This year I decided to start a small 4×8 organic vegetable garden. I thought by doing this it would force me to be home more. This was before my job was reduced to half time. I knew I needed to slow down and reduce the number of hours I was working and a veggie garden would do that. Veggie gardens require a lot of work…lots of your time…your attention. I equate them with raising children or having a pet neither of which we have. One of the reasons I have preferred perennial gardens is they are very forgiving. They can survive choked with weeds (since I never had enough time to weed) and once established you do not need to water them as long as you plant the right plants for the right conditions. (That lesson is another interesting story I will share at a later time).
I dabbled with growing tomatoes a couple of times. Made all the rookie mistakes-not enough sunlight (my yard was too shady at the old house), soil was too compacted, didn’t pay attention to the plants and any issues they might develop or if they were getting enough water. Needless to say I never had one single tomato grow from any plant. Last year I even tried again this time in big tubs with good soil, full sunlight, healthy plants. I watched over the plants for a few weeks and they grew and flowered-I was going to get some tomatoes! Until one morning when I went to check on them I noticed yellowing leaves at the base of the plants. OK not to worry-just a little plant shock. Happens with new plants right? Then the yellow leaves spread and spread and the fruit didn’t develop and soon I discovered I had early tomato blight. Great. My plants were too far gone. Nothing I could do. Have to chuck it all even the containers if I didn’t want to get blight next year or spread it around. So no tomatoes again.
Well I was determined to make this year different. This year I would get some blasted tomatoes-pleassse! So I read up on veggie gardens, make sure mine had the right soil, enough sunlight and even invested in a raised bed. I drew up plans for what and how I would plant it. I ordered organic seeds-radishes, herbs, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, carrots. Yes I was going to grow this garden from seed-yes even tomato seed. That would require more equipment-a seed starting kit -little mini in-house greenhouse with a heating mat. Now in hindsight I realized I bit off more than I could chew because seed growing is even more time consuming and it must be carefully planned and monitored. I had no clue what I was in for or even what I was doing. But again I researched and set up the seeds to start early. Needless to say I had little seedlings growing quickly, but they just didn’t make much progress. Suddenly many were dying and I was starting over again and reading/researching more. Oh, some need it cooler and some warmer-some need more water and some less-for pity’s sake. OK, let’s just try and grow just the tomatoes and pepper seeds for now, but now I was behind the schedule I had set and these plants were going to be late getting outside.
Fast forward and I started my cold winter vegetables that can be grown from seed-radishes, lettuce and spinach in early spring. I felt pretty proud, but I knew the weather here is iffy in spring so I better find a way to protect them-Voila a row cover! So I ordered a cover for the garden and set it down on the garden and anchored it so it wouldn’t blow away. Now we were cooking and the seeds grew fast. So fast that the cover was laying on the seedlings-this can’t be good for the seedlings. Back to the Internet and of course I need hoops to float the cover over. This was getting to be expensive. Of course remember I am growing my own vegetables organically-very healthy and economic. But you know I was having a ball. I was spending more time with my husband and I was learning something new. And I was tending those veggies every day like a mother hen. Soon I was harvesting my first veggies. Yes there they are in all their abundance in the picture to the right-my first veggies from the garden. If you have never tasted home grown veggies you are missing a treat-the flavor is beyond description. While I didn’t get a big yield, I was happy with what we did grow. It was all about the quality. After all remember this is only a small veggie bed.
By mid May my seedlings were not growing still and I was forced to buy pepper and tomato plants. I planted them and prayed we would have a harvest this year. I even covered them with the row cover for a while. I was taking no chances of any animal or late frost getting them. Once it warmed I replaced the row cover with bird netting. I have rabbits and deer that get into the yard so this was a necessary precaution. The tomatoes flowered but the peppers developed black spot-I used every organic method to fight it, but they never were able to put out fruit. But my tomatoes did. They grew so fast and so heavy with fruit that the tomato cages started breaking. Heavy beautiful fruit that finally ripened in August. What a heavenly smell tomatoes make when growing on the vine. I loved eating warm, fresh picked tomatoes right out of the garden as a kid and now here I was reliving that wonderful memory. We had a beautiful tomato salad every night once they started ripening (It’s an Italian thing). And you know those seedlings -well once I had transplanted them outside in pots they grew and outgrew their pots. I bought tubs to grow them in and in September my organic seed grown peppers put out fruit. They are sitting under the row cover in hopes that an autumn frost can be kept at bay and I can harvest a few peppers soon.
I have loved this experience with the vegetable garden-the glory of the bounty and the pain of losing plants. I have loved it so much I found I need more room for more veggies. We will be putting up a 4×4 bed this fall. The reward far exceeds the labor-it really is a labor of love. Eating the fruits and vegetables you grow. Sharing them with friends (although my husband has a problem sharing our veggies and who can blame him). I feel the need to share them-to share the love we put into each plant and vegetable. After all as Rick Jarow says, “Abundance is not a question of how much one has but of what one’s attitude is toward what one has.” In that regard I have abundance all around me and in all aspects of my life. And isn’t it funny how that abundance grew in my little vegetable garden this year.