After the miracle of going a whole growing season without murdering our potted herb garden last year, I have a new-found confidence in my gardening skills. I always thought of myself as a black-thumb person; I don’t know why I thought that gardening skills were some sort of magic that some people have and some people don’t. It’s not exactly part of my belief system to think that way. Perhaps it’s because my grandpa and my great-grandpa are both amazing at growing, and I still look at their talents with the wonder of a child. (This is very similar to the way I look on woodworking and carpentry. But I’m trying to learn some of that too.)
Some of my earliest memories are of doing yard work with my grandparents. A family favorite story: toddler-me ran into my great-grandparents’ house to tell everyone I ate some of “those damn grubby worms” in my great-grandpa’s garden. I loved smelling the flowers, lifting stones to find rolly-polly bugs, putting sticks in the chipper to make mulch, and following my grandfathers around helping in any way they’d let me.
How I went from that to a person who kills succulents was beyond me. But it’s simple: I was killing plants because I didn’t know enough about them. Simple. Obvious. (Well, obvious now.)
I started the herb garden last year because I love cooking with fresh herbs and it’s cheaper to grow them than it is to buy them. We kept them alive because I learned about what they needed.
And now we want more! Jake comes from a line of gardeners too: his grandparents are actually famers. They’re retired now, but his 90 year old grandpa still grows tomatoes. His grandma sold homemeade bread at a local farmer’s market and even had her own wheat made into flour so that the bread was hers from start to finish for a couple of seasons. These things are magical to me, but they’re not magic: they’re knowledge and work.
So now I’m collecting gardening and composting articles and we’re planning on starting to grow a few of our own veggies this year. We can’t do a lot, because we’re shaded by giant trees, but we’re trying.
I got started last weekend, but the lion’s share of the work is still ahead of us. Here are our planned gardening jobs for the next couple of days:
Today, the kids and I are planting seeds in eggshells (idea from this eggshell seedlings tutorial at makexdo). We’re rolling with spinach, lettuce, carrots, and peas, which should be easy-ish for us newbies. We’re doing a few more, like squash, but those are for later in the year. We’re a little late on planting some of the varieties, but hopefully we can get one little harvest out of them before it gets too hot.
Poppy (my grandpa) made an awesome metal plant-pot-holding sculpture for my grandma years ago. She fell in love with something similar on their last vacation together before she passed away. He brought it for me after he learned that I was really serious about growing herbs this year. Our goal is to have it sanded and re-painted this weekend (because mauve is not going to work for us). I’m also thinking about painting the pots with chalkboard spray paint. Jake thinks that’s silly, because the chalk will wash away, but I think it will be fun to write the names of the herbs on there.
I’m also going to pick up a lot more herb varieties at our local farmer’s market tomorrow. While I’m there, I’m going to pick up a few tomato plants, which are staying in pots. I’ll look at a few of the local gardening stores near the market too.
We need to un-mulch, weed, re-soil, and re-mulch the areas we gardened last autumn. Jonas is good at helping with this, and watering is his main toddler chore right now. We also need to buy / put up more retaining wall blocks (we’ve been saving gift cards since Christmas for this!).
We need to do more worm hunting for our compost bin. (This part is Eliza’s favorite.)
And, lastly, I’m going to hunt for heirloom asparagus 1-year-old crowns to begin an asparagus bed. Jake also thinks I’m crazy for this; because we won’t be able to harvest them for at least two years. But it’s impossible for me not to try to start one after reading beautiful descriptions of home grown asparagus in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (affiliate link).
I’m super excited about the prospect of bringing more fresh flavors to our table this year! I’m also loving this opportunity to challenge my assumptions about myself.
Are you a gardner? Do you have any tips for us? What assumptions about yourself do you have that could do with some changing?