Foodie Adventures

The Art of Gardening

Garden skills. I can’t say that I have many. But I can definitely say that I’ve started to learn a lot about it in the past few years. Lots of failures, a handful of good results and lots of notes taken!

I don’t recall having a garden when we were growing up. My mom did say that we used to have one but my baby brother, who wanted to be nice and bring her a cucumber, ripped off the entire plant. This was pretty much the end of our family gardening projects. Through the years though, my grandpa would always bring us the fruits of his gardening labor. He loves his garden and during the summer, his weekly coffee visits would also mean a few tomatoes, cucumbers or carrots. Last time I visited them, I took some pictures of his garden as my inspiration to give gardening a try. My grandpa was so proud to show me everything he was growing and how it was organized.

Last year, I had the great idea of putting a wooden box frame in our little  yard, in hope to start my first garden. It took us forever to figure out where to put it as we have no area that has full sun all day. After days of “sun observation”, we finally picked the best spot and got to work. Once the box was built, we had to figure out what to put in there. My friend and I went off to the farmer’s market and came back with tons of plants (big tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and herbs). We put it all in the garden, without making too much sense of what should be where. It was so cool to see how fast our garden was growing! The small tomato plant quickly turned into a gigantic bush!

Then, we hit our first obstacle. After weeks of wondering what the broccoli plants would look like, we finally started seeing what looked like a mini broccoli growing! Unfortunately, the bugs saw it as well and in a matter of days, it was half-eaten and covered in caterpillars. Instead of looking for a solution, I just got grossed out by the caterpillars everywhere and just ripped off the broccoli plants. Not the smartest decision but it made sense to me at the time.

Meanwhile, I had done a “green bean experiment” for a biology class I was taking. So I soon as the class was over, I planted the green beans where the broccoli used to be. I also had carrot seeds. I didn’t think too much and just threw them in the only space left in the garden. They never grew really big but we did end up with a few baby carrots by the end of the summer.

Our other issue ended up being the tomato plants. They really grew out of control. The big tomato and the cherry tomato plants got all tangled and it was just a big mess. The tomatoes also kept falling in the stairs behind the railing. We share these stairs with our neighbors so I felt bad that they had to walk through rotten tomatoes if I didn’t get a chance to go clean them up.

The biggest success that year was definitely the basil. I had a small basil plant that had been in a pot for over a year. It wasn’t doing too well so I figured I had nothing to lose adding it to the garden. It got huge! Unfortunately, I wasn’t super smart about it and I kept letting it grow bigger and bigger instead of using it. In the fall, I tried transplanting it into several small pots and it all ended up dying. I really regretted not making a big batch of pesto instead. But I’ll definitely remember this year!

So this brings us to this year’s garden. At the beginning of the season, we still weren’t sure if we’d be traveling a lot over the summer so I didn’t want to start a garden project that would be too demanding. While browsing the dollar store, I found packs of seeds at 4 for $1! I figured it would be good enough for this summer. I got spinach, lettuce, spring onion, and carrot seeds. I separated the garden in four parts (which I had not done the year before) and planted the seeds. It didn’t take long that little plants started growing! Meanwhile, once we realized that we’d be home more than we first expected, I also bought a small tomato plant at C’ville Market and I also bought an Indian chili pepper plant at Gibson’s Grocery. I bought the peppers for two reasons: 1. I had never tried growing peppers before, and 2.The profits were helping some local children go to summer camp. A few weeks ago, I added to my gardening project when I stopped by Southern States and bought basil, rosemary (2 kinds), lavender, and mint. The basil is the only thing I added to the seeds I had originally planted it the garden. Everything else went it separate pots to avoid having a messy garden like last year. So now, our lettuce and spinach are growing out of control but thankfully, it’s nowhere near as messy as the tomatoes were. It’s just green. Very green. And now you also know why almost all of my latest recipes involved spinach. 🙂

You might wonder why I wrote about our garden. It’s far from being the most impressive garden, I know. But my point is that there is something really exciting about growing your own herbs and vegetables. Even if you only grow one tomato plant, I bet you that you’ll be very proud to use your first tomato in your next recipe. Heck, you might just eat it by itself because it tastes so much better than what we get at the supermarket. I have found that gardening, despite several failures and disappointments, helped me get excited about cooking, especially in the summer when I’d rather lay in the sun than stand in the kitchen. It is also a wonderful thing to do with children. They can easily help water the garden and pick the vegetables. Not only can it be a great way to teach responsibilities (“if we don’t water the garden every evening, the vegetables won’t be able to grow”) but it might also make them more excited about eating vegetables if they have helped through the entire growing process.

I want to hear all about your gardening experience! What is your favorite thing to grow? Or if you haven’t been gardening, what would you like to grow?

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