Continuing on the theme of “Things Jenn Never Thought She Would Do” (i.e. have a second kid!), I figure its time to share what is likely my most unanticipated suburban passion….Gardening. Yep, gardening.
When we moved into our house, there was a an area along one side deemed too sunny for grass, so my husband conspired with the builder to turn said space into a fenced in area complete with gravel and garden beds. I laughed hysterically upon hearing this news- I mean, what a waste of space! And it sat there, untouched, for almost an entire year, taunting me every time I looked out the window with a whiny chant that sounded (in my head, at least) something like “Haha you can’t even microwave a meal without burning the edges, imagine the disaster that would ensue should you even attempt to plant (gasp!) something living over here!”.
Never one to back down from an (imaginary) challenge, I decided to give the whole gardening thing a go. It seemed like a fun activity to do with Alexa, and a good way to motivate myself to hone my culinary skills- in an effort to not waste the fruits of my labor (should there be any) I had to amass an assortment of recipes centered around whatever I chose to grow.
Full disclosure- I had some help. My “ghost gardener” Michelle Moore taught me the basics- laying out the garden game plan, if you will. She spearheaded the initial planting, and showed me how to best care for the different vegetables so as to maximize my chances of success. Last summer, Alexa and I spent hours every evening tending to our plants and taste testing recipes. It was a great “witching hour” activity to keep her happy between 5-7pm, and I quickly fell in love with the surprisingly Type A aspects of gardening- seeing your harvest grow based on proper pruning techniques, testing different amounts of watering to yield more or less fruit, etc.
This summer, we doubled the size of our garden- adding 4 raised beds and 2 bamboo trellises. Here is the breakdown:
-Bed 1: Herbs (dill, cilantro, horseradish, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage)
-Bed 2: Lettuces
-Bed 3: Squash (yellow, zucchini, Sspaghetti), shishito peppers, assorted hot peppers, marigolds
-Bed 4: Heirloom carrots, artichokes, jalapeño peppers, strawberries, marigolds
-Bed 5: Cherry tomatoes, russian red kale, red peppers, celery, cucumbers (on trellis)
-Bed 6: Assorted heirloom tomatoes, sunflowers (planted by Alexa’s class on the last day of school), scallions, chives
-Bed 7: Assorted tomatoes, hungarian wax peppers, peas (on trellis), cauliflower, beets
-Bed 8: Broccoli, yellow tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, mini pumpkins (on trellis), brussels sprouts, onions
-Containers: Dahlias, zinnias, mint (chocolate, mojito, spearmint)
As with anything, we are having some successes (herbs up the wazoo, delicious cucumbers, the most lovely lettuce) and just as many (if not more) challenges (why won’t ANY of my peppers grow and how did my squash plants end up with some weird white speckled disease?!). And while I do get very frustrated by the unpredictability of it all, I try to remind myself this is sort of an experiment and I just have to go with it. Some things (the weather, the chipmunks) are beyond my control.
So now I get it…gardening just may be the best form of therapy. And coming home to a delicious tomato, onion and cucumber salad served beside an herb roasted chicken is for sure preferable to a stack of expensive doctor bills followed by hours spent quarreling with your health insurance provider over coverage.