I’ve always wanted to be a farmer, or at least a gardener. My parents were raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and New Jersey and always dreamed of having a place to raise their kids where they could actually see the stars at night and could learn about nature and the responsibilities of taking care of land. They had the chance to live that dream when they purchased a 20-acre abandoned sheep & chicken farm in Berks County and turned it into a horse farm with a small garden.
We had a small garden alongside the (former) chicken coop. We had a few fruit trees, too – a Jonathan apple tree, a Bartlett pear tree, two Bosc pear trees and a Seckel pear tree. My favorite thing about gardening was sinking my feet into the sun-drenched soil early in the season to plant vegetables, herbs and melons. Our gardens included tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupes, cucumbers, green beans, mint and my personal favorite: potatoes. Harvesting potatoes was so much for a 10-year-old wanna-be farm girl, because she got to dig around again in the dirt until she discovered a potato. I enjoyed the other tasks involved in gardening, like watering, weeding and harvesting. It was one more excuse to get outside during the summer!
Fast-forward about 15 years. I now live in a second-floor apartment, but tomorrow I get to dig around in the dirt and plant a vegetable garden. Some friends of ours are graciously letting my husband and me share some space in their garden as we share the responsibility of the garden together. I started by sprouting the seeds – zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, cantaloupes, arugula, basil and lettuce. For everything else we plan to put in the garden, we’ll buy plants.
Starting from seeds certainly is no easy task. Some of the seeds seem to sprout overnight and some of them never spouted. Zucchini wasn’t satisfied with our 70-some degree apartment. It wanted 90 degree temperatures! So I covered it loosely with plastic wrap and kept a small electric heater going near the plants. After a long 14 day germination period, they finally sprouted!
We’ve already harvested a few things from the garden that our friends direct-seeded earlier this spring, including oregano, chives and spring mix. My husband took one bite of the spring mix and immediately asked me where it came from: he had never tasted anything with so much flavor! I have to say that the spring mix is pretty amazing. We eat it without salad dressing, tasting each leaf just to savor it’s individual flavor: spinach, arugula, mustard greens, red and green romaine, red and green oak, mâche, frisée, red chard…
I have found that no matter how much I think I know about gardening, I always find that the time in the garden teaches me new things – about the harmony of nature or the bold flavors of locally grown produce. I’m always amazed at the earth’s ability to bring forth new life with a few simple ingredients: soil, water, sun and seeds. I hope you will also have the opportunity to plant a garden this year and experience this first-hand.