What Does Your Garden Say About You?

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In a recent ‘Grow Write Guild’ post, Gayla Trail challenged her fellow gardeners to contemplate how their garden reflects their identity. I find this to be an interesting question. Between growing at a community garden, volunteering with Master Gardeners and working as a horticultural professional, I am surrounded by gardeners from all walks of life, with all manner of experiences and memories.

The pictures above are from a garden I was lucky to help tend while living in Norwich. The gardeners were an older couple, who were quite devoted to each other. They’d gardened in that spot for many, many years. I loved working in that garden. The lush and colorful foliage, the interesting collection of plants and the relaxed flow of the space felt like a tangible expression of my clients.

And so, I thought it might be fun to turn this question to you…I’d really like to hear about your garden and how it has evolved over time. Below are a few questions to get you started…

Question-y Questions: What does your garden say about you? How long have you worked in this space? Does it reflect your original vision? How has that vision metamorphosed over time? What would you like to change about your garden? What would you like to keep forever? What sort of memories are connected to your garden?

If you e-mail the answers to me (erin[at]blackberryburrow[dot]com) and a few pictures, I’ll post them next week!

‘Green Thumb’ What Does It Mean?

Sometimes, despite all your best efforts you lose a plant. That moment when you realize it’s not thriving….the leaf color looks a bit off, or brown tips appear at the terminal point of each stem, or that creeping fungus that seems to have turned up everywhere…it’s a little bitter, a little sad and most definitely frustrating.

Generally we don’t plant things intending to kill them. And there is such a multitude of reasons a plant might fail that Sherlock Holmes himself would be hard put to discover the source. There’s light, soil nutrition, soil texture, soil ph, moisture, possible pathogens, insect damage, human damage, critter damage, sunscald, wind, over-fertilization and well I could go on.

A plant that is bright with healthy green growth is pretty amazing. And while nature will always be the best gardener, there’s something deeply satisfying in participating in that. Creation, nurturing, the ability to say, “I grew this”. It can be enormously difficult to let go.

On some level, the survival of plants in our garden can get tied up with our identity, our self-perception and even especially when it’s a front yard…competition and “keeping up with the Joneses”. I’ve talked about this with my fellow Master Gardener interns, “Come over next week, after I’ve weeded the yard,” is a common refrain. Beyond the sadness of losing a plant, we connect that loss with what it might say about us, time and again. Are we not good enough gardeners? Why didn’t we go out and water that one hot day? What did I do wrong? And so on.

Right now I’m struggling with slugs in my garden. They will not leave my peas alone, despite liberal applications of Sluggo. My peas as a result, are a bit stunted and a lot lacy. That said, I want to reflect on what it means to lose a few plants, in the protection of a greater goal. Preservation. This is not something I tend to talk about a whole lot here, many other far more eloquent folks than I have discussed this. Nonetheless I think it’s important, and it’s a conversation that should be ongoing.

What do we really want from our gardens? Over-fertilization and the liberal use of inorganic pesticides and herbicides have caused serious problems in our waterways throughout Washington. And what for? So that our grass can be a little greener? To keep from losing that tomato we were so excited to grow? If gardening is meant to bring us closer to nature, why are we using products that cause such harm to this profoundly beautiful place that we’re so very lucky to live in?

Maybe it’s time, I include myself in this, to check our egos at the door. If your rhubarb bites the dust or your rose succumbs to black spot, what does this really say about your gardening skills, your nurturing skills, or who you are? It simply didn’t work out. And I think that by learning to let go, we as a gardening community can make a profound difference in how the coming generation of gardeners learn to view “success” in the garden and what it truly means to have a “green thumb”.

Written in response to Grow Write Guild Prompt #27. Are you a gardener that enjoys blogging? Join us!

Seed Lust: So many Vegetables, so little time!

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I’m pretty sure I have way too many seeds to plant our little patch. There’s the seeds from last year, there’s the seeds from my work and then there are the seeds I still plan to buy.

In hopes of maximizing the space,  I plan to go more vertical.  I’ve procured some ‘Trombetta di Albenga’ seed, an Italian heirloom summer squash. I’ve heard that they kind of taste like artichokes. Artichokes? I am so wayyyy into that. Also, the vines are vigorous and will clamber across a trellis willingly. Perfect for a tiny p-patch.

I also can’t wait to see what happens with the ‘Watermelon’ radish seed. It’s a Chinese heirloom that produces up to four inch wide roots with pink crunchy flesh. Hello salad! We love beets and carrots, so there will of course be many, many plantings of those. Walla Walla sweet onions are a staple with us. We’ve also got some garlic already in the ground. We’ll definitely grow some radicchio, and Russian kale.

Because we live on a busy street, one of the things I’m looking forward to the most this year is just spending time in the garden. It’s located in Happy Valley, and surrounded by fields and pretty woodland. Last summer I would catch the bus with my garden tote and go work in the garden and sometimes just kick back and enjoy the serenity. I even…gasp!…often turned off my phone. It was great to unplug, and I hope to continue this healthful habit in 2014.

Are you planting a vegetable garden this year? Here’s some great tips for garden planning from Red Dirt Rambling, a fantastic garden blog out of Oklahoma.

Two things I would definitely agree on are… 1- Plant vegetables you like. If you’re going to go to all that work, don’t plant something you don’t particularly enjoy. Hate carrots? Don’t plant ’em! Love beets? Plant lots!

2- Don’t forget flowers. My dad always planted flowers in his epic (and when I say epic, I mean epic, his gardens were ridiculously awesome and productive) vegetable gardens.

They add a lot of color and texture and attract beneficial insects…not to mention one lovely side affect….happiness. Who can’t feeling happy looking at this?

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Lastly, I want to say, maybe think about your critters while planning your garden. Do you have dogs, chickens, cats or guinea pigs? You’ll definitely want to make sure to protect your baby vegetables from pecking chickens or exuberant puppies, but there are also ways to share your garden with your furry or feathered friends, which can be a lot of fun.

Our cat loves to chase bugs and watch us garden. Occasionally she sits down on the odd lettuce seedling, but we’ve learned to protect tender plants from her lounging tendencies. And she is so happy in the garden! (See below)

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How about you? Do you share your garden with any critters? What are your plans this year? Are you growing anything you’ve never grown before? What are you most excited for this spring?

 

~This post was inspired by the ‘Grow Write Guild’ prompt #19. Like to write about gardening? Find out more here.~