Gardening is not for quitters. Especially during the first year, a garden will test you. It will push you to your limit. It demands your time, your energy, your problem-solving skills. I’m not talking about the cute little pot of tomatoes people grow on patios or the 2×4 foot raised garden box. Those are good things, don’t get me wrong, and any effort to produce one’s own food should be applauded, but a pot or two is mostly maintenance-free fun and doesn’t compare to our 3,500 square foot garden. The garden we are growing, the hey-let’s-try-and-grow-all-our-own-veggies garden, the why-did-we-start-out-so-big garden, the that-grass-was-here-first-and-wants-its-land-back garden, our garden has called for my literal blood, sweat and tears before we even saw the first seedling sprout.
Would it surprise you then to hear that I love my garden? That I’m already thinking how I’ll expand it for next year? I love working in it, seeing the plants grow and produce. And now that it’s covered with mulch and looking a bit better, I’m proud of my garden. Is it still full of grass and weeds? Yep. Is it hopelessly patchy where some seeds didn’t sprout? You betcha. Are the rows wandering and uneven? Totally. Will passersby slow down and take pictures out their car windows like they do with Helga, our chicken mailbox? Doubtful. But I still love it. The kids and I planted it together, so it’s not perfect. And I am far from a gifted gardener. I have no green thumb. I am a novice with much to learn. I have to grunt and claw my way through this process of growing food, but I still find it fascinating, fulfilling, satisfying and spiritual.
We finally got this beast of a garden covered with the hay/manure mixture from the barn and surrounding barnyard that wintered our sheep and cows. Before we accomplished this, we had grass thriving right along with our fragile seedlings.
It took a long time to clean out the whole barnyard and spread it on top of those weeds and around each of our plants. We just barely finished and now we see grass poking up through the mulch. Much less grass, to be sure, and much more manageable. Each day this week, my morning project will be weeding a section of the garden. If I wait until afternoon, the sun is so hot and I can feel it beating down on me. Morning weeding is actually very pleasant, with mourning doves calling, ducks splashing, and a gentle breeze stirring.
This morning I was weeding my third row of carrots, while Elijah is a few rows down weeding beets until he decides he wants to check the radishes. He begins harvesting the larger radishes and thank goodness for them. Radishes are as relentless as weeds and are neither hindered by them, nor any other shortcomings of the gardener. Elijah pulled up a healthy handful of the spicy, round roots.
Radishes are about the easiest thing to grow, and provide as close to instant-reward as it gets in the agriculture world, therefore they are the perfect vegetable to grow to get a group of kids excited about gardening. Think you don’t like radishes? I think you’re wrong. You love radishes, you just don’t know it yet. Grow some, you still have plenty of time this year. Once you harvest, slice up your radishes, sauté them in some butter until they are soft and sprinkle on salt and pepper. Mmmm, you’ll be glad you grew some! Our radish tops don’t go to waste, either. The bunnies were delighted to receive a delicious snack after I cut and washed our first garden harvest, mere weeks after planting the seeds!