When moved into my first house, I wanted to create a genuinely picture perfect home for my family. We had our very first backyard, after living in a condo, mobile home, an apartment. We had three children at the time, and I decided that the right side of our house was the perfect place for our garden, it was an overly broadside yard and had lots of room for a large garden. I wanted to impress my husband and began work on my private project. None that were real at least. I had no gardening experience whatsoever, but how hard could it be, I thought.
The first thing I learned is that the soil, or what I called dirt with lots of rocks in it, was not what you would want to use to grow anything. Not even weeds if you could help it. I then looked into what my options were, and after doing some research, I discovered raised garden beds. This was a box you kept good soil in, to place on top of what you can’t grow anything in. After looking into the costs and being the new domestic goddess I was, I decided to build my own.
Once again, how hard can it be to make a rectangle out of some wood? Somehow I managed to nail together the forest, not without some injury. Being the girly girl I am, I decided that the natural wood color was rather dull for what I now called my “Garden of Eating”, which I thought was the most clever garden name in the history of the world.
It turns out I’m not the only one who ever thought of that. In the end, I spray painted the three wood raised beds a beautiful tomato red. I ended up making two rectangles and one square bed. I bought myself the proper soil, (or whatever the employee at the garden store told me to buy) and filled up the three raised beds about 2 inches from the top. I couldn’t wait to plant some seeds and get growing!
I am somewhat impatient, and it’s rather apparent that anxious people are not good gardeners, but after planting cilantro, corn, tomatoes, and green onions, I faithfully watered and waited for my garden to grow. I even talked to it a bit, in case what I heard about talking to plants was necessary, I didn’t want to take any chances. I wanted my husband to see me as the domestic goddess I was and show him how this city girl could adapt to a country style of living.
Eventually, my garden began to grow, I was so excited, and it indeed was one of my proudest moments I had ever had as a “grown-up,” being that I was a young mom and a fairly new wife, I wanted to show everyone just how competent I was.
Soon my little garden was blossoming into something I had never imagined, cilantro was about 12 inches tall, the green onions looked just like the ones I bought at the store, my corn stalks were amazing, and standing 4 feet tall and there were many more than I was told would grow. I had four beautiful stalks; this was a big deal to a city girl who had never even seen a stalk of corn up close! My tomatoes were growing out, and around the square raised bed I had planted them in, they were green and shiny and just beautiful. I had done it! I had grown a real garden.
I beamed with pride until I realized I had not researched at which point in the growing process these vegetables would be “done.” I couldn’t find an obvious answer, some saying when ready or ripe or full grown. I had no idea when the cilantro was done, how to continue to use it and keep it growing, I didn’t want to pull out all the green onions that I pained and labored over to eat them in a meal and have to start all over again. My corn was beautiful, but I didn’t know when they would be ready, and my tomatoes were almost entirely red, but how long after they turn red would they be ready?
Because I didn’t know the answer the cilantro started to look like weeds and my onions fell over for some reason. My corn started to lean, and my tomato plant had outgrown it’s welcome in the little square raised garden bed. I had not foreseen the watering of the beds would warp the wood I had used, and the boards began to twist and bend and break and well, fall apart where it was nailed together.
One day, I went out to try and pick the corn before it was too late. I didn’t need to worry about that, because my beautiful overflowing tomato plant had now become home to something of a plague. A plague of locusts or giant flying grasshopper things! I had never seen a bug like that before, much less twenty of them that flew out of my tomato plant every time I neared. Which meant I could not get to the corn that was growing right next to the tomatoes. Being a city girl, I also don’t do well with giant bugs that fly at you when you go near, ones that look like they are straight out of a horror movie.
I was sad to see my garden die, the cilantro weeds, the fallen onions, the rotten corn and the half eaten giant flying bug harboring tomato plant were such a source of pride to me, for a short time. I guess I never thought it through, never thought that eventually they would be full grown and would need to be picked and eaten. I learned how much hard work went into just four stalks of corn, a few tomatoes and how quickly that hard work can be eaten or consumed or even lost because of temperature, timing or insects.
How much effort the real farmers and gardeners must put in to raise our crops and fruits and vegetables and how much easier it would be just to buy a bunch of cilantro for a buck then to grow it in my yard. I have a new respect for the farming industry, and I try to enjoy my food more when I think about how much time and love went into my little garden and somewhere out in the fields, perhaps some farmer felt that way too.