I’ve planted several edible gardens throughout my adult years. Always, it’s a learning experience – something lost, something found. My sole foray into community gardening several years ago ended with the disheartening theft of nearly 20 delicata squash. This year, I took the three strawberry plants donated by my neighbor and stuck them in the spot left vacant by the passing of the zucchini. Left entirely to their own devices, they multiplied over the summer by a factor of about seven. They’ll have to be moved early next spring – a strawberry bed, already made.
Saturday, with the season’s first snowfall in the forecast, I put the garden to bed for the winter. It’s always a bittersweet task: I want to extract every last bit of produce from the soil, but after six months, the daily harvest feels more like an obligation than a privilege.
Last year, I was so sick of cherry tomatoes that when they started to drop to the ground in early October, I just left them there.
I come by my gardening inclination naturally: I am born of good farm stock. Both sets of grandparents were farmers, although my mother called her dad a “gentleman farmer.” I never thought to ask if that meant he made his money somewhere else or just didn’t work very hard at farming. I always got the sense that his wife – my grandmother – was too busy organizing the farm bureau or making speeches elsewhere to have much time for actual farming. But my family history is sketchy there.
My suburbanite parents attempted few edibles; lawns and ornamentals were at the top of the pecking order. They did grow raspberries – hidden from passing glances in an inadequate spot behind the garage – strawberries in those tiered ceramic pots, and an occasional tomato.
I am a mostly self-taught gardener, a rank amateur. But somehow I have managed the last couple of years to have spectacular vegetable gardens. I could never farm full-time – too much sun, too much risk, too many bugs – but growing food on a personal scale appeals to me. For one thing, I love to eat, and I love a good bargain. But it’s also thrilling to watch a plant grow practically from nothing to become something delicious and nourishing. Call it pride of initiative. Genes and good soil are all that I have to credit for the abundance that somehow emerges from my soil – I garden as much by neglect as by design. But at this point in my life, I’ll take my miracles however I can get them.