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My Garden

By Mark Crocker

Itís strange but I have noticed that children are kind like a garden. When you start a garden you start off with a dirt patch that has some weeds and rocks and inserts and things you really donít want that wonít make a good garden. You will have to read between the lines as I am going to talk mostly about garden but the same can be said for raising a child.

In June I moved in to a new place that had a dirt patch behind the house that had never been used for a garden before. It had a lot of weeds stones and rocks that made it hard work to break the soil so that I could begin planting.

First I had to get my shovel and start breaking the soil. As the soil had been never dug before it was hard sweaty work and took me some time to get a small patch (20ft by 40ft) dug. (So far I have only used about a quarter of the area as my garden).

Once I had finished I had to make a trip down to the local garden center to get some irrigation hose and attachments so that I could water my garden so that the plants would grow and that I would not have to stand and use a garden hose to water.

After I had done that it was ready to plant.

I started at the back part of my garden where I planted peas then I moved forward and planted yellow squash. As it was later than normal I planted more than I thought I would need. In total I put in about 18 seeds thinking that if I was lucky I would have maybe 6 or 7 come up.

Then once they were planted I planted 2 rows of different lettuce followed by a row of carrots a row of French beans. Then I added a row of leeks and 6 zucchini seeds. Lastly I planted a mix of hot peppers and 2 tomato plants.

However due to the fact that I was starting late I did not have chance to plant a large patch that is still dirt. This in itself was, and is, a problem.

Just off from the vegetable garden I decided to put in a fish pond. I marked out the size of the pond I wanted and started to dig. After only about a foot of digging I ran into a mix of hard pack and large stones and rocks.

However some parts of where the pond is to go was soft and easy to dig yet the fact remain that the dirt was hard digging. So I added a splitter to my irrigation line so that I could attach my garden hose and use the hose to soften the soil. This resulted in my pond becoming a mud pit and the soil in the pond becoming a sticky mess when stepped in.

The pond kind of reminds me of pictures I have seen of the trenches of World War 1 were the mud sticks to your boots and pulling your feet up to walk becomes hard and difficult. However, once the mud had dried the soil was easy to dig and in patches I have got down to about 2 and Ĺ feet.

Now you are wondering what all of the above has to do with children. Starting a garden is kind of like starting a child. A lot of hot sweaty fun that leaves you feeling relaxed and content.

Now my garden was planted and all I had to so was sit back and relax. After about a week and a half the lettuce and peas started pop their heads above the soil and come to life. After about 2Ĺ weeks the squash started to come up followed by the carrots and zucchini. The hot pepper and tomatoes I had brought from the garden center already started so there was not much to do with them other than watch and water.

Now after about 3 weeks in the soil I noticed that some of the blossoms on the pepper and tomatoes started to turn brown and drop off as well as the leaves turning a pale yellow. So I headed down to the garden center and picked up a spray called stop rot as I was sure that I had what is called blossom end rot. Blossom end rot is a calcium deficiency and is fixed by applying stop rot straight to the leaves.

Now as my garden started to grow and all the plants I had planted seems to be growing fast and well I noticed that I had ants and other bugs making visits to my garden. So I had to put out some stuff that would control the bug problem. Now I donít like doing this as I prefer nature to do its thing and let nature do the bug control. However as I seem to be the only person in my neighborhood growing a vegetable garden I seemed to have every kind of bug in a mile radius coming and making a meal out of my veggies. So rather reluctantly I put down some heavy duty bug control.

I was worried about the night visitors to my garden such as the neighborhood cats and other four legged visitors. I was also worried about the birds that would come and eat the bugs so while it was heavy duty bug control I put down as little as I could.

So far it seems that I have managed to find just the right balance in bug control as I have beeís and birds in the day light hours and at night I have raccoons and cats. While the raccoons are really not welcome I do live out in the hills so I remind myself that they were here before me and they have the right to come and pillage my garden a little. So far the raccoons have not done much damage other than pillaging my squash once in a while.

If you recall near the start of this article I mentioned that I had planted about 18 squash seeds. Well, all of them came up so while the raccoons are pillaging my squash plants it is really no big loss as I have more than I need. In fact I have so much squash coming out of my garden that I have been giving away as much as I can.

The French beans I planted also, much like the squash, went totally out of control. While it was only 1 row I have had so many beans that I have given away pounds and pounds of the beans.

Sadly my peas only gave me 1 good harvest and a number of small harvests that were very disappointing. On the other hand my lettuces grew nicely and I was able to harvest and give away a good amount.

Now you remember the patch that I had not planted. Well, as I said it became a problem as the watering made it the ideal home for weeds to take root. I would go out each morning to my garden and start pulling grass and weeds out of this patch that I had left unplanted.

I had the normal weed problems and hoeing between the rows work well but this one patch seemed to grow weeds over night. I would come home from a hard night and to my total amazement there would be new weeds popping up. So each morning before I turned the water on I would have to get my hoe and hoe this patch.

Yet the following morning I would check my garden and the weeds had come back almost as bad as the day before. You would think after a few days of pulling weeds from this patch I would have won. But sadly that is not the case.

I still go out each morning and pull weeds from this patch and turn on my water. I wonder if my next door neighbor is sneaking into my garden while I am at work and planting these weeds?

At the same time I planted my veggie garden I also planted a small herb garden under the dining room window. Now I have to say that I donít just use herbs for cooking. I use my herbs to help me with my stomach problem and to sleep in the day time.

My herb garden again is like a small child and is in the early stages of development. I have lavender, chamomile, sage, thyme, chives, catnip, and borage. The lavender and chamomile make a nice tea that helps me to sleep while the catnip makes a nice tea to help my stomach, plus the local cats come and hold a party at night while I am at work. (I have to remove the fur after I harvest as that does not taste good in the tea). I use the chive, thyme, and sage for cooking. Next year I will be adding to my herb garden. I plan to plant hops, lemon balm, and a few other herbs that I deem useful.

And again the metaphor for raising a child can be used on my herb garden. Like a small child my garden is in its early stages as it takes a good number of years to get a good garden growing. And like a child in their early years, you get back what you put in.

Now as the growing season is coming to an end (mid October here starts to get frosty) I have to start thinking about next year and learn from what went wrong this year. And again like a small child I have to learn from the mistakes of this year and not make the same mistakes next year. Ahh but the work in my garden will not stop with the coming of winter.

You see I have to get the soil ready for next year and replace all that I have taken from the soil. So once the plants start to die off I will have to put down fertilizer and manure so that next year I will have a better stronger garden. So even when late fall and winter hit the work is not done.

And like a small child the garden needs care all the time. Next year my garden will still be like a small child but older. I guess the best metaphor is that this year my garden is like a new born to a two year old. While next year it will be like a 3 or 4 year old going on to an 8 or 9 year old before the end of the growing season. So in about 4 years my garden will be like a teenager and we all know what a teenage can be like.

I guess this point will be as good as any to leave it at, and as my garden ages I will keep you informed of its moods, tantrums, and all the woes that my garden will go though. And like a child, I am sure that it will be a fun, stressful, and worrying time.

Thankfully when it turns 18 I wonít have to stand there and watch it go off into the world and hope that I have done a good job on raising my garden to adulthood.

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