As I have mentioned many times before, I grew up on a farm. (Or perhaps I haven’t mentioned it recurrently, but… now you know.) While my outdoor memories of childhood center mainly around exploration of the woods, climbing the towering pile of chopped branches in the upper clearing — as well as the trees from which those branches came –, embarking of imaginary adventures through the swamps and creeks and the old abandoned barn, and occasionally helping with the chickens, whose Rooster I was deathly afraid of, I feel as though a love for gardening has somehow grown from my upbringing in the country.
So far as I recall, we did not always have a garden. We grew flowers, sure, and many a time I plucked my mom’s beautiful irises or bleeding hearts or daffodils; I was coerced into helping with ripping weeds up; I once turned on the sprinkler without permission and dammed up a flower bed, subsequently killing all of those flowers (for which I was soundly disciplined later that day, as was my cousin, the only time she’d ever been spanked by an uncle). But vegetables? My parents would have to remind me of whether we ate those fresh from the ground. We had fruit trees, grown long before we lived in my childhood home, and in later years a garden overgrown with zucchini and squashes and wild grasses. But, a full-blown garden was, as far as I remember, never really part of my youth.
(Update: apparently, we had a garden every year until I was about nine, but I was never good at telling weeds from plants, so mom didn’t ask for my help. Ha!)
Lately, however, I have been feeling a yearning to tend the earth, to grow my own foods, to plant seedlings and lovingly coax them to bloom fully and offer up their fruits for us to enjoy as the summer wanes on.
So this year, as we are moving back in with my parents, whose property offers up a very large garden space that has already been fenced in, and already boasts two rows of grapes that grow quite wild, a strawberry bed that yields small, sweet berries — but needs clearing up of its choking weeds –, and a thicket of what I think may be loganberries (as well as the ever-overgrowing rush of large, juicy blackberries as well as the smaller, wilder, sweeter variety), I am going to start a proper garden.
My mom, who has always loved gardening, will be joining me in this endeavor. She grew the year before last, but without help, her efforts became a space overtaken by grassy weeds, brambles, and voracious zucchini. Today I told her I wanted to garden, and we discussed what we will grow, and how. She recently read about square foot gardening, a great organized way to plant gardens in smaller spaces while utilizing all of the space you’re using (although we have quite a large space to work with), and we will be building raised garden boxes to house our vegetables as they grow.
I hope to raise so many things this year, but I expect some will fail, this being my first real attempt at exercising my gardening skills (which are really unknown.) In my ideal garden, there will be several types of crisp lettuces, fresh spinach and perhaps green or red cabbage; carrots and onions and beets and all varieties of potatoes; candy-like cherry tomatoes and fat beefsteak tomatoes; tender green beans and sweet snap peas; zucchini and yellow squash for frying and cucumbers for refreshment on hot days; perhaps a pumpkin or two to can for pumpkin pies later, and a lot of pickling cucumbers for the now-yearly tradition of canning our own pickles. And, perhaps, some sunflowers purely for their prettiness (and seeds.)
And then, on the deck in the wooden planters I’ve already made, I hope to re-start my herb garden, which was thriving until I left and it became neglected with no-one to tend it. My mouth waters at the thought of having fresh herbs ready to pluck at every need; of oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage for savory roasted chickens or Italian- and French-inspired meals; of basil and parsley and cilantro in practically everything (and freshly plucked basil on a luscious slice of sun-warmed tomato, topped with balsamic vinegar… oh, joy); of chives and garlic to give depth and spice; and mint, to make tea, to throw in lemonade, to simply rub between my fingers and breathe in its sweet, refreshing scent.
Even as I write the list of what I hope to grow, more things come to mind and I feel a rush from planning and dreaming, and an impatience to begin. Wait, I must, until the season is right to coax those first seedlings from the ground with love and water and sunshine, though I may be able to convince a few herbs to grow early indoors.
It will be a lot of work, I know, but it’s work that, as I grow older and dream more and more of my own home and how I truly desire to live, I look forward to. There will be days of ripping up wild grass and clearing out ground long neglected that I will retreat indoors feeling defeated and ready to give up, but for the promise of home-grown goodness, I will make myself carry on. And then, with my fingers in the warm dirt and young tendrils rising from the ground with promise of strong plants to come, I know I will not regret the hard days of struggle against the earth to raise them to this point.
I hope to garden every year, when we are able, to raise my children as I was raised, with an innate love for the country. If not for the gardening, then for the exploring, the land, the varieties of plants and fascination with bugs and living things and a rampant imagination to keep them busy for hours in the woods or up the creek or in the fields of grass. I hope that they, too, can look back on their childhood one day and remember fondly the hot summer days spent soaking under the hose, running through the trees, and occasionally fighting off bees whose nests had been unfortunately disturbed.
And in all of this, I hope they, as I do, will cultivate a growing wonder of the earth and all it contains, and a love for the One who made it all. One can barely think of creating life, whether it be gestation or gardening, without marveling at creation.
At least, not me.