I started my first vegetable garden in a long time this year. It’s very small, consisting of two white cedar raised beds (gardenraisedbeds.com) and a few extra planters for patio tomatoes and herbs. The lettuce and Swiss chard in the raised beds seem stunted, possibly due to the chilly and wet spring and early summer, possibly due to the soil-compost mix, probably because I don’t know what I’m doing.
My circle of local friends is absolutely chockablock with master gardeners, one of whom writes a gardening blog (http://www.commonweeder.com). I turn to all of them for advice and if not too late, I take it. However, we already have eaten one ripe tomato and have another red one on a vine, both very early for gardens in these hills. One of my master gardeners accused me of painting it. Beginner’s luck, I said.
His wife, another master gardener, warned me that gardening is an addiction. She’s correct: I’m already plotting and planning expansion, especially for asparagus, which will keep us waiting for two years, at least. We are low on room with sun near the house, so the plotting may be thwarted. We have a large field next to the house, but we’re staying out of there with the exception of planting fruit trees and plants the pollinators like, leaving the space to the deer, the bears, the bees, butterflies and birds.
My father was no gardener, but he spent a lot of his childhood on his uncle’s farm outside of Philadelphia, and so was familiar with the rhythm of the seasons and planting, a fact not revealed to me until one of the last summers he was well. He carved up the yard behind their small house in North Carolina, to which they retired from Brooklyn. He knew to dig it and dung it, a feat of backbreaking energy that was also a revelation.
He planted tomatoes and nothing else. Rows and rows of tomatoes, possibly all the one type, because the harvest was overwhelming. My mother, a real city gal, had them coming out of her ears, but she had no impulse to can them, nor room to freeze the sauce that she made. Spaghetti sauce and sliced tomatoes appeared on everything.
That was it, though: the start and the end of his foray into gardening, possibly because he got sick that year, possibly because he’d gotten it out of his system. I can’t remember and there’s nobody to ask. My father died in that house after a very long illness, during which my mother hired a fellow to mow the yard weekly, but I still could see the outlines of my father’s hard work, of his tomato patch, the day I moved my mother out of that house.