How to Garden for Fun, and Fresh Food!

Two years ago on Christmas morning, my husband gave me a book. I actually started my happy dance even before it fully emerged from the wrapping paper. The other gifts were, I’m sure, wonderfully thoughtful, but this book stood alone. And when my mother came to visit a few months later, she admitted one morning to being exhausted – because she HAD to stay up until she had read the entire thing.

This book isn’t a murder mystery full of tension, a bodice-ripper (new term for me that makes me LAUGH!) with a Fabio-esque man kissing a woman with farmer braids, or even a story-book at all! It’s a gardening book, aptly titled The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition. Now I do love a good book, as most of the writers I know can agree with, but this one is full of beautiful photos and, more importantly, fantastic tips and guidance on growing veggies. At the moment, (book beside me) I have a bookmark holding the page Deciding What to Plant (tips include “grow what you can’t buy, grow what saves you money, grow what the neighbors grow, and try something new”) – and I’ll fess up now, the bookmark is a Burpee Berries Guide since I had NO idea what the heck to do with a Burpee Strawberry Plant. I can happily report that said strawberry plant is killing it out in a big barrel – it’s shooting out spreading vines, sprouting flowers, and looking all kinds of happy!
Two other pages I have bookmarked are Jump-Starting Your Garden and Transplanting Lettuce Seedlings.

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So, given the extensive and well-founded wisdom given by Edward C. Smith in the The VG Bible, and how dedicatedly I pored through those pages, you might think my garden would be exploding with tons of fresh food I see all over Instagram these days. It is June, already. But this brings me to my key points for today – here’s how to garden for fun and fresh food: patience and persistence. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either.

 


My garden is doing just fine, thank you very much – it has a lot of stuff growing, and most of the stuff growing is not weeds, hopefully! The vegetable garden is definitely sprouting baby radishes, arugula, beautiful glowing red lettuce, and some other veggies I forgot (note to self: when I plant the next round of crops, do NOT assume Oh, I’ll just remember what everything is) but am sure will still be delicious.

The flower garden, however, I peer into with the hopes of identifying something, anything! and I do know I have a row of lilies growing like they have something to prove, but other than that, I’m clueless! A close family friend with extensive plant/landscaping experience told me last summer that if I like the way something looks in my garden, it’s not a weed 🙂 so I operate under that particular rule, especially in the flower garden.

One great example of unintentional gardening is creeping thyme. I’ve tried to convince M for two years that we don’t need grass seeds, we should just find a creeping ground-cover like creeping thyme. Creeping thyme would be a good idea, because it smells amazing and has beautiful purple flowers. We could just grow herbs all over our yard, like, perhaps, for example, creeping thyme. Lo and behold, guess what sprung up on our hill this spring? YOU GUESSED IT, creeping thyme!


And once again, mother nature reminded me of the virtue of patience and persistence – with the right conditions, plants will just grow! When I am in the garden/outside (dirt=a potential garden) I constantly remind myself to stay patient and just have faith in my work and the earth. The work actually serves as a beautiful catharsis, whether I’m happy and pouring that love into the seedlings/picking flowers and veggies with a spring in my step, or I’m feeling blue and letting it out by pulling weeds or trying to focus on the feeling of dirt and plants under my hands and feet. To clarify, when I say hands and feet, I don’t walk on all fours, but I am a big fan of barefoot summers and I like bend down and feel plants on my hands too 🙂

Of course, some things do not just grow as I breeze by. Take mint, for example. I am TERRIBLE with mint, which is such a bummer because I love it in everything! But I’ve had this poor little mint plant for 6 months now (you won’t see pictures of it on Instagram, I’ll promise you that), and the most positive thing about it is that it’s still alive. So I continue to give it sunshine, water, love and reassurance, because I accept my mint plant exactly as it is. And now that it’s warmer out, the tiny leaves have begun to grow and spread a bit, but not enough for my grand dreams of tea, juleps, watermelon salad, ice cream, etc. so when we stopped at a local farm and spotted a HUGE healthy mint plant, I (who never carries cash and always forgets that this farm only takes cash) begged M to buy it for me. He did, and right this moment I’m HUGELY enjoying a HUGE mug of mint tea!! I told you I love mint!!


So sometimes persistence means that I keep at it with the same plant, sometimes I have to replant seeds because I learned they need a lot of water, and sometimes we buy a giant, healthy plant so I can just have some damn tea already. And the patience part of gardening? Well, that’s the part that feels the most magical to me – partially because I am NOT patient, so anything that helps me learn patience is downright miraculous – every year, with pretty much every single seed or sprout I plant, I think to myself it just seems so unlikely this will become a full-grown (fill in the blank). And sometimes, it actually does. Peas, strawberries, zinnias, marigolds, sunflowers, lilies, broccoli, tomatoes, the list goes on!

I even have two baby thyme plants growing in mini pots on my kitchen windowsill that I bought for $3 at Target, and split amongst the two pots. It’s easy to start, and the rewards….well, there are a lot of them, and each one is MINT! Meaning awesome 🙂 Ok – I’m off to enjoy my mint tea, and to water and greet the plants this morning, and I wish you lots of freshness, growth, patience, persistence, and peace and joy from our gardens to you!

Oh – and I always want to know about other gardening tips! Please share your garden wisdom by leaving a comment below, and thank you for reading 🙂

Eliza

A Happy Wife

Happy Wife, Creative Life

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