It didn’t seem insane at the time. The way we figured it, you have to start someplace. It was 2008, and, with inspiration from Skippy’s Vegetable Garden, we set up two raised beds and began a vegetable garden of our own.
Mid-June (above): Mesclun salad mix in the foreground, cherry tomatoes in the middle, squash to the rear, and companion marigolds and nasturtiums tucked in between. Lesson 1: We can still patronize local farmers by buying seedlings at the farmers market, where we also find plenty of advice.
Early July: The garden is filling in. To the rear, the second bed contains peas, green beans, and cucumbers in one half, and potatoes in the other half. We have enough salad greens to give some away. Lesson 2: One of the rewards of gardening is being able to share the harvest with others. Just make sure the slugs are picked out of the lettuce beforehand.
These tiny Zephyrs spied amidst gigantic leaves remind us of a baby’s first sonogram. We had a total of 4 squash plants — a yellow Zephyr summer squash, a Costada Romanesco zucchini, and two Delicata winter squashes. We wanted to cook with the blossoms and discovered, lo and behold, there are male and female ones. Lesson 3: Plants live to reproduce.
Boothby cucumbers to the rear, shelling peas in the middle, and a very crowded row of green beans in front. Our intention was to thin once the seedlings came in. Lesson 4: It’s hard to bring yourself to selectively kill off things you’ve nurtured, especially from seed.
Mid-July (above left): Peas and cucumbers climbing up their trellising. Early on, the pea pods are flat, and, thinking they’re deformed, we culled them. We later discover that the peas do eventually fill out. Above right: Boothby cucumbers in the early stages. They’re spiny, and we wonder again if that’s normal. Lesson 5: There’s a whole lot more to know about vegetable gardening then just putting things in the ground.
Above left: The potato plot with straw mulch. The sprouting we noticed isn’t from the potatoes pushing through, but from the straw itself. Lesson 6: There’s a difference between straw, salt hay and weed-free hay; choose with care. Above right: The squash plants are beginning to assert themselves. We try to direct their vines around and between the beds, but they’re the bullies of the garden and go wherever they want. Lesson 7: Everything they say about squash is true.
Early August: Two rows of green beans thrive in their tiny allotment of space between the potatoes and peas. In the background, tomatoes and squash fight it out. We’ve abandoned using straw mulch on the potatoes, and added a removable rail to allow room for hilling them up. There’s plenty of growth above ground, while what’s below remains a mystery. Lesson 8: There can be such a thing as too much soil fertility; and Lesson 9: Growing root vegetables requires a certain leap of faith.
To be continued in Part 2…