I keep a small vegetable garden for so many reasons, many of which have to do with food. Many have nothing to do with food.
The truth is, my CSA and local farmers markets could keep me supplied in beautiful produce, maybe even better quality than what I can produce myself. There are so many reasons, so many things I love about gardening, that it wouldn’t occur to me hang up my trowel and give it all up.
I love trying to grow things that I’d never find at the grocery store or even the farmers market. Like pink banana squash. Wow.
I love being able to stay mostly out of the grocery store for the summer.
I love clipping fresh herbs whenever I want them. Making fresh peppermint tea. I love nibbling a little sage while I’m working in the garden, knowing that generations of nibblers have done exactly the same in hopes of improving their memory.
But I love the process of gardening, too.
Even on yet another cloudy, cool, somewhat drizzly day like today, I enjoyed tending to my plants and laying down fresh straw mulch. Pulling a few weeds and generally tidying up.
It’s all so manageable in a small raised bed garden. While the perennial beds are becoming jungles with all the recent rain, I can turn my attention to my three small raised beds in my front yard, where weeding is completely easy. Even fun.
I love figuring out whether my tomatoes should be tied up with strips of an old sheet or twine. (I’m going to use strips of an old sheet—when the tomato plants are dry enough to touch.)
I even loved figuring out how to deal with my neighbor’s cat, who makes regular visits to my bean bed.
I love going out to the garden to pick greens, radishes and peas for a salad in the springtime. Dressing it with a little chive-infused apple cider vinegar, garlic and olive oil dressing and a few crumbles of fresh goat cheese from a local farm. Serving it to a friend or eating it alone.
Today, I harvested more bok choi, lettuce, radishes, herbs and peas (not all of which made it into the kitchen).
My ladybugs, or most of them, seem to have moved on to greener pastures. Some insect continues to eat the bok choi. Flea beetles, earwigs? Resisting the option of putting down row cover over the entire bed, I sprayed today with neem oil, hoping that will take care of the problem. With only a few bok choi plants left to harvest, the problem may disappear on its own. (I used the neem oil on a bit of powdery mildew beginning on the bee balm, as well.)
Other than a few little holes in leaves here and there, everything seems to be thriving in the garden. I love that.
I love the daily routine of checking on everything, noting progress and stopping to ponder problems. In the twenty minutes or so that I spend at that routine, my imagination runs into a future where everything in the garden is huge and perfect. I see six-foot tomatoes, heavy with perfect fruit. I see lemon cucumbers and little striped squashes tumbling out of the beds. I see deep purple eggplants and more green and purple bush beans than I know what to do with. I see a two-foot swiss chard plant (and imagine their six- to seven-foot roots bringing minerals up from deep in the subsoil) where there’s a little six-inch plant now.
And, then, into the house I go with my little harvest. Thankful for what the garden has given me today and what it might give me in a few weeks—if the bugs, the weather, my own skills and the neighbor’s cat allow. What’s not to love about all that?
What do you love about growing a vegetable garden?