by Julie Gabelman, Administrative Coordinator
The first house my husband and I purchased together was an older home in Firestone Park that had a double lot. Our oldest son was just a baby at the time, but we were happy with the extra yard space for him and, eventually, his little brother, to play in. The previous owner, an elderly widower, had a good-sized garden at the back of the empty lot, but it had obviously been neglected for a couple of years. The following spring, we decided to have a vegetable garden ourselves, so we prepped the area, did our planting, and enjoyed a great harvest later that summer and fall. The garden was large enough that we were able to grow a variety of veggies, including sweet corn, eggplant, green beans, peppers, tomatoes and broccoli. There wasn’t really enough to can or freeze any extra produce, just enough to eat as we went along or share with family.
Maintaining the garden took a lot of our time, but completely worth the effort. Eventually, though, with two little ones and both of us working full time, it was harder to devote the time needed for the weeding, etc. The garden was downsized a couple of times until it was only a quarter of its original size, but still we enjoyed having tomatoes, peppers and zucchini. Several years later, when we moved to our current home, my only regret was that we would not have a vegetable garden anymore. Our yard is very shady; the only areas that received enough sunlight to grow anything other than hostas, already had other perennial flowers. I told my husband we had to find a spot to plant a few tomatoes, at least. I couldn’t imagine a summer without fresh salsa and BLT’s made with freshly picked tomatoes. Our deck is very sunny, so we tried growing tomatoes in containers, with mixed results. After a couple of seasons of that, we decided that the tomatoes would do better if they were in the ground, so I relocated a few perennials from the flower bed that got the most sun, and planted some tomatoes and a few herbs, including dill. We had great tomatoes that year and the dill apparently loves that spot because it has returned every year since.
Fast forward to last summer. I started working at the Countryside Conservancy and began frequenting the farmers’ market a lot more. Seeing all the beautiful fruit and vegetables made me wish for my vegetable garden back in Firestone Park. I had my usual small patch of three tomato plants, basil, cilantro, dill and oregano sharing space with ornamental grass, a rose bush, and gladiolas. In the fall, I decided it was time to expand the vegetable garden, so I relocated most of the rest of the perennials. I battled one stubborn patch of ornamental grass for over an hour – that stuff had roots like iron. In its place, I planted five types of garlic purchased at the farmers’ market (thanks to Larry Luschek of Infinite Garden Farms for explaining the flavor differences between the varieties). With the mild winter we had, the garlic began sprouting by late January. On St. Patrick’s Day, the weather was so warm that I gave in to temptation and planted some peas and some lettuce, just to see how it would do. The peas are up, but the lettuce is barely sprouting, so I’ll replant more soon. I have some tomato and zucchini seeds to start indoors, although I’ve never had much luck with starting seeds. I’m getting excited at the prospect of having an actual vegetable garden again, albeit a small one.
I have a layout in my head for our little veggie patch, but I’m not sure it will really work. With such a small area to work with, I need to optimize the space. (Oh, and have I mentioned this isn’t even a level spot? Part of it is on a slope. Another challenge.) I’m attending the Starting Your Own Veggie Garden workshop that we’re offering on April 24 at Basket of Life Farm. I’m not a novice gardener, but there is a lot that I don’t know. I’m looking forward to learning from Heather Walters’ years of experience. Hopefully our garden will do so well that I’ll get to try my hand at canning or freezing later this year. (There will be a workshop for that too!) If you’re thinking about starting a garden this year, or if you’re like me and want to expand your veggie garden knowledge, you might consider registering for this workshop too. Maybe we can talk tomatoes. Or garlic…