Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why do I garden? Let me count the ways...

You know, I actually don't even *have* a garden (yet) in the traditional sense. We have a patio container garden and an herb bed and some volunteers out by the compost bin, which to my joy and pleasant surprise are actually thriving!

Of course, our life is transitory right now, so we haven't been committed enough to actually till and dig and work an in-ground bed. So perhaps that's why. I don't garden because it "saves money at the grocery store". My yields aren't nearly enough to significantly lower our produce purchases...well, maybe the cherry tomatoes and basil. (Heh. We call that our bruschetta pot!)

I don't garden because I have a brilliantly green thumb. I think of "Green Thumbers" as those who garden instinctively and confidently - I actually fret over our little plants, always hesitant and uncertain about doing the right thing to make them thrive. I have a bag of bonemeal and a bag of bloodmeal and a bag of sulphur pellets we bought for the holly bushes. But I always have to run to my Vegetable Gardener's Bible and look stuff up... definitely not the hallmark of one with a green thumb! Still, this summer is shaping up to be more successful than last summer (blast those tomato hornworms and squash vine borers of 2009!) so I am taking that as a positive sign. And my flower / shrub beds are doing even better.

So, again, why am I so drawn to gardening? There's a satisfaction to it, and a heritage, too. I am so proud that I've successfully transplanted many of my grandmother's (and by extension, my great grandmother's) plants: hostas and callas and roses and lily-of-the-valley and daffodils... seeing them grow makes me inordinately happy.

There's an aesthetic quality to gardening, too. I detest "manicured" gardens - those whose shrubs are forced into boxes and balls and other unnatural shapes. But I like tidy gardens, on the other hand. Garden plots where plants grow in their natural patterns but complement their bed-mates with color and smell and texture. But... how do I square that with the idea of raised bed gardening? I delight in the idea of several neat and orderly raised beds with walkways between them and a cute (but functional!) garden fence around them... with a gate, even! Something like this, or this, or this. Maybe it's because I like the plants to look natural but I like order in terms of beds and layout? Hmm. I think that's the librarian in me transferring to my garden design...

With that mind, I've talked the philosopher into a single raised bed for next year. We're going to use the Square Foot Gardening method, which involves raised beds dug really deep and an intensive gardening style. Basically you divide a 4' x 4' block into 16 squares, and each square gets a crop according to its spacing needs. (ie: one tomato per square, but 24 carrots!) Then when you harvest one square, you can turn in some compost and plant another crop. We're going to put it out by the well house, so there's easy watering and a nice flat space. I really think I talked him into the project by agreeing that we should rent a tiller for an afternoon. He got oddly excited about that! ::grin:: Anyway, we'll prep the space and start amending the soil this summer, and (maybe) plant a late crop of lettuce before the weather turns cold in November. Then we'll be ready to go next year with a REAL garden. And that, my friends, will be a Happy Thing Indeed.

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