Gardening - My first garden
Gardening can be a relaxing and rewarding experience. You don’t really need LOTS of skill and experience or a number of “special gardening tools” to get started either. My very first memories of gardening involve working in our backyard vegetable garden with my father. I remember helping my father with that garden. I was amazed at how skilled he was at using a shovel to turn the soil. We didn’t have any fancy tools or machinery, it was just a garden shovel and a claw rake to help level things out. I was amazed at how deeply he could bury that shovel into the ground and how level he would get the soil after churning things up. We would put grass clippings and leaves from our trees out in the garden plot and then dig and turn the soil by hand with a shovel. I did my best to help out but could never quite get my shovel as deep as he could.
The turning of the soil occurred in two stages. The first of those was in the fall before winter set in. That’s obviously when the leaves would fall and when grass clippings from the summer which had been piled into a corner of the garden area were dried out and ready to be spread out and “turned under”. Leveling things out at that stage wasn’t a priority. Getting the items appropriately turned into the soil was the focus. In order for those items we were turning to appropriately decompose over the winter, they had to get “under the ground” for the winter. Today you’d refer to what we were doing as organic farming or natural composting efforts. Back then we just looked at this as the natural thing to do to feed the soil and put back what our garden took out of the soil.
When early spring time came, it was back out there with the shovels. It was time to turn the soil again to allow for all of that decomposed vegetation to be “stirred up”. This time around the focus was definitely on stirring but with equal measure put towards leveling everything out for planting. Again, I was amazed at the skill my father demonstrated in getting it leveled out with a simple garden rake. Those early experiences with dad in that family garden are definitely ones that set me on a lifelong interest in gardening.
First Garden of My Own
Let’s take a fast forward to my early adventures in gardening after leaving home. My first personal gardening effort happened shortly after I married my wife. We were in college and had access to a small plot of ground near the apartment we were living in. The thought of gardening was based both on my experience in gardening as a youth and the thought of supplementing our menu with food grown ourselves. Given that we didn’t pay for utilities for the apartment, the additional cost of a shovel and a rake and some seeds and/or plant starts didn’t seem to be a very big investment to get started.
That first garden was focused largely on tomatoes, cucumbers (for pickles) and zucchini squash. We were living in Rexburg Idaho at the time. That area of the country has a VERY short growing season! Getting an early start when the threat of heavy frost had ended was crucial. The variety of tomatoes and other vegetables that we selected were based largely on the time to maturity of the item in question. Since that time I have pretty consistently selected Early Girl tomatoes. We have had success with them over the years as we have moved from Idaho to Michigan and most recently to Arizona.
Simple Garden Tools
My current garden here in Arizona usually consists of Early Girl Tomatoes, Anaheim Peppers, Leaf Lettuce, Carrots, Yellow Onions, Green Onions and some herbs (Parsley and Basil). I also have a couple of fruit trees (Orange and Grapefruit) now that I’m in Phoenix. I still don’t have any “specialty gardening tools”. My primary tools of choice are still a garden shovel and claw rake. I have done a bit more with regard to composting vegetation from my yard along with table scraps and shredded cardboard and household waste like junk mail and shredded paper. For more on that topic please see my posts related to composting.
I also invested several years ago in a simple food dehydrator. The single parsley and basil plants that I have produce more product than we can use fresh. We have dehydrated Parsley, Basil, bell peppers, Anaheim peppers and even green onions for use during the year when the plants aren’t producing. My wife wasn’t too sure about the dehydrated herbs the first year, but has since strongly encouraged me to continue the practice because she really enjoys using the home made spices during the year.
Nothing quite like FRESH produce
My family loves to eat the produce from our garden. Nothing tastes quite like a fresh tomato, carrot, leaf lettuce, pepper or onion. Fresh herbs in your meals definitely add a different taste and even the home preserved herbs are hard to beat. Not only has my family benefited over the years but many of my neighbors have too as I share excess produce with them.
Gardening has many healthy benefits. Even if you are not interested in the health side of the equation, the improved taste of fresh produce and the joy of seeing plants grow and bear useful produce is reason enough to get started in the adventure of gardening yourself.