Last summer, was my first attempt at vegetable gardening in many years. I started out married life thinking I would become an Earth Mother—all home-grown produce, homemade jelly, homemade bread, homemade baby food and cloth diapers.
The garden came first. Our little house used to be a chicken farm and the spot we picked for our garden had years of chicken manure to make the soil rich. Everything grew— vegetables and weeds. My mentor for gardening was James Crockett of PBS fame Crocket’s Victory Garden. Pre-babies, I had time on my hands and grew a very successful garden—way too successful for two people.
We bought a used upright freezer. By October it was stuffed full—40 packages of broccoli, 53 bags of spaghetti sauce, pounds of peas, bags and bags of corn and more green beans than Hannafords. On the shelves we built next to the freezer we had baskets of sand filled with carrots, potatoes, and beets. Other shelves were filled with all different kinds of squash and even a strange green tomato called Long Keeper.
Gardening was a lot of hard work, but filling the freezer and the shelves was rewarding. We brought anyone who visited down to see our bumper crop. We gave as much away as we could. And for a while it was fun to say to my husband, “Go grab a few carrots so I can make carrot cake.”
But as the winter went on, the green beans lingered in the freezer uneaten and the potatoes started to look sappy. Broccoli is delicious when it’s fresh, but once freezer burn takes hold it doesn’t taste so good. We weren’t worried. We would just adjust what we grew.
By the next summer we had a baby. I pictured my daughter peacefully sleeping in my dad’s wicker baby carriage under the apple tree while I worked in the garden. I pictured a clothesline full of white clean diapers, and tiny little dresses.
Annie wasn’t a sleeper. I did use cloth diapers, but they were a lot of stinky work and she used so many diapers the adorable little dresses went in the dryer. The garden grew anyway, but the weeds far outdistanced the vegetables.
By the next summer we had a second baby. No way was I going to double my diaper load so the cloth diapers became dust cloths. No one was going to sleep peacefully under an apple tree. If they did miraculously sleep at the same time, I was going to take a nap, not weed the garden.
We grew a few tomatoes that year.
By the next summer, baby number three was on the way and my husband took over the vegetable garden. It’s been that way ever since. We don’t grow much, mostly tomatoes, corn and pumpkins. We put in an asparagus bed when we moved before baby number four and we both agree that asparagus is a vegetable worth growing. A little bit of weeding and you get a bountiful crop every spring.
So it stayed until last summer. I started growing the eyes of some potatoes that sprouted in the windowsill. Seeds were tough to come by and we moved, but the first thing we did outside was to put in a few raised beds. My husband was working on the interior of the new house so the garden fell to me. Baby number six had turned sixteen. With more time on my hands, I was a very attentive gardener. It was a small area but I crammed it with lots of vegetables. I quickly remembered it was difficult for three people to eat 10 broccoli heads that came ripe all at once.
At our new house there is a weekly farmers market a block away. Somehow, the farmers manage to grow broccoli fresh every week.
This summer I am planting a garden with lots of flowers. I have a little box for garlic, a little box of miniature French strawberries for the grandkids, and lots of basil (you can never have too much basil). Leeks, leeks and more leeks—they never grow for me but I love them and you can’t get the early ones at the farmers market. And, of course, tomatoes—just five plants. A box with scallions, green peppers, hot peppers and cilantro. For the rest, we can go to the farmers market.
I think I have finally figured out exactly what type of a gardener I am. A lazy one who prefers dreaming to producing, but I do grow beautiful flowers and the kids are great too!