Green Thumb

Something I've mentioned here but never gone into detail about is the fact that this year, for the first time in my life, I've fallen in love with gardening! I've never gardened before, never even planted a flower, as far as I can remember. But I live with a pro gardener (with a garden so big we call it a farm), and he pointed out this spring that we had two empty raised beds in our yard, if I wanted to use them. I said yes!, even though I had no idea what that would entail.

So, in March, I began. I started with just one bed, since it was the only one with dirt in it, and I was wary of my ability to grow anything (I'm one of those people who can't remember to water the sole plant in my office). At my roommates suggestion, and with a book on hand about regional gardening (available at the local Grange Co-op), I planted little broccoli transplants (small, beginner plants), onion sets (again, small beginner plants), and some seeds (chard, kale, and carrots). There were some cold nights in March, and I was scared that the frost would ruin my garden before it even began. But somehow everything seemed pretty unscathed, and I breathed a sigh of relief when spring felt like it was here for good.

All the rain paid off, and by April I was seeing some progress! Little carrot sprouts, chard and kale were popping up, and my broccoli was looking super hearty. It was still so rainy (yay, Oregon!) so I didn't even have to water the garden much - I mainly just weeded occasionally, and kept an eye on things.

By May, things needed to be thinned (photo 1) (l to r: carrots, kale and chard, onions, broccoli). At first I was sad about this, because I didn't want to get rid of a single little plant in my garden. But, once again, my roomie came to the rescue and pointed out that I could eat the baby veggies - so I did! I threw the baby onions (photo 2) and baby carrots into the oven with some olive oil and salt and they were great. Oh, and this is also when I realized I had bought white carrot seeds - that was a surprise! But in a fortuitous turn, the white carrots turned out to be specifically recommended as baby carrots, so it all worked out.

By June it was looking like a real garden (photo 3, below)! The only duds were the little chards. They grew into tiny plants but were stunted there. Notice how you can't really see them in the photo? That's because they never flourished. I don't know if they just got overshadowed by the abundant kale or were just attacked by bugs, but the chard never really took off. By this time, I had pulled three of the broccoli, and planted 2 pepper plants in their place.

Since things seemed to be going well, I expanded into the second bed in early June. I decided to plant tomatoes and peppers (beginning with small plants, not seeds), and call it my "salsa garden." They took off immediately, the tomatoes sort of exploding!

4 months in to my gardening adventure, this is the state of the garden now (mid-July):

Bed 1 (The Original): the carrots, onions, kale, chard, & broccoli have all been harvested and eaten! The broccoli was the first thing I ever ate that I had grown myself, and maybe the biggest treat - unlike store-bought broccoli, even the stems were dark green and delicious. And it was such a hearty and beautiful plant!

For the second round of bed 1, I planted (photo 4, l to r) poppies and carrots (seeds, currently invisible), lemon basil (plants - they smell so good!), onions (seeds, currently invisible), peppers (plants), tiny beets, tiny cilantro (both started from seed, starting to come through).

Bed 2 (photo 5): In a change, bed 1 now looks empty and bed 2 is plentiful. The tomatoes are exploding (first time gardener lesson: don't wait too long to cage those suckers), and the peppers are looking good too (there's also a lone little cilantro in there).
Also, as you can see, my roommate just installed the drip irrigation system, which is great. It doesn't cover all the watering needs but is a good constant source of moisture.

Anyways, it's been an awesome adventure, and there are so many things I've come to love about gardening - it's a really relaxing thing to do at the end of the day (just pulling weeds and smelling the plants); it's such a treat to be able to bring veggies you've grown yourself to bbqs and dinner parties (I definitely make way too big a point about how they are home grown - embarrassing); it's given me more respect for the fruit and vegetables I buy at the store or farmers market; and, it's made me excited about helping others learn to grow their own veggies. On that final note, I'm working with the Sunday school director at my church to start a garden there with the kids, and I'm starting to volunteer next week with a local farm-to-school program. Who knows, maybe I'll transition from lawyer to community gardener some day!

(Sorry for the wonky formatting, I'm not great with uploading photos). Thanks for reading, and for sharing your gardening stories and tips!



Ashley said...

so happy to read this! The smell of dirt and sitting out in the sunshine, weeding, reminds me of growing up on the farm! thank you!

Rose said...

Thanks for sharing!I've always admired people who have an edible garden.I've always wanted to have one too, but the fact that I live in an apartment prevents me from being able to do so.. :(

Valerie said...

Your garden looks terrific. We've had such poor gardening weather here (eastern foothills of the Cascades in Washington) that we've given up on tomatoes and peppers. But the herbs are exploding and the garlic is nearly ready to harvest. Gardening is a life-long delight, and feel free to make a point about home-grown! Most people really appreciate it.