Confessions of a Mad Gardener
Might I have a bit of earth?
"Might I have a bit of earth?" This simple and sincere request from The Secret Garden has echoed throughout my life. Everywhere I have lived, I have had plants. A few places, I was not allowed a garden plot by landlords or office managers, so I had indoor plants (namely, spider plants and philodendron). My soul withers when not around nature, and goes in search of growing things.
Some of my friends call my gardening obsessive; I call it a way of life.
My family on both sides were farmers three generations ago, and that legacy lives on. As a toddler, I spent time with my grandpa playing in the garden while he worked planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting. I always had dirt beneath my fingernails from imitating him, and ate fresh fruits and vegetables without a fuss, even requesting them! Grandpa had a compost pile which he took care of very diligently, teaching us grandchildren the value of recycling and the place of everything in the world.
My cousins and I picked cherries, raspberries, pears, apples, plums, and all sorts of other fruits and vegetables every year. We helped make pies, freeze berries, and make fruit leather. We watered, weeded, and composted, learning how to nurture the earth so that it produced food and flowers.
Sometimes, we saw the balance of nature in a different way. Grandpa planted figs, and put fences around them so that the rabbits would not eat the tiny seedlings. Every so often, down into the garden he would go with a shovel, to chase off the rabbits or other invaders! Cherries and plums got netted to deter the starlings and jays, and Grandpa kept up a constant battle with the crows.
My first gardens
My first garden of my own was very small. I planted strawberries: four or five plants of Quinault Everbearing in the window box. I watched them, watered them, took care of them. I was so proud when the first flowers appeared, then the green berries. The day that the first berry was ready, I came out to pick it, and stared, horrified! Someone had beaten me to it! A squirrel was sitting there, eating my berry right off the vine. I normally love squirrels, and have even half-tamed them, but I ran at that one, shouting and waving my arms. It took off with berry in mouth.
The other berries ripened, and were delicious, but I kept on guard for that squirrel. The next year, "volunteer" strawberries came up from where moldy berries had dropped, and I had a whole planter full of green and red.
Over the years I lived with my mom, my garden grew. I planted containerized herbs, learning the hard way when my mint planted in the ground took over the whole garden box. I had tomatoes of many varieties: Red Roma, Cherry, Pear, Big Boy, and Yellow Taxi. I learned to grow onions, and made my own salsa. Friends got presents of frozen salsa for Christmas and birthdays, and herbs for their own cooking.
My giant garden
I eventually moved to an apartment with a communal garden. Each unit had its own garden plot in a raised-bed, organic area. I planted tomatoes, zucchini, blueberries, strawberries, herbs of many kinds, and, yes, brussels sprouts. My garden, though only 5x5', yielded twelve tomatoes from one plant alone (I planted three varieties), sprouts that looked like palm trees, and foot-and-a-half long zucchini. I tried acorn squash the next year, and yielded ones I had to hold in two hands! This sounds like a "fish story", but it's absolutely real. The other gardeners had the same results, and we all shared our bounty.
Husband - 3, Garden - 0
My recent gardening has gone by the wayside, despite my repeated attempts. Every time I get a plant and set it on the porch, intending to plant it at the next opportunity, my husband either decides that it looks ugly or it's in the way. He moves the pot to another location, where it dies without the proper sunlight. After three different occasions, ending with me crying over the dead plants, he has promised me a raised-bed garden plot. "Might I have a bit of earth?"