Growing my Garden: Knowledge and Veggies

I always wanted to have a garden. The idea of eating produce grown in my own backyard has always appealed to me. Like most first time garden-growers, I started off blissfully ignorant and clueless about pretty much everything – from how to prep the soil to how much it would cost to whether I would really enjoy pulling weeds. That was two summers ago. That first summer, I grew so many tomatoes that even the rabbits failed to keep up. They rotted on the vine and made a huge mess. You may not know this, but it’s really tough to pull 4-foot tomato plants out of the ground without slipping on squashed ones andCOMM JR Blog2 image1 2013 11 getting dirt all over your face. It turned out that was actually the fun part! The hard part was getting them all to fit in the compost bin and hearing complaints from my stepdaughter about the smell outside her window. I almost gave up that first summer, but I’m so glad I didn’t.

This past summer, I committed to living the dream of being able to walk outside barefoot in my sundress to pick fresh veggies for dinner in the late afternoon sun. My husband’s colleague has an amazing garden that he has showed off to us several times. When he came to see mine that first summer, he gave me a pitiful look and offered encouragement. I’m not usually competitive, but that really got me going and gave me the push I needed to take this gardening business seriously.

So, I opened my Sunset Western Garden Book, started studying, and took trips to local nurseries with a list of questions. After many weekends of toiling all day long and resenting the fact that I didn’t have a chance to fit in a bike ride, I finally had the proper garden infrastructure in place. I no longer had to spend hours hand watering, and with proper mulching the weeds were no big deal. I added red worms and the proper mixture of materials to the compost bin so the smell no longer creates family feuds.

I know that each summer my garden will be a work in progress and I will continue to learn new things. What’s turned out to be truly surprising to me though is that the joy I have gotten from my garden is not just from eating fresh produce, but from learning what veggies look like in the soil before they appear on the grocery shelf. I had no idea that each purple cabbage comes from a huge plant with massive leaves that spread out about 4 feet by 4 feet. I just assumed multiple cabbages grew on vines. I still can’t figure out why they are so cheap given the huge amount of real estate they demand! I also didn’t know carrots could grow in round balls (or at least mine did…). COMM JR Blog2 image2 2013 11Anyhow, my point is that it’s pretty interesting to see the life cycle of these plants, how fast they shoot up during summer spurts, and how each harvest fills me with immense satisfaction. Like my mom has said to me for years, “Having a relationship with plants is really wonderful.” It’s surprising how connected you can feel to a little green thing that first peeks out from the soil, starts growing slowly, then takes off and becomes a huge variety of shapes, sizes and textures. Also, it felt really good when my husband’s colleague came back to my house to see my garden thriving!

My intent in writing about my garden is to encourage others to grow their own food or to be a part of supporting local food. For those interested in starting their own garden, my only advice is to start small and put in the system before you plant. I highly recommend Sunset Western Garden Book for getting started. If you’d rather not have to plant your own, you can join someone else’s community garden. If you live in the Tahoe area or spend time here, you may want to check out the local Tahoe Food Hub They are building a distribution system that brings food grown in the Sierra foothills and other local locations to North Lake Tahoe. It provides many of the same benefits as growing your own: local, fresh, and organic, plus less energy input into transportation and all that good stuff. Check them out at: Happy growing, learning and eating!