Growing an urban vegetable garden has become a huge source of joy and peaceful reflection for me. I planted my first vegetable garden 5 years ago with the oversight of my elderly Greek neighbour who grunted green advice to me.
Ben built two raised garden beds for me and I meticulously planted each seed according to instruction and with a garden map that I had sketched out to ensure optimal growth. It was a bountiful garden that produced juicy cherry tomatoes, an abundance of bush beans and lettuce greens, funky twisted carrots, massive yellow zucchinis and even one surprise pumpkin. Like every garden it became a wild place and eventually went to seed.
The next year I tried out square foot gardening in the raised beds. I was more distracted with two kids and while there was produce, it became sadly withered by early August.
Once we moved I feared I’d lose a garden space and was so thankful when our landlord offered me her old patch. The dirt was healthy and fertilized, ripe for growth. The garden was a bit of a haphazard wild card as I let the boys help me plan and plant. Being pregnant with my third I found it hard to keep on top of tending even that small space but we still had loads of kale and swiss chard. The next year was similar.
Finally this spring/summer I’ve gotten back into my gardening groove. With the admonishment of my landlord that I must water my garden every day I made it my goal to grow a healthy, well tended garden. I know watering seems obvious but it’s easier said than done with three little ones around. I’ve managed to make it a part of our regular routine and the boys are now used to me watering the garden in the morning before heading out on our adventures for the day.
We have garlic growing which we planted last October and look forward to harvesting at the end of July. Our kale and swiss chard is growing to maturation and the leaves are starting to get that bitter taste that comes before they flower. Once they’ve gone to seed I’m planning to seed save and then pull the remains and plant more produce for the fall/winter months. Our cherry tomatoe plant is heavy with ripening tomatoes and our pole beans are also producing a crazy good harvest. When the beans are small with the flower still hanging off the tip they are the sweetest tasting and so I’ve been picking them off the vine for a snack as I pass by.
Our landlord shares the backyard and she is a master gardener. She can coax any thing out of the ground and you wouldn’t believe all the produce she has growing in our tiny yard. There are four huge tomato plants, zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, spinach, pole beans, kale, chard, bok choy, various salad greens as well as blue berry bushes, a fig, apple, peach and pear tree.
Our yard is an edible feast! We don’t need to buy many greens this summer and it’s all thanks to 40 square feet of garden.
When we came back from our holidays our garden had exploded! The beans had grown ginormous and in order to avoid wasting them because they were too woody, we ate all the mature ones in a couple of days by dipping them in freshly made guacomole. The tomato plant had probably grown by a foot and our landlord was kind enough to prop up the branches with poles and give it some tomato food. We’re going to have beans and tomatoes for a long while yet. Our kale was almost gone so we finished it within a day of our return. The most exciting part about getting home was seeing that the garlic was ready for harvest!
I had to dig half a foot into the dirt to pull up the bulbs and it was well worth the effort. It is the most aromatic, delicious garlic I’ve ever eaten. It starts off sweet and then steadily grows spicy on the tongue. I found this delicious swiss chard recipe which is mouth watering with our fresh garlic. Our swiss chard also thrived in our absence. It’s a plant that keeps on giving! I planted six swiss chard plants and next year I’ll definitely plant less. We’ve been eating it all day every day.
After I pulled the kale I wanted to grow a fall crop so I decided to try planting beets for the first time. They should be ready by the end of September and then before I know it, it will be time to plant garlic again!
I love vegetable gardening and the connection I feel to God and the earth as I work a very small section of soil. There are so many life lessons to be drawn from the process of planting, tending and harvesting but I’ll end it here before this turns into a novel!