I haven’t had a veggie garden since I was a child living in Blauvelt, New York. Most years, some time around Memorial Day when we hoped we had experienced the last frost of the season we would plant tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and peppers in a modest 3 foot by 5 foot space in the corner of our backyard. I was kid and only remember how much fun it was to watch the plants grow and the thrill of harvesting what we planted.
Fast forward and here I am in a whole new world where I inherited a large ( 24 ft x 56 ft) garden from the previous owner. When we moved into the house the plants were already in place along with deer fencing and an entry gate. How lucky was I? But on day 2 of our move I very inconveniently realized that the 16 tomato plants were not tied up to the stakes that stood vacant alongside them. Deliciously large tomato plants heavily burdened with fruit were growing along the ground which even I knew was so not good. In addition there were zucchini and cucumbers by the dozen that were surely going to rot if I didn’t pick them. So in the middle of the moving chaos we rounded up the veggies and hauled them over to the local food bank which was a good end to a hard day of work.
It is amazing…the garden. Five large stoically tall sunflowers overlook the eggplant, peppers, radishes (that have gone to seed), carrots, beets, onions, 3 varieties each of tomatoes and squash as well as cucumbers and chives. On a daily basis I am overwhelmed and humbled by the beauty of the garden and all that I don’t know! What do I do with the plant remains at summer’s end? Do I need to prep anything prior to winter? When do I harvest the carrots? Do I mulch and with what?
On that first day I couldn’t even identify many of the plants and had to reach out to friends for help. Benjamin can attest to my ignorance as he made his morning shake with what I called spinach that actually turned out to be swiss chard (no wonder he kept saying his shake was a bit “bitter”). Shortly after that I learned that the striped variety of squash I picked was actually butternut squash that had not yet turned that awful”band aid tan color” so it was all picked too soon! Grrrrr. It made us both laugh so hard at our “farming” shenanigans. Oh and have I mentioned the weeds? If the weed in question bore fruit I could feed the world! Definitely need to know how to get it under control next year! If you know how to control it please comment. (photo below directly under tomato photo…what the heck is this?)
Now that the moving boxes have dwindled, I’ve been busy making lots of ratatouille, roasting and freezing tomatoes for future use and zucchini bread has been on the menu too. B and I drove a bunch of the veggies over to the previous owners who are only blocks away. Seemed only fitting since she planted all of the seeds. I am only harvesting the fruits of her labor.
Aside from the physicality of the garden work it is truly a moving meditation. I am totally present in the moment when I am in that space. What surprised me was how when overcome by the familiar smells and visuals of the garden and the landscape I find myself relaxed and memories of all sorts/ ideas/emotions seem to come out of nowhere. A testament to the space we can create in our heads when we can just “be” and get rid of some of the senseless noise that usually occupies our minds.
Marking time in the natural rhythm of the seasons is something I am appreciating getting used to again and there is so much to learn. A beautiful, artistic high school classmate Betsy (who seems to have an affinity for gardening based on the photos I have seen) recently replied to me in a FB posting saying, “I always say I’ve learned how to garden by killing everything first.” which of course made me laugh as I realized that might be my fate as well. In the meantime patience, a sense of humor and a large dose of trial and error will get me through. So thankful for this gardening experience and yes Google is my new best friend!