and a spinach plant. I added several flowers to add some color and was happy to see my morning glories and columbines I planted from seed were going to make it and add to the bouquet.
Needless to say, my little herb garden I envisioned early last spring now takes up the majority of my deck, which is fairly large. I suppose my lesson here is "plan small, plant large." And now that I will have all of these pots already, I am sure I will find something to plant in them for years to come. After all, I would not want to waste the pots and let them sit idle, would I?
A few things went wrong, of course, and are duly noted in my garden journal. My sunflowers seemed doomed from the beginning and did not want to stand up. I was not sure what to do with them, but decided against planting them in the ground where they would surely get eaten. They are still in ridiculously small pots for their size, but I have three of the four plants that seem as though they will eventually sport a big beautiful flower we all recognize as the sunflower.
My spinach went wrong from the beginning. I picked a few leaves once and, from there, it got away from me somehow. It has gone to seed, is tall and spindly and looks nothing like a spinach plant should. But it is interesting, so I keep watering it. Retrospectively, my other leafy greens could do better planted in a bit different manner, which I also noted for next year. My lavender plant, while not a total disappointment, has ceased to grow very much. It is alive and looks healthy, but it is not growing. I am going to have to "google" that one and find out what I am doing wrong or not going.
But there are also successes. I could not have been happier when I saw my first cucumber on one of my two plants. It seems as though the little green guys just appear out of nowhere. My three varieties of peppers are doing well, with small blossoms just peaking out as of this writing.
I have two tomato plants that I also believe are a success. Both are taller than me almost, which, for those who are aware of my vertically-challenged stature, may think is not a big deal. But I think it is cool to see something grow that big from a little three-inch plant. Both the Goliath tomato plant and the grape tomato plant will probably provide much more than I need, so some of that will be given away.
But, I do get to have fried green tomatoes, which was my impetus for even growing large tomatoes in the first place! I have not had fried green tomatoes in years, but I highly recommend them to anyone who has not tried them. I even have a fuchsia that has berries on it! I am not sure I had ever seen fuchsia berries before, although I know my mom always loved those flowers, so I am sure they were there and I just did not pay enough attention.
Overall, for my first garden in decades, I feel pretty successful. There is something about digging in the dirt. There is something about growing things, especially one's own food, that brings us closer to nature. It brings about some sense of, something. Peace, maybe? It definitely brings a sense of accomplishment, but also something deeper that just makes a person feel good. And, not to relive the mistakes again next year, I have kept a fairly accurate gardening journal. I admit I am more thorough with my fishing journal, but there is plenty in the gardening journal that will help me next year as well.
As I was told by Master Gardener Tom Jerow, gardening is experimentation and learning. I will take what I learned this year and add to it the next, hopefully creating an even bigger and better garden.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.