growing our food: the garden story

growing our food: the garden story

Let's go back in time to a long-ago era called the beginning of summer. I was planning our first real vegetable garden. A few years ago I had tried planting cucumbers by sticking the seeds in an old dresser drawer that I repurposed as a raised bed. The experiment yielded a few cucumbers, but the drawer fell apart after a month of hard rain so I abandoned the idea – until now. This year I ambitiously planned an eight-bed garden to be filled with fruit, herbs, vegetables and flowers. What better way to teach Lars about food and where it comes from than to grow our own?

We got to work preparing our beds, which meant hiring someone to build them. Then we ordered some high-quality organic soil. This proved to be the best decision ever and why the garden turned into a prehistoric jungle – more on that later.

After five yards of organic soil was dumped on the lawn (that's a lot of dirt, by the way) it was time to shovel it into the beds. This was Lars' favorite part of gardening and he put in a few good hours shoveling dirt into his wheelbarrow and then into the beds (or in the vicinity of the beds – most of the time).

At one point we found a mouse next to the dirt-pile and Lars wanted to pet it. I told him I wasn't sure if that was a good idea (because I wasn't sure if that was a good idea), but I gave in and we both ended up petting the mouse. I think it was okay since we have no contracted diseases. As of yet.


Back to our garden, which was finally ready for planting. This was a fairly simple process of following the directions on the back of the seed packets. Which I did. Up to a point. Here's where I went astray: I didn't quite trust that the seeds would turn into real plants, so I doubled the amount of seeds I was instructed to use. I guess in gambling this is called "hedging my bets." Please, if you are planting a vegetable garden, do not do this. It creates, when combined with high-quality organic soil, a prehistoric jungle – more on that shortly.

Growing food is much easier than I thought because nature does most of the work

The good news is, despite my lack of gardening knowledge, the seeds did grow into plants. Lots of plants. Lots of big plants. It also happened to be a very rainy, humid summer here in the Hudson Valley, which made for great gardening. Here is what it looked like in a few short weeks.

And this is what the garden looked like after six weeks when we were already eating cucumbers, dill, lettuce, radishes and zucchini. The best part is that we grew all this food ourselves. Me and Lars (and sometimes Gerald). With our own two (and sometimes six) hands. And that made me happy and proud.

And then things went terribly wrong. The garden had been doing really well – until we went away for two weeks. That's all it took. This is what happened:

You're looking at a mass of cucumber, squash, watermelon and zucchini vines threatening a hostile takeover. Terrifying. Not cute gardening anymore. This called for extreme measures, like Lars' lawnmower and clippers.

And some really big shovels, hoes, rakes and knives. Oh, and mulch. I learned that mulch keeps the weeds at bay in-between the beds. So now I know.

The remainder of our gardening season is being spent managing the jungle I created in our back yard. But it occurred to me that the purpose of the garden was to learn where our food comes from, which is exactly what we learned. And I can't think of a better way to spend my final summer days than with my son growing our own food – or hacking squash vines with tiny clippers and a plastic lawnmower.

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