So if you’ve been playing along, you’re probably wondering what’s become of my little plot in a community garden. A few months back, I got the brilliant idea to buy into a local community garden with my own little 26 sf plot. Visions of juicy tomatoes danced through my head, chased by melons and squash and oodles of arugula. Oh the things I’d do! I bought my seeds, got them going then ditched those in favor of plant starts. The timing was all off. On site, I shoveled and hauled like a burly construction worker, eagerly planted, watered enthusiastically and waited for something wonderful to happen. Then I had issues.
ALL of my tomatoes plants had blight and had to be pulled. My cucumbers got something called powdery mildew. Visions of my own personal Charentais melon patch shriveled up. God only knows what happened to my zucchini. As I looked around at all the robust, healthy, HUGE plants in the plots around me, I thought … WTF? I may be a tad clueless but shouldn’t my enthusiasm for this project trump that? Apparently not. That big fat tomato heading up my previous post? Garbage. It was depressing. It was disheartening. My aspirations of becoming the Queen of Urban Gardening (ok, maybe Princess?) were in the dumpster next to some withered sad little things I once planted. There are no pictures of this time in my garden life. I call it the brown period.
But I’m a tough cookie. I don’t give up easily. I replanted, crossed my fingers and did a little secret dance that may or may not have involved a shimmy, a grand jete and a two-step kick-ball-change combo when no one was looking. Oh sure, my inexperience caught up with me. It was inevitable. Growing herbs in a window box does not a full-on gardener make. Who knew? But I was aware of my errors. I didn’t water enough. I should have planted more densely. I should have done more research on pest control stuff, those little a-holes. Whatever; shoulda, coulda, woulda. Moving on.
So I overcompensated, more determined than ever to become Ms. Green Jeans. I mulched. A pal gave me some stinky ass fish gut stuff that I mixed with water and drowned my new tomatoes – and I swear, they shot up two feet overnight. I decided to focus on the things I could grow – greens and radishes – and blanketed the empty spaces. I seed bombed the joint. I vowed to figure out what to do about powdery mildew.
You know what? It’s working. Last week, I braved the killer mosquitos to check out what was what. Things were looking good! I had an honest to god harvest. A few peppers, some serranos, a radish (one! ha!), enough arugula and greens for a salad, a bit of swiss chard and pak choi for a stir-fry and best of all … wait for it … tomatoes! I about peed myself in excitement. My Sun Gold cherry tomatoes were just sitting there, on the vine, bright orange and bursting with sweetness. I didn’t have many – less than a dozen – but I ate half of them right then and there and almost sang an aria of joy. I ate the other half in the car, giggling. They didn’t even survive the drive home.
Later, I dressed the rest of my loot with a simple vinaigrette and chewed thoughtfully. It was fantastic. I looked in my bowl and thought “Hot damn! I grew a salad.” Sure, the arugula had miniscule holes from some unknown pest I haven’t yet figured out how to eliminate and there really wasn’t enough to share if I had wanted to share (I didn’t.) But I don’t even care. It was mine and I did it and it was an awesome feeling.
Then yesterday, I spied some big tomatoes on each of my other plants and was like a proud mama. I swear they popped up overnight – it’s gotta be the stinky fish stuff. You can bet I’m going to coddle those damn things.
I’m learning. I’ll get there. Some things worked, others didn’t and that’s OK. Already I’m thinking about what to do differently next year. If something doesn’t take, I’ll yank it and try something else. I’ll try channeling my inner garden Yoda. Practice my rain dances more diligently. If I’ve learned anything, it’s flexibility – something I have to remember to apply in the rest of my life. Maybe I’ll figure that out along the way too.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: A REAL MIXED BAG. There’s something to this gardening thing. It’s rewarding, satisfying and rather fun to plant something and see what happens. Plus there’s the added benefit of getting to EAT what you grew yourself. That in itself is so very wonderful. Then there’s the aggravation, the frustration of these little things you’ve poured your heart, time and whole damn wallet into, only to see them shrivel up and die despite your best intentions. It’s the classic combination – bittersweet, the pleasure and the pain, the sadness and the joy. And yeah, it’s a little stress inducing too. Exactly what I’m trying to get away from but the risk-reward scale tips a little more to the sunnier side of things so I have to say, I’m hooked.
Pssst … I’m going to let you in on a little secret because it’s just too funny. That photo at the very top? The green and lush one? That was taken about a month ago, when I was still figuring it all out. About a week later, I realized half of the green lush things were weeds. HA! I guess I’m pretty good at cultivating weeds. Once I pulled them, my plot was rather bare. Oh well. Live and learn.