I'm really new at this whole gardening thing. My mom was always pretty bad at it, and as I tend to kill house plants, I always figured I'd be bad at gardening too. And I live in a pretty hostile environment for the kind of gardening I grew up with. When I was a kid, my mom and dad tilled up a square of rich, black soil in our Minnesota backyard. They grew squash and zucchini and things like that. Once, my mom ordered strawberry plants to try. She planted them upside down. It didn't work out.
(These are German Strawberry tomatoes - an heirloom variety. I bought the plant already situated upside down in a hanging pot, so we could get some immediate and encouraging results)
When we moved to Florida, it seemed that the sandy, acidic soil and constant presence of bugs and other pests turned the practicality of a backyard garden into an expensive hobby for people who liked to experiment with extreme techniques.
(My pink lemon tree finally has a few blossoms. It dropped all its buds last year when we put it in the ground. That's to be expected, I guess. But it sure took forever to bloom and we thought that it might not make it.)
And I pretty much never gave it another thought. My mom was bad at it, the conditions were stacked against me, I don't like to get dirty or sweat...my list of reasons to avoid gardening went on forever. But Andrew's science class planted gardens this year. He came home one day carrying one extra, orphaned jalapeno plant and a handful of beet and radish seeds. We let him de-grass a small square of our yard (ha! as if we had any grass in the sandbox we call our "back yard") and plunk his treasures into the ground.
The weirdest thing happened. They bloomed.
They sprouted little baby peppers. They survived two freezes and continued to bloom. I made some salsa with them. We ate the radishes up in a salad. It was very satisfying. And we really hadn't done much "special" work with them. And I started to think, "I can do this."
So, I spent some time reading about small-space gardening and stumbled into some interesting concepts. Square Foot Gardening and growing upside-down vegetables and using trellises in unthinkable ways (cantaloupes and pumpkins!) and urban homesteading and...and...and...I think I stumbled into something I love.
(The lettuce is almost ready for our first salad)
(baby beets - isn't that red just beautiful?)
And I think I love it because it isn't just another hobby for me to do alone, curled up and lost inside my own head.
Because I knew why my mom wasn't a good gardener, I knew why I wouldn't be a good gardener. She's not patient, and neither am I. I give up too easily sometimes. I lose interest when I don't see results. I get tired of the drudgery, the sameness of watering and weeding. Some people find beauty in routine. I do not. So, I asked my husband to help me. My patient, rock-steady husband. He was born, I think, to bring balance to the universe as a counterpoint to me.
We are complete opposites, and to say we have few common interests is an understatement. That isn't usually a problem - we get along just fine. (Have you seen how hot he is? Dang.)
But sometimes, a girl aches to feel like she has a partner in something.
I have tried to pull him alongside me on many adventures. After a while, I just get tired of tugging and go my own way while he shakes his head at me and smiles a bit. But this time? He said yes. He's been out in the yard building supports for me to hang my upside-down veggie pots. He's remembered to water when I would have forgotten. He even held my hand across the dinner table on Saturday when we didn't make it to the nursery to finish buying plants.
I cried because I'd had some money for it on Saturday and knew I wouldn't have money for it next Saturday. And then it'd be weeks before we had a free Saturday for plant-buying and then it would be too late in the season.
He held my hand and he told me it was okay - that doing this as a family was important to him too. That we could go Sunday instead, even though we really didn't have time. We would make time. And that meant so much.
My Left Brain says that these are just some plants and I will probably kill some of them and be very frustrated with the process of growing food sometimes. But my Right Brain says this is connection and independence and life.
And we did go Sunday. I bought two fig trees and a whole lot more tomatoes. We will be swimming in tomatoes. And all the buds and blooms and tiny veggies that are filling up my pots and making my neighbor's bees very happy give me an odd sense of hope. I'm not a natural optimist. I have to work really hard at it. But I think I understand now why people who garden are really crazy about it.
(Thank you, Susan, for pointing me to that wonderful little nursery. I could spend hours browsing his 200 varieties of tomatoes! And it was such perfect timing that he has been growing his veggies exactly how I wanted to grow mine - upside down - and could hand me all the advice I needed to get started!)