At the beginning of the season, I was very hesitant about our garden this year. If Mark had agreed, I probably would have thrown the towel in on the whole thing and purchased a bunch of rolls of sod instead of seeds for the space. This is the fifth year we’ve planted, and, over the past three harvests, I’ve learned a few less than pleasant things about myself when it comes to gardening.
There was the first year. It was kind of haphazard, planted quickly in the middle of renovations and left to neglect. But the carrots! The carrots did so well, we were eating carrot soup for weeks. Gardening seemed like a piece of cake.
I was even more ready for it for the second year, eager to get going. I started our tomatoes and jalapenos in February, silly me, and ended up with bumper crops that were way too big for their own good by the end of April. I even learned about hardening plants off and was thrilled when those plants thrived. We moved our garden from along one fence to the back of the property, built a pretty split-rail fence and put in six raised beds. We did a lot of work that first spring. In the end, we complained about the number of tomatoes we had and allowed so many of them to rot on the vine. Our carrots – which had done so well a year before – were attacked by spiders, so I just allowed them to turn back to compost in the ground. Our beans? We wanted pole beans, but ended up with bush beans, and by the time we realized they were ready to pick, they were already to big. Our lettuce bolted. We let our beds go to weeds.
Our third year, I approached the whole thing with much less eagerness. We were in the middle of renovations on the attic at the time, and the winter had been long, so by the time we rolled up our sleeves and got to work on the soil, we were excited for a change in pace. We thought we could learn from the year before. We planted fewer tomatoes, and just bought them instead of starting them really early ourselves. We carefully selected pole beans instead of bush beans. We bought a sprinkler. We tried container gardening. We gave some of our plants more room to grow and allowed some butternut squash to take over some good square footage. Once again, by July, we let our beds go to weeds.
Last year, our fourth year. Well, what do you expect? I was 8 months pregnant during planting season. I had zero desire to pull weeds. But, we planted anyway, and we didn’t even attempt to reign in our ambition. And then, there was Isabel. We let our beds go to weeds, and yet we harvested plenty of beans, plenty of carrots, plenty of tomatoes, even some lettuce and zucchini.
Now, here we our. The fifth year of our garden. From all of this, I have come to realize that I do not have the dedication to garden. Most years, I start off so excited to plant, so excited to see what will come out of the earth for us to eat. Many years I think about the money we might be able to save if we can actually coax enough produce from our land. We try something new every year, learning along the way. And yet, we lack follow through. We aren’t consistent enough with weeding. We aren’t on top of things enough to get the timing for harvesting right. Half the things we plant lead to nothing.
It can be so frustrating.
So, at the beginning of the spring, I was hesitant. I didn’t want to end the growing season feeling like a neglectful failure again. Mark, however, wanted a garden and insisted it would be his summer project. We bought tomato plants, and jalapeno plants, seeds for beets, carrots, radishes, corn, beans, kale, and broccoli. We planted everything. I continued to doubt.
But, despite our neglectful nature as gardeners, our garden didn’t let us down and, as I look over our history, I realize that it never has. Seeds know what they’re doing. If they can, plants will grow and thrive without the help of a gardener. They don’t need us to grow. They provide so selflessly.
These days, the tomatoes, which have collapsed on the tomato cages into a massive tangle of tomato bush, are turning red. The jalapenos are ready to harvest. The radishes are ready to be taken out and replaced with something else, spinach maybe. The carrots are ready for thinning. The kale is ready to be eaten. The beans never came up. The broccoli is doing I don’t know what. And the corn has little cobs on it, cobs I have very little hope for, but am happy to see. Every year has some success.
Every year, we will plant a garden.