I’ve always enjoyed putting my hands in the dirt. I like doing things where I can see a visible result and feel a sense of accomplishment. From mowing the lawn to pulling weeds to planting flowers to picking tomatoes. I am not sure I’d say I have a green thumb (I kill just about anything that grows indoors)- my heart has a green thumb though. Gardens are my happy place.
In the past year we’ve moved into a new home with a big yard which for me meant POSSIBILITY. Last summer, we did a little bit. Mostly flowers and a few herbs- things to continue this year. But I wanted more. Something I’ve always wanted to have is a big vegetable garden. We often had tomatoes and peppers as a kid, and herbs were just a fixture between the flowers for the garden we had. My neighbors had a decent sized veggie garden at various times, so I knew first-hand the goodness of something right from the yard.
Nerds. Not just for school anymore.
In my adult years I haven’t had the space or the time. The stars aligned this year though. So this winter I got to planning. I’m a nerd. A big nerd. I like to research. I read voraciously. Digging up and synthesizing information is a hobby I haven’t been able to utilize to my full nerdy capacity since college days of 9-hour honors written exams (a real thing, that I actually miss).
For my gardening I have a book. It’s actually a bullet journal. I write lists, charts, calendars, and plans. It’s not particularly pretty all the time but it’s full of practical info. There are lists of what I’d like to plant. Timelines for seeding, hardening off, transplanting, re-planting, harvesting. Charts of what my seed tray actually contains. Categorized lists of what likes fertilizer, sandy soil, acidic or alkaline soil. I learned what needed to get in the ground before the frost date because it likes the cool temperatures for a while, and what needed to wait until the danger of freezing was past. So the infamous frost date is on my timelines too. An important day that almanacs are very helpful in determining. There is a very rough sketch for what I’d like to have where in my little plot that I’m so glad I did in pencil. It changed a few times during the tilling and soil prepping process and continues to evolve.
Gasp. Not Pinterest perfect
The funny part about all of that though is that my first dreams for this live on pinterest. Which means of course they are beautiful and perfect. Kind of like the picture at the top. They are pinned next to fancy DIY chicken coops and other pipe dreams. My first intentions were to create a potager garden- one in which flowers and herbs and vegetables grow side by side. The board is actually called My Alabama Potager. To a small degree, and for practical purposes only, I have a little bit of that. But I quickly realized in my research just how much SPACE plants like to have.
The next thing I realized is that a power tiller or cultivator was not going to work for my plot. We have rocks. Sometimes massive rocks. Well, rocks dull blades and create dangerous projectiles. So that meant hand tilling with a tool powered by ME. For me this was super rewarding. It started out as grass and turned into dirt that was plantable. I could see the changes foot by foot. But it was hard work. I have muscles, particularly in my back, that are stronger than they’ve ever been. We also live in Alabama which means we have clay. So amending the soil was important also. More work of lifting heavy bags of compressed peat moss and other additions and working it into the clay again and again, digging deeper each time, removing rocks as I went.
Shocker. Not everything worked well
But slowly I started to develop a garden. It turned out to be about 12 feet by 27 feet something that was decided with a combination of planning and time simply running out on me before planting season was here. I had to fence it off with something to show the dogs where they couldn’t go and hopefully prevent any rabbits or other critters from interfering. I found a massive boulder buried about 6 inches deep and stretching across several feet of where I initially thought I might put watermelon. Ha. Change in plans. Some containers with lettuce and spinach will go in that spot. Also a few marigolds to help keep things free from pests and give a small tribute to my original potager dreams.
I tried to do some seedlings indoors this year, but I think that will take some continued practice. The germination process went awesome! Almost every little peat pod grew tiny green sprouts that turned into bigger sprouts that grew little leaves. Some of them will go into the garden soon. Many of them did not survive the hardening off process though- when you expose them to sunlight more and more each day, bringing them in at night, until they are ready to go into your actual sunny, happy garden space. I believe I exposed them too much too early. I will keep trying though because the fun labeling and little sprouting process makes my heart happy (and I like to talk to and sing to the seedlings. I’m a weird nerd!). And my girls liked it too. They are too young to get too excited about all the rest yet- something that I’m sure will change when harvesting time draws near.
Success. More than just the plants
What I did do successfully though was build a potato tower and have them actually start growing, begin onions from starts, broccoli from store-bought transplants, and carrots from seeds put straight into the ground. My zucchini (also from seeds in the ground) just sprouted this week too. My broccoli is broccoli-ing, my carrot tops look like carrot tops already, and the potato tower is just cool. I’ve met neat people along the way who share my passion for this stuff- like the friend who provided the chicken litter (and also removed a sudden swarm of bees near my garden entrance! Story for another day.). I’ve been able to share extras with other friends, like onion starts when I just had too many for my family to enjoy or fit in my little space.
Most exciting of all of the successes perhaps is that I’ve had time for something that is my own, that I love, that I can nerd out about, and that counts as SELF CARE. Something I am in dire need of as a mom of young children. As someone who battles depression and anxiety. As someone who is a woman. As someone who is human. I’ve committed to it now. Not just because it’s out there in my yard. Not just because I’m writing about it for you internet people. But because I am committed to giving myself spaces for quiet or audiobooks or music or prayer or podcasts while also doing something I’m passionate about that fuels me. How cool is that? I’m looking forward to sharing my garden with you internet people. Thanks for coming along for the ride.