Sunday, May 22, 2016

An urban garden takes shape

Planting lettuce in the spring between onions that were planted last fall.
I don't think there is anything more optimistic than a gardener. Every year we plant our babies with so much hope and vision. And then, it's all pretty much out of our hands. Oh, we can bring in water if it doesn't fall out of the sky. We can weed. But there isn't much we can do if Mother Nature decides to invoke her wrath in the form of insects, scorching heat, or even some other kind of voodoo. For a couple of years now, I haven't been able to grow peppers in the little plot I garden. I've talked to my neighbors who seem to have the same problem I have. Everything is lush, except for their peppers. This year I'm trying to grow them in a box on my porch. If that doesn't work, I'll try something else. Like most things, there's always so much to learn. Today at the garden center a woman and her young grandson were picking out plants, and I said to the woman, That's how I learned, from my grandmother in Indiana. I've been gardening since my parents started sending me to work on relatives farms during the summer, and it's something I've loved to do ever since. I think just about every place I've lived, I've left a garden behind. 

For a number of years, we've been working a backyard urban garden in Quincy, Massachusetts, just south of Boston, where we rent an apartment. It now takes up more than three-fourths of the backyard, but it started with the landlord letting us take a small corner for a couple of tomato plants. A few fresh tomatoes hung in a bag on his doorknob, and the corner grew to a little square. More tomatoes and zucchini and a handful of strawberries, and a couple of years ago Steve said to take the whole backyard. I sealed the deal when I persuaded him to let me put barrels under the downspouts, telling him he wouldn't even have to pay for water since in comes out of the sky for free. Herbs and smaller vegetables we grow in packing crates I found alongside the road and turned into garden boxes.

The garden has been a big part of our journey as we move, as best we can, to a more organic way of living. The garden is 100% organic; we compost all of our organic food scraps including coffee grounds and eggshells. As we like to say, we use even the smallest part of the buffalo. I am, though, worried about the quality of the runoff that comes down the downspouts, and I've put off having the soil checked for lead and other heavy metals the same way I put off a colonoscopy for ten years: I'm just afraid of what I'll find out. Our backyard garden has become a big source of our food, especially during the summer when we eat a lot of greens. Just last night we used up the last of the pesto made from basil we grew last year, and it was only a few weeks ago we finished the tomato sauce from last year that we froze.

It saves us money, makes up happy; an hour's work in the garden is equal to I don't know how many hours in the gym or with your therapist. I can't explain it but weeding gives me such satisfaction, not only because the end result is so pretty and the physical exercise so cathartic, but the simplicity of being outdoors makes me forget for that little bit of time the inanities of the modern world. Gardening puts me back in touch with nature. I follow the weather and seasons. I can feel myself taking that trip around the sun.

This year is going to be an experiment. A la Barbara Kingsolver and her incredible book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which leapfrogged us into trying to live more healthy lives as we increasingly began to mistrust just about every institution in society, but especially our food delivery system. This little backyard is us pushing back on what we feel is a system that has gone completely out of control.

Part of the backyard urban garden we make every year.

One of my all-time favorite tools for preparing the soil: A small pick mattock.
Swiss chard, brussel sprouts, lettuce, and peppers.
Planting lettuce between rows of onions. Good exercise: the stretching and reaching is worth a gym's membership.
We utilize every inch of the garden. We've learned that from seeing other gardens when we travel.
Compost. We have two bins that cook our yard and kitchen organic waste.

No comments:

Web Analytics