When I was younger, my mom would spend hours in her gardens. I never understood the appeal of fighting off bugs and heat, wiping away sweat only to leave a streak of dirt in its place, or pulling weed after weed knowing they’d come back just a week or two later. And I especially didn’t like when she’d ask for my help. What was the point of such torture!
This year, everything changed. Jeremy and I spent several weeks getting our yard into decent shape, and initially didn’t even plan to start a garden. We just wanted some defined areas, mulch, and a few easy-to-maintain plants and shrubs.
But our landlords had left an old sandbox behind and it didn’t take long for us to think, “Ah-ha! A raised garden bed!” And so we tilled a little patch of land up and laid the sandbox over it, then filled it with new soil.
My mom (probably thrilled that I had finally taken an interest) came for a visit with several plants – a selection of tomatoes, various peppers, and eggplant – and I purchased cucumber, onion, strawberries, watermelon, pumpkin, and more tomatoes. Then, I tried my best to follow the planting instructions, got them in the ground, and crossed my fingers.
It wasn’t long before I officially became my mother. I would, fully dressed in work attire, notice that I had a spare ten or twenty minutes before I had to leave for the day, and run out to pull some weeds, prune the tomato plants, and water. After work, I’d walk straight out to the backyard to inspect the garden and look for new blooms, and do a little more work.
I began to notice that my most fulfilling days began and ended with tending to my plants. I hardly noticed the soil under my nails and actually craved the scent of fresh earth that followed me around in the minutes and hours after visiting the garden. All with Rosie’s help, of course.
The day I was able to harvest my first batch of homegrown goods, I was elated. I got it. This is what the dedication was all about.
While our beloved little sandbox and container garden looks awful now (I promise to take photos of it in its best state next year), you can see how great some of the results were!
It’s been so awesome making fresh from-the-garden meals this summer. We’ve also grown a small selection of herbs – basil, mint, sage, and rosemary – kept just a few steps from our kitchen door, and it’s such a treat to pop out and grab a handful to toss on homemade pizza, breads, salads, and even in infused waters now and then!
There were definitely some lessons learned in my first year of gardening. The biggest mistake I made was planting WAY too much into such a small space. I simply didn’t account for just how big some of them would get! It became impossible late in the summer to keep one plant’s vines from strangling another.
Additionally, I wish I would have swapped a couple of tomato and cucumber plants for something else. We couldn’t keep up with these and so much went to waste. I’ll definitely be including carrots and green beans (which I’ll gladly eat non-stop!) next year in place of some of those. I also plan to give canning a try next time around.
What are your best gardening tips? What was your first Ah-ha! gardening moment like? I’d love to hear about it!