Sunday, March 21, 2010

I've Come a Long Way

I can trace back my gardening experience to exactly two years ago.  Before I inherited a huge garden when we moved out here at that time, I didn't so much as have a plant on my balcony in my uptown condo.  My thumb was pretty flesh colored and manicured until two years ago. 

Aaron and I hadn't really discussed taking up gardening before we moved out to our place.  I just thought we were moving out here to grow grapes.  But, a garden?  With flowers and vegetables and stuff?  As if the task of becoming a vineyard owner when I knew nothing about growing grapevines or making wine wasn't daunting enough.  At that point, my main concern was what footware to wear in the vineyard that wouldn't give me bad tanlines or ruin my pedicure.  Prior to moving here, all I had to worry about was keeping the floors clean in my 730 sq. ft condo.  And suddenly, we had 13 acres of land to care for with a 1000 sq. ft. garden alone. 

Two weeks after we moved in on March 1st, 2008, while I was still busy deocrating, painting and arranging furniture, Aaron came home with about a dozen packets of seeds, some potting soil and planters and set it on our Hungarian pine kitchen table. 

While he has always been good about asking me what tasks I want to be involved in out here, he at the same gives me a little nudge to take on some new responsibilities.  Like for our negative one anniversary (one year BEFORE we got married), for instance, when he came home with a  "Happy -1 Year Anniversary" card and a gardening set for me.  A new garden tool set hadn't been on my wishlist, but how could I have been anything but grateful to have a man who actually bought me a thoughtful gift to celebrate an anniversary that doesn't really exist.  The message was pretty loud and clear that he wanted me to be in charge of the garden. 

Even though we met when we were both living in Minneapolis, he's a country boy at heart, who grew up next door to his gardener grandma.  Still to this day, at age 93, she grows lettuce like a champ.  What kind of women would I be if I couldn't at least attempt to live up to the standards of his grandma and grow a green thumb?

While dirtying my fingernails and planting seeds indoors all over our 80 year old butcher block table gave me pause initially, I quickly overcame that relunctance and started tackling the garden.  I can't say that first year I was totally into it as I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of work involved when I didn't know what I was doing in the first place.  In my defense, my first year of gardening EVER was in a 25 x 40 foot garden. 

By myself.  Can you imagine the weeds in a garden this size?

But I did this while my soon to be husband was busy planting grapevines, putting in trellises, making an outdoor grill and building a greenhouse.  I mean, if he could do all that and hold a full time job, I could certainly get off my butt and figure out how to grow some vegetables.

And when that first radish came up, I was giddy as a schoolgirl.  I was so proud, that on a rare occurence, I even updated my facebook status that day to announce that I had produced a vegetable.  That radish was all I need to know I was capable of becoming a gardener. 
See, don't I look like a professional gardener in my flip flops and baby-tee? 

There was really no rhyme or reason to my planting the first two years.  I just dumped some seeds in the ground in a somewhat sectioned off garden and waited to see what came up.  I planted things that I didn't know what they were.  Like okra.  What is okra?  I still don't know.  But I planted it because I could.  I don't think they survived though, which might have been a blessing because I don't know what I would have done with it if they had.  Last year, I grew cantaloupe.  I didn't even know it was possible to grow cantaloupe in Minnesota, but I did.  Although they rot pretty easily, and we didn't eat much of it last year, so I'm kicking that out this year. 

With the exception of just a few, I've tried about every vegetable under the sun.  No pun intended.  Some have succeeded and some failed, which is to be expected when learning via trial and error.  I learned the hard way that if you don't pick zucchinis, they just keep growing....and growing.  Which is why I ended up with about 62 giant zucchinis last year. But since I wanted to make good use of my garden harvest, I kind of backed into my cooking last year, using recipes that included whatever came up in the garden.  Which meant I tried every possible zucchini recipe on the planet, and I intend to share those with you on this blog this year.  You never knew you could do so much with a zucchini. 

Get excited! 

Now that it is that time of year again and I am embarking on my third year of gardening, I thought I would share just a sampling of what I am planting this year. With the guidance of a few friends (Thanks Megan! Thanks Stacy!), my garden is a little better organized and planned out this year.  And I'm hoping to get some more flower beds established this year since they've taken a backseat to the vegetables the last few years.

I've got a few started indoors already.  Like the peppers.

And of course, Aaron has his tobacco going.  After trying one of his cigars, he determined that he rolled them a little too tight.  So he'll try it again this year.

And just think.  Later this year the little seeds inside this pack of squash could be blue ribbon winning zucchinis.   You saw it right here, folks. From the beginning. 

I've come a long way  in just two years.  It's going to be a fun season.  Can't wait to get my fingers in that dirt!