I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
I have to admit, I expected to have this romantic (or Romantic) experience with my new vegetable garden like Hawthorne does. Wouldn’t it be nice to walk over to your garden in your little straw hat, take a deep breath, and experience a “bewitching sight?” Maybe someday when I actually know how to garden and when it spans larger than 4 x 4 feet I will feel a little more “love” and fall into a “deep contemplation.” The only contemplation I fell into when I started my very first garden was, Which out of the 30 different types of soil should I buy? And what veggies can I plant this late in the season? And where in the yard do I plant them? Dad got a lot of phone calls that day.
I have wanted a vegetable garden ever since I moved to Vermont two years ago. There is something about Vermont that screams “GARDEN!” I think it’s the joy you feel when you eat locally, knowing where your food comes from, who you are supporting, and how you are helping the local economy and environment. Who would’ve thought that it would take unemployment to give me the yard space to build a garden? Somehow I went from having a job and living in a one-bedroom apartment with no yard to jobless and living in a house with a huge fenced-in yard. Logic seems skewed.
In any case, I left the house this weekend to see how cheaply I could start a small garden. And while I wish I could have supported a local farm store, I had a coupon for Lowes…and if you’re unemployed, you follow the coupon.
My first three phone calls to dad were to ask about soils: Does Miracle Grow have inorganic fertilizers? What’s the difference between planting soil, potting soil, garden soil? Top Soil is one dollar, will that work? The next calls were about plants and seeds: Will peppers grow well? Carrots? Spinach? Chard? Broccoli? When do I plant them? And the next calls, Do I put the raised bed on top of the grass or dig into the grass? Can I plant on the West side of the house? How often should I water them? Dad has amazing patience and as you can see, I haven’t got a clue how to garden.
So here’s how I started my first garden, cheaply. My original plan was to get some scrap wood and build a raised bed. But then I realized that might be a bit difficult when all the tools I own came in a cute little blue set that fit into a piece of Tupperware. (Hey, don’t judge me. Tools can be cute). So I figured there’s no shame in buying a bed that requires no tools for assembly, especially one on clearance.
I decided to place my garden next to the tomato plants that were already in the ground when we moved in. If the tomatoes are growing there, other veggies should too, right? This is on the West side of the house and gets over six hours of sun a day.
I thought the plants would grow best if I dug out the grass, but that was over-ambitious. After about five minutes of trying to dig my shovel into the grass I thought, “screw this” and just began pouring in the Top Soil.
The best part of planting the garden wasn’t the love I felt or the excitement of having fresh veggies. It was watching Smitty go bonkers as I spread out the soil and began planting. Smitty has never been able to handle change very well and with a new 4 x 4 object in the lawn, he needed to show his unacceptance.
Check out his video:
Once the soil was evenly distributed, I decided to finally reference the book that dad had been recommending for the past few months: Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening. But the only thing more boring than watching a gardening show on T.V. is reading a book on gardening. Yes, I wrote my Master’s thesis on Nature and literature, but reading about “Single-Seed Sowing” is quite different. I decided trial by error was more my style, so I made some rows, read the seed packets to see how to plant the seeds, planted, and watered.
We’ll see what happens, and I sure hope that Laura Ingalls Wilder was wrong when she suggested, “a bit of land shows the character of the owner.”