Wednesday, March 28, 2012
A Garden of Our Own
One of my favorite childhood memories is of helping my father with backyard gardening chores. I loved pulling up weeds (yeah, I’m a little weird), digging holes for seeds, and of course watching the itsy bitsy sprouts grow into big, vegetable-producing plants. Finding a juicy red ripe tomato hidden among tangled vines was such a rewarding feeling (I didn’t even LIKE tomatoes as a kid. I actually kind of DETESTED the quasi-fruit, but harvesting them was a whole different story).
Ever since Em’s birth, I have been eagerly anticipating the time when Em and I could begin working on a garden together. Maybe because of my own fond memories, I’ve always envisioned gardening as an amazing parent/child activity. I have fantasized about showing Em how to dig little holes with her plastic spade, guiding her as she pours the seeds down into the dug up holes, and teaching her how to care for growing herbs and vegetables with a little water and a lot of love and patience.
But sad truth be told, I’ve never been a “green thumb” kind of a gal. Actually, as much as I love the IDEA of gardening, I’ve been a notorious houseplant killer. Really. Philodendron quake with fear whenever they see me approaching.
When I got pregnant with Em, I was actually quite scared that my lack of ability to take care of a houseplant would translate into my being a very unfit mother. I was seriously worried. I mean, if I couldn’t even remember to water a few plants once or twice a week, how on earth was I going to remember to feed and change my daughter multiple times EVERY SINGLE DAY??
Needless to say, I’ve managed to do a better job at mothering my child than I have ever done caring for a spider plant. Through parenting, I feel like I’ve matured into a more responsible human being, and have developed a much better sense of caring for other people AND various other living objects. Ok, sure, sometimes I still forget to water our houseplants, but I’m a heck of a lot better than I used to be.
So this past weekend, I decided to challenge myself, and give this whole mama/daughter gardening thing a whirl, despite my not-so-glorious plant-y past. Of course, I didn’t want to overwhelm either myself or Emmy with a daunting project. I figured it best to start small-scale, and if we were successful in our endeavors, we would expand upon our successes.
My plan? We would build a little 4 foot by 4 foot raised bed garden. I figured even Em and I could manage a plot of land that teeny.
Early Saturday morning, Em and I went to the gardening store, and purchased a raised bed kit (interlocking planks of cedar wood that can easily be expanded with the help of additional kits). As I grilled the woman behind the counter with lots of Gardening 101 questions about which vegetables were easiest to plant and how deep the soil had to be laid down to ensure an ideal growing environment, Em got busy rearranging all of the store’s colorful seed packets (don’t worry, I put them back in their proper places afterwards). I decided that for this year, with our theme being “low maintenance, low expectations,” I would only choose vegetables that could be sown directly into the ground, not those that would require initial indoor germination followed by transplantation to the garden bed outside. As much as I really wanted to plant tomatoes (they are now of course one of my favorite veggies), I recognize that choosing complicated, high-maintenance vegetables would have doomed our little garden to sure failure.
When we got home, Em and I went immediately to the backyard, where I assembled the raised bed kit while Emmy played nearby with her Little Tikes waterpark (Hello, GODSEND! Em LOVES her waterpark. I feel like I owe Little Tikes a huge favor)! I then got to work shoveling up dirt, inviting Em to join me. Emmy enthusiastically participated, bringing her little plastic shovel over, filling it with dirt, and pouring the dirt into her waterpark pool (oyyy). Em quickly became covered head-to-toe in muddy water, but she was enjoying herself so thoroughly, and seemed to be taking her dirt removal job so seriously. I wasn’t about to rain on her mud parade.
Lugging six forty pound bags of soil from the garage to the waaay back of our backyard wasn’t easy, but Em helped mama “drag and dump” to the best of her ability (a.k.a, holding on to the bottom corner of the bag, trying to bite it open with her teeth). It was a team effort, of sorts. And after all the soil was laid down within the confines of the raised bed’s 4 foot by 4 foot parameters, Em and I patted the dirt down with our hands, singing a little song as we worked.
At the end of the morning, with dirt stuck deep under our fingernails, and with our clothes and shoes encrusted with soil and grime, Em and I said goodbye to the beginnings of our little garden. We went inside our house for a well-deserved, long, hot shower. The whole process was far more exhausting than I had imagined, but also far more exhilarating. As I had been working with Em on our little outdoor project, I started getting this “I want to do this ALL THE TIME” feeling. And I’m pretty sure Emmy liked it just as much as I did.
The whole gardening experience was so much fun that after Emmy woke up from her nap that afternoon, we ran out to the store to buy ANOTHER raised-garden kit. I know! What was I saying about “low maintenance, low expectations”?
Baaaaaah, Em and I have got this whole gardening thing IN THE BAG. I wouldn’t even be surprised if one of my thumbs start turning a greenish hue.
Do you have any tips for the first time gardener? Have you had success with a raised bed garden? I am open to any and all suggestions that will help our garden grow (as long as they aren’t too complicated)….