About six months ago, I decided to overhaul my life. I’m at the midway point, nearing retirement (a.k.a. my kids are almost out of the house) and I’m looking to find ways to define the second half of my life in a relevant way. So, naturally, I went the natural route. We began planning a future of self-sufficiency.
Oh, Covid, you fickle bitch.
Little did we know that just three months later, the whole world would come to a screeching halt. I don’t have to elaborate; you were probably there. The surprising take-away from the beginning of our garden experiment was that self-sufficiency isn’t nearly as great as leaning on friends and neighbors while they lean on you, in turn.
Our neighborhood has blossomed this year and I can’t help but feel Covid helped that along. Perhaps consider that a ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak pandemic. It’s not unlike the Victory Gardens of WWI and II. We’re working to take care of each other and the energy of it all is beautiful.
Still, we’re just baby gardeners at this point. We went into the growing season knowing this would be trial and error for us, and we weren’t wrong.
Lesson 1: Tomatoes are insane. Somehow, we have the best luck with tomatoes, almost to our detriment. We have several varieties, but they have all taken over the garden to the point where our trellises have been breaking under the weight of the fruit and vines. We easily have hundreds of tomatoes currently, with no sign of slowing down. The tops of the plants are taller than we are, and those flowers are going to be very interesting to reach when they begin to grow fruit. Next year, the tomatoes go in their own bed and will need serious reinforcement.
Lesson 2: Berries are jerks. Oh, they grow just fine in the woods, all wild and free, but try to stick some in the ground and *sad trombone* they wither and die. Thankfully, the birds have spared a few wild raspberries for us this year so we have something to snack on as we walk through the new trail in the woods.
Lesson 3: Poh-tay-toes. All of our research said that the potatoes were ready to pull when the greens died off. LIES! We are now the proud owners of the tiniest taters I have ever seen, and they’re completely inedible. They’re currently sitting in the dark pantry, growing new sprouts, so we can plant them again for (we hope) a second, more bountiful harvest in the fall.
Lesson 4: Onions are even bigger jerks than berries. First the a-holes uncover themselves like some kind of dang zombie flashers, then they pull a “potatoes” and the greens die off, signaling that they’re done cookin’. SO MANY LIES! They’re teeny tiny onions, but thankfully we only pulled a few before we just left the rest to do whatever it is onions do for a bit longer. Also, anywhere you see the word “onion” in this paragraph, you may also place the words “garlic” and “carrots.” In fact, if it grows in the ground, it’s a jerk.
Lesson 5: Japanese beetles love beans. The good news is that we haven’t had a problem with beetles eating anything other than the beans. The bad news is that there are no beans for us to eat. Perhaps we shall continue to plant sacrificial beans to protect everything else. Is that awful of me? The beetles don’t seem to think so.
We may not have the best harvest this year of anything but tomatoes, but I still declare our garden a success. The purpose was to learn, and learn we have. Next year, we will adjust what we’ve done so far and hope for a better crop, but for the time being, we’re just getting the later harvest in the ground and crossing our fingers.
Fingers that are suspiciously beginning to turn orange from all these tomatoes. Oof.