I’ve been gardening since I was a little girl. My earliest garden memories are of eating warm, ripe cherries, peaches and tomatoes straight from the source. My childhood was filled with happy days working in the garden. Before I even knew why, I helped spread manure in the fall, fully enjoying the bawdy humor of poop jokes. When my hands were dexterous enough, I planted tiny radish seeds. My family’s garden was planted in organized rows, which I regularly helped weed. Strangely, I found garden chores rewarding because I sampled the fruits of my labors as I worked. My motto then and now: She who weeds eats all the ripe strawberries!
Even though I’m a lifelong gardener, I can’t help but feel that each year’s garden is a brand new experience–a garden experiment. Changes in temperature, rainfall, insects beneficial and nefarious, site in the garden, and countless other factors impact the success and failure of home garden crops. For example one year, my corn was ruined by caterpillars, but the nearby cucumbers grew up the cornstalks and were better than ever! No longer do I worry what will happen if I decide to do something new or different. From trying a new variety of tomato to trying a new plant alltogether, in the garden, I have learned to expect the unexpected. Both my successes and failures are important parts of the garden experiment, adding to my knowledge and enjoyment of the experience.
As much as I love it, this year I didn’t plant anything. That’s right, nothing at all. I badly hurt my lower back last summer, and even though it had been months, I was still in no shape to dig and plant. My husband was very disappointed, and I suppose my daughter was too, because in May she offerred to take the job of planting if I would buy the plants. So my husband, daughter and I spent a few evenings at the garden center and the nursery selecting plants, and I gave my daughter carte blanche to plant where and how she wanted. I figured she would enjoy the process much more without a nagging mother hovering.
While my daughter was planning her garden she asked lots of “what if” questions. “What if I plant some seeds for these flowers next to those herbs? What if I planted these plants too close together? What if I transplant these volunteer seedlings to a new spot?” When I’m planning my garden I always ask myself, “What if…” So I was tickled her mind works like mine. Sometimes I knew the answers, but often I was surprised that I really didn’t know. My impressions of where things go in the garden have been shaped by years of my own experimentation. Her ideas were new, fresh, and totally different from mine. Her questions made me curious, so I told her, “Follow your ideas and see what happens. Think of the garden as an experiment. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t.”
So here it is, August, and my daughter’s garden is fantastic. She had some failures, “What if these plants die?” Some of them did. “What if these seeds don’t sprout?” Some of them didn’t. But overall the garden experiment was a huge success. Most everything she tried worked, and some of her ideas worked astonishingly well…
…Like the tomatoes. Oh my gosh. I’ve never had so many tomatoes. And a watermelon. No matter how many times I’ve planted a vine I have never gotten a watermelon. Oh the peppers, so many peppers, hot and sweet! Not to mention the legs and arms of zucchini. This year’s garden experiment: Total Success!