My vision was to make this the summer of learning how to garden. I was motivated by an obsession with peas–I love fresh peas so I thought, I’m going to grow fresh peas. Then the fantasy started taking on a life of its own – I could have those little French beans (haricots vert), I could have bushels of strawberries, my own raspberry bush–lots of tomatoes and edible flowers. My goal was to make a really beautiful edible garden.
I found a woman in my area who is a great gardener and decided to hire her to teach me. She’s awesome, she prepared the soil–(I did not)–already I was one iteration away from my learning path. It just seemed easier, since she offered, to just let her prepare the soil so the yield would be assured. OMG, was I thrilled…so of course I said, “Yes!” I did feel, however, that once the soil was prepped by my teacher–I had given up a piece of “my garden.” Did you ever take a watercolor class and look at your sloppy, drippy mess and then the teacher comes over, and with two waves of the brush on YOUR canvas, the painting becomes something you could be proud of? (But you do know, it’s not really yours.) Nevertheless, I talked myself off the picket fence and made peace with myself.
Ok, so what to plant? I had a few “leftovers” from last year in the garden and we discussed what could be saved–ahhh–the strawberries, the parsley, the rosemary, and…you know the refrain. I had a little lilac left over and that was it. Time to create the list and shop. I was psyched! On my own I bought my cukes, and tomats, and peas and beans–I bought peppers and nasturtiums and cilantro and basil. I had lettuces and kale and parsley galore. Those little starter pots cost me an outrageous $200 but that was ok–I was investing in my learning and I would eventually be able to feed the family from my little plot.
She showed me how to plant in an orderly fashion. Oh this garden was gorgeous!–it had a grid, an order that I’d never been able to create on my own. I felt in charge–I knew what was what in my garden without looking at the labels. She told me this garden didn’t have enough sun but I had no other place for it–and decided it was good enough. Last year I had some tomatoes and basil and herbs so perhaps with her love and care this would yield.
Then the rains came–it rained for what seemed like three weeks from mid-June through mid-July. The kale was holey, the strawberry leaves spread everywhere but some bunny or bird had burrowed under or over my fence and not a one was left for me. The peas–oh, the peas – three pea pods I harvested–three pea pods filled with five peas each – that’s 15 peas so far. Everyday I look at the garden and wonder what did I do wrong? She warned me…not enough sun–too much water – this was a tough summer and I need to move the garden.
Then I got a great idea–the garden looked so sad, so we planted lots of pretty flowers–a garden face-lift! Every day I was greeted by the smell of a lily and the lovely, lovely Cosmos, Purple Cone Flower, and Coreopsis–not edible but my garden was now blushing with happiness. Suddenly a tomato appeared, the lettuce leaves grew and the basil leaves doubled in size. (I think they needed those flowers to lift them out of their sad state–of course this is not rational but alas, people talk to their plants and maybe flowers talk to food – I think mine did.)
With just six weeks left until Labor Day, I’m thinking there could be some real food coming–I’m talking to the peas, the beans…and the Lily–and I think the Lily is talking to all of them. I’m willing the food from the soil – I’ve got skin in the game here and the depleted gardening funds to show for it, but I’m hopeful. I think that makes me a real gardener: a lot of hope, love, prayer, water and sun! I think I’ve learned something and although I just picked up a little cilantro at the farm stand today (painful as that was), I’m sure that there’s some goodies in my garden I can snip to round out tonight’s menu.
In summary, I am ever hopeful, fully invested and tirelessly committed. As I acknowledge my failures and eat my successes, there are metaphors to be harvested all summer…so long as I’ve got some good dirt to work with.