One of the most memorable things about this summer was starting my first garden.
After many years of just growing herbs outside of apartments, I was excited to literally dig in to my own backyard and begin a garden.
As with any new adventure, there is always so much to learn. And undoubtedly, you probably get better with each passing year and each set of lessons.
For our garden, we decided to do a raised one with a mix of vegetables (heirloom tomatoes, squash, collards, kale, onion, chives and peppers) and herbs (rosemary, lavender, basil and sage).
Jason took care in putting our box together, and I have to say that he has been such a help with the garden. He would get just as excited as I would to see little green shoots emerging from the ground, and he has enjoyed eating the fruits of our labor, too.
Here are a few of the big lessons I’ve learned from being a first-time gardener:
Again, this is one of those life lessons that’s always rearing its head and inserting itself into daily situations. I was keenly aware of the patience that gardening requires when you can’t control what will grow, when or how much or little.
Gardening requires that you do your best to plant seeds in the best of conditions and then wait, and hope and pray. Weather happens, bugs happen and only God controls what comes of your sweat and prayers.
I find it a beautiful picture of the frailty of life in that we ultimately cannot control so much, and yet there’s always beauty and new life to be found.
Although some of our plants never grew and many are bite-sized, it’s nice to have growth at all. We also learned that you need a ton of dirt to fill up a raised bed to keep the plants from getting too much shade.
Worth the wait
It’s hard to describe the pure joy of seeing those first tomato and pepper seedlings emerging from the dirt. From day one, I was just sure that I didn’t have wet enough soil or not enough light when I started them inside. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut and wait.
Only time will tell if they’ll make it or not. And now I can look out at my strong, several-feet-tall tomato plants and think of their inch beginnings. What a miracle!
I’m truly glad that the tomatoes grew well, after them not growing at all for the first 1-2 months I planted them. Tomatoes were the most important part of the garden to me, and I started with heirloom seeds, so that put on the pressure all the more.
There truly is nothing like holding, smelling and bursting a sun-warmed cherry tomato or tasting a ripe, sweet Purple Cherokee. I’ve also realized that I absolutely love the grassy, herbaceous smell of a tomato plant. And when you grow your own produce, it really doesn’t matter what size or shape it is.
Perfect produce isn’t the goal with a backyard garden.
I think that having a garden has helped me be a more grateful person. I find myself thanking God for afternoon rainstorms or days of full 90-degree sun (which I know my tomatoes love). When I buy pounds of squash at my farm stand, I’m thankful and humbled by the work, sacrifice and risk that farming requires.
And when I see a new green shoot, a carrot frond or even a squash blossom that doesn’t produce anything but beautiful blooms, I’m thankful that growth happens on a day-to-day basis (even without much tending).
All in all, I’m no expert gardener, but I find myself learning new things each day and being excited by what the earth has to offer.
Next year, I’m planning on expanding the garden to the backyard, using our normal soil and focusing on tomatoes. I hope to also try out eggplant, watermelon and maybe other fruits!