by Katherine Martinko: It’s my first time having a real vegetable garden, and I can’t get over how exciting it is to watch plants grow…
This spring, my kids and I planted our first-ever vegetable garden. Together we dug up an old perennial bed left by the previous owners, since it was the only place in the yard with enough sunlight. We mixed in bags of sheep manure and loads of compost, created walkways with little paving stones, and then planted seeds in neat rows, guided by twine stretched between two sticks.
All of this may seem like basic knowledge to more experienced gardeners, but it has been a revelation to me. I have never gardened before, aside from a failed attempt at a raised garden bed and a batch of never-ending bok choy planted by a roommate in a tiny Toronto backyard. In fact, I was very worried about digging up a perennial bed to turn it into a more labor-intensive vegetable patch, but my mother assured me I’d find the vegetables to be a lot more interesting than flowers.
She was right. In the two months since the vegetable garden was planted, it has become a source of great joy for the whole family. The kids are out there every day, reporting on the progress of the plants. They’ve watched the lettuces unfold into luscious heads that we harvest for daily salads, the peas climb upward in a green tangle, and the radishes pop their tiny pink tops out of the dirt. Just this morning, one of them identified the newly planted beans poking their rounded heads out of the soil.
We’re at the beginning of the growing season; here in Ontario, May 22 (a.k.a. Victoria Day weekend) marked the traditional safe date to plant frost-sensitive seeds and seedlings in the ground, hence the beans that are starting to sprout. I have plans to add cucumbers and tomatoes as the weather warms, as well as more radishes and garlic once it cools in the fall.
So far this vegetable garden has been a good lesson in letting go. I’ve realized a few things – primarily, that it’s OK to fail. I think I’ve been afraid to garden in the past because I was worried things wouldn’t grow, that pests would eat them, that I’d forget to water them, that they’d taste awful. Maybe all of these things will happen (like my basil seeds that never sprouted), but it’s only by jumping in and trying that I’ll learn.
Because much of my motivation for growing veggies comes from wanting to acquaint my children with the sources of their food, I’ve also realized I need to relinquish control and let them get involved. That means inevitable damage to the garden, but it’s a small price to pay for the experience they gain. For example, when my oldest son told me that he tried uprooting weeds using the strongest spray setting on the hose and accidentally took out a few pea plants in the process, I stayed calm and explained why that wasn’t smart.
It remains to be seen how the garden grows throughout the rest of the summer and fall, but if it’s this exciting when the plants are brand new, I can’t imagine how thrilling it will be to harvest larger, fully ripened vegetables. With a good chunk of the yard ripped up now, we’re committed to making this work, and learn we shall, by trial and error!