What I learned about gardening
Like many people stuck at home this spring and summer, I decided to start a garden. It was especially exciting for me as it was the first time that I’ve had a real house with a backyard and, fortunately, a good sized garden box. Needless to say, it was quite the learning experience over the past few months so I want to share a bit about what I discovered.
The planning process is pretty fun — Outside of watching my grandparents growing up, I did not know much about gardening. I had also just moved from California, where you can grow pretty much anything, to Colorado, where you cannot. I dutifully bought a few books and got to planning. If you enjoy learning new things and are mildly OCD then this is quite enjoyable.
Be prepared to fail — I naively thought that everything in my plan was going to grow amazingly and in short order I would be swimming in lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, etc. Oh, how wrong I was. Not only do things grow at different speeds but a peaceful garden box quickly becomes an ecological battlefield where only the toughest survive. No amount of pruning, watering, or general encouragement could save my arugula, broccoli, beets, potatoes, carrots, or one tomato plant. I had to admit defeat many times and just pull up the plants and move on. The benefit of that is that there was now more room for the winners to flourish.
Zucchini will grow overnight and take over — Never, ever, in my life, unless on at least a half acre, will I grow zucchini again. As one of my favorite vegetables, it seemed like a huge win when I saw it started to take hold. Little did I know it was going to invade my entire box, crowd out light from other plants, spread vertically and horizontally at breakneck speed, and squash (pun intended) everything in its path. Leaves grew larger than umbrellas. Fruit that were the size of my pinky were suddenly the size of my forearm by the next day. And the pokey little hairs that cover the entire plant commonly stopped me from moving it or reaching other plants. Finally pulling it out of the ground was an incredibly cathartic experience.
Farmers and grocery stores exist for a reason — Maybe one of the biggest lessons I learned is not to grow things that you can buy incredibly cheaply at the grocery store. The human species has come to be what it is today because of specialization, and for good reason. Farmers do what they do incredibly well. Vast supply chains and global economics make some of my favorite vegetables very reasonably priced. I spent months growing four mediocre cucumbers, which normally cost me 50 cents each. My carrots, which were so small that they more accurately fit in the micro, instead of baby, category by the time I pulled them, could have been purchased in a five pound bag for about $2. Next time I will try growing things I don’t normally buy or are typically harder to find. Not only will that broaden my food horizons but will most likely be a better bang for my buck.
I’m curious to hear how everyone else’s covid gardening experiences have been. What successes and failures did you have? Would you do it again? And what recommendations do you have for me?
A few shots of my 2020 gardening adventure:
I read a book and I made a plan. What could go wrong?
Day 1: The day of innocence and hope.
Can’t wait to never have to go to the grocery store all summer.
Damn, I’m so good at this. Why doesn’t everyone do it?
A proud moment. The cucumber and lettuce are both things that I grew.
This thing was seriously tiny the day before. Note the leaves of the plant trying to escape into my entire backyard.
Despite my hatred for the zucchini plant, I does have some beautiful flowers.