My grandfather had a large garden behind their backyard. He grew tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, corn, peppers, beans, and probably a list of other things I’m forgetting. During the summer, he smelled of sweat, saw dust, and tomato plants. It was a smell that came flooding back to me this year as I tied up my own tomato plants to stakes in my modest first-year garden.
I started with a small patch of tomatoes and peppers. The raised bed was outlined with cinder block, and I added broccoli and spinach to the holes around the edges of the retaining wall.
The baby rabbits enjoyed my spinach very much. You’re welcome, baby rabbits.
The broccoli I must have planted too late. It looked to get a good start, and then it just bolted. Long stalks with tiny little heads. I ended up harvesting the tiny little tops off and adding it to a couscous salad. One salad. Just the one.
Pretty soon, the tomatoes took over that small bed. I almost forgot that I had peppers planted between the rows of tomatoes, because they were buried. And not growing, of course. It was about this time that I decided I needed some more space. I added another bed next to the tomatoes and not-to-be peppers.
In this bed, I put 2 year root asparagus and heritage gem corn. The asparagus did well, but was super tiny. That was to be expected for the first year. I remain hopeful. The corn however, has looked the same for about three weeks now. I think it’s decided to be done. Just in case, I dumped a bunch of chicken poop on it this morning before I watered. Chicken poop solves everything. Not really, but if it did, I wouldn’t have a care in the world.
As my tomatoes flourished, I decided to try a few plants from seed. I bought some tomato and pepper seeds for some reason, and then I bought squash, radishes, carrots, and some flower that looked pretty. Turns out, I’m terrible at seed organization. I thought all of my tomato seedlings were peppers and vice versa. Then I got my radish seedlings mixed up with my squash seedlings. This amounted to mass garden hysteria later on. I couldn’t figure out why my squash plants were so small, and I kept digging with my finger around the base of my squash plants, looking for the tops of radishes.
I’m a terrible gardener. Truly.
Then, my radishes (which I still thought were squash at this point) developed some kind of squishy mold. I dug that shit right out and tossed it. Nasty.
It didn’t really matter though, because every one of my randomly placed squash plants got a bug called a stem borer. Short version, they all died. Longer detail involved my friend Marg gleefully splitting open the base of the plant and finding a disgusting, fat, white larvae crawling around in it while I danced about squealing and screaming, “Ewwwww!” We promptly fed the squash killing larvae to the chickens.
There are herbs that are surviving. My basil is doing well. The chives are lasting long enough to feed the rabbits, as is my celery. My dill and cilantro died. I have oregano, but I didn’t label it, so I’ll have to sniff it out when I want to pick some.
Saving my tomatoes, my garden has been a bust. I had such high hopes. Rather, I have high hopes. I’ve already sketched out a plan for next year, and I’m planning on incorporating a lot more herbs. I’ll borrow a tiller and get my ground ready in the fall. I’ll actually label seedlings. I’ll remember that every morning I spend in my garden is a morning I live presently in the memories of my grandfather. Every morning in the garden is a morning spent with him.
So I’ll try again. I’ll start all over and try again, just like he always told me to do.