Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Last summer I had grand plans for a garden. I was going to buy four by fours and build a raised garden. I would rotate crops and have so much produce that I wouldn't know what to do with it and would share my bounty with the women at work, who would gaze enviously upon my three foot zucchinis.

That never happened.

(besides, no one is ever envious of a three-foot zucchini. Usually it's more like "oh God, not ANOTHER zucchini")

 I did manage to get two tomato plants into the ground, and while they were abundant producers, they were not exactly the Hanging Gardens of Babylon I had envisioned. Then Hurricane Irene hit, and the saltwater sprayed on them from the James River pretty much put an end to 2011's garden. The hurricane also knocked off every dead and deadish limb off the trees in the yard, which we dealt with in a perfunctory manner by having a huge bonfire. The bonfire, in turn, resulted in a six foot burn hole in the yard. This is where part of this year's garden is.

 It started off when Jeff bought a pack of pea seeds and, in the best tradition of kindergarteners, stuck them in the ground. No preparation, just blind faith they would grow. I was skeptical, then one day I came home from work and tiny little green shoots were poking out of the ground. I strung up some branches and twine so they would have something to grow on, and thinned them out a little. Fearing bunnies, I bought some chicken wire and built a "pea pen." Then I went to the farmer's market and accidentally bought fourteen tomato plants. Jeff's mom brought over zucchini, patty pan squash, and cucumber seedlings. I found some basil and dill seeds at the grocery store marked down fifty percent. And so forth. Everything is in the ground and is coming up gangbusters, especially the peas, which are delicious right off the vine. The zucchini and patty pan squash, which looked especially shell shocked right after they were transplanted, are going crazy. And I haven't had to buy lettuce for salads or sandwiches for a couple weeks (sorry, did I forget to mention I also planted crinkle leaf lettuce and romaine lettuce?).

The tomatoes are my favourite though. In addition to another two Better Bush plants, which are the same crazy producers from last year, I have two Beefsteak tomatoes and six Roma tomatoes. I had to give the other four plants away to the neighbor though...who had room for fourteen tomato plants anyway? Not everything is in the pea pen, some things are planted along the side of the house, but they are all green and happy. The tomatoes were a little unsure at first, but last Saturday I noticed that they were starting to get the point where they needed caging. One of them even has a blossom on it already! I used my two cages from last year, and I also borrowed another six cages from my neighbor. They were stacked behind her shed, which backs onto our property, so I had to dig my way through some foliage and knock off some pine straw to get at them. Even though they are rusted, they are working though, and I'm so excited about the prospect of fresh and canned tomatoes this year.

There is something about planting things you plan to eat. A leap of faith. I've been paying a lot more attention to the weather. Deciding whether to tempt fate by buying a pressure canner now or waiting until I have something to can under pressure. Debating whether or not to snare and eat the rabbits that have suddenly appeared in our yard--the pea pen is holding, although I've noticed the top of the chicken wire is bending, possibly deer? And of course, deciding what to eat for dinner is out of your hands. Throwing away produce from the store is annoying, but watching something you've been cultivating start to rot is frustrating beyond belief.

 Of course, not everything about growing things is fun and games. It's already getting hot here in Virginia. And those tomato cages I dug out from behind the shed? Turns out there's poison ivy back there. Yeah, I got a few little spots on my arm and my leg. Nothing major, but it's definitely itchy and burny. Now I get to experience the not so fun side of gardening, when you have to go in and Round Up a plant out of existence. But, at least the tomatoes are safely staked, it's rained all day so I don't have to water, and I'm confident that we're in for a bountiful harvest.