Sunday, July 21, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?

While Mark continues to build a new copper  manifold and finish up the plumbing, Maura has been in Indiana for her yearly visit with the grandparents and a week at Survivor! camp. She tells me that what she learned at camp is to make fires and walk without making any sound. I think these skills will come in handy should she ever wish to have a promising career as a pyromaniac ninja or a Chicago "insurance adjuster".

This means Kitty and I have been pretty much kicking it in the burbs. Rather than get down about the fact that we are surrounded by concrete, cars and drive through services I decided to be upbeat about the benefits one can get from living on land. In an attempt to teach Kitty about the world, I decided we would start a little container garden and learn about food- where it comes from, how it grows you know, basic preschool age stuff.

I was encouraged by the beautiful photos of my blog buddy Amanda's garden shots. She has a daughter just a little bit younger than Kitty who seems to be loving playing in the dirt, harvesting vegetables and just generally enjoying her garden. I thought back to my early post college days as a preschool teacher and remembered what worked for a container garden or my classes.

With the memory of successful container gardens in mind, I procured a small plastic wading pool. Drain holes were cut and screen patches were installed over them to keep the dirt in but allow proper drainage. Kitty was ecstatic once we had it raised up on bricks and began filling it with organic soil. This girl seriously loves to dig in the dirt. Then we got to planting and Kitty happily tucked strawberry plants, tomatoes, rosemary, basil,cilantro and squash plants into their beds. Every day we go out and check the moisture levels, water when necessary, talk to the plants and just generally potter around her tiny garden. It looked amazing. The plants took off and looked full and healthy and I promised Kitty it would just be a few weeks before we could begin harvesting the fruits of her labor.

Then, the sun came. With a vengeance. Despite our careful attention the plants started looking, crispy. I may or may not have resorted to putting up shade in a futile attempt to keep the scorching rays from turning our little garden into a burnt wasteland. Amanda posted new photos of her impressive haul. With every viewing of "Brie's garden" Kitty would lament the lack of edibles from her garden and would ask "when my berries gonna grow?". I began to curse Amanda and her green thumb and perfect Pacific Northwest climate.

We got a bell pepper big enough to harvest, but the sun had literally burnt it beyond being edible. Imagine a green pepper with half of it burned black. Kitty was not impressed. The rosemary is hanging in there because it is impossible to screw up rosemary but herbs do not give little kids the same excitement at harvest time that a real fruit or vegetable does. The basil and cilantro was cooked beyond saving. The squash plants are hanging in there but they have not produced ONE piece of fruit. Flowers yes, but nothing to eat much to the consternation of Kitty. 3 months, no fruit. And then, there were the strawberries.

The one bright spot in my sad little attempt to give Kitty the experience of a garden were the strawberries. The plants look good and they are actually bearing fruit. Harvest time should be right around the corner, right? Kitty would look every day at her little tiny berries and would be excited at the prospect of picking them and eating them. Yes, except for the lizards. We have a large lizard population in our garden and would you believe that every single time we would spot a likely candidate berry for harvesting in a day or two, those damned lizards would nick them the night before harvest leaving only a cluster of leaves and remnant of well chewed red fruit clinging to the vine. Kitty was pretty annoyed with her lizard friends and was decidedly over her time as a farmer.

Finally, we had one little strawberry that was close enough to ripe to harvest and because I knew we had to get it before the lizards did, I encouraged Kitty to go ahead and pick it. You would have thought we had given her a pony. She was beside herself with excitement. She carefully picked it, examined it, delighted in the fact that she had grown it. She danced around holding her tiny berry, extolling the virtues of said berry. Finally, she washed it carefully and popped it in her mouth and in 10 seconds it was gone. That was the most expensive, time consuming berry ever known to man.

So now we know what works, berries and rosemary and so long as it keeps Kitty happily digging in the garden we will keep playing at gardening but I am really thankful that we have lots of fresh produce available for purchase near by. If we had to grow our own food, we would starve. Perhaps it is time to teach Kitty how to roast lizards. I hear it is all the rage in South America.


  1. But that photo of her is worth it all. Look at that beautiful happy face! Our gardening has been similar, I haven't even bothered to blog about it. I say we concentrate on catching fish.

  2. Hey, edible strawberries are a total win! Have her crumble rosemary into something you'll eat for dinner and see if it makes it more fun for her. Yeah, we're all jealous of Amanda & Brie's garden...but I think you've got a sweet escape from the concrete jungle going yourself!

  3. Oh, man, some of us have not enough sun, some too much. That "perfect northwest climate" is a myth if you have too many trees around you. It should be called the "perfect northwest microclimate", as I can tell you having tried for many years to grow any kind of vegetable in my garden, only to see them suffer failure-to-thrive due to lack of sun and heat. I do, however, grow a mean wild strawberry. The slugs usually get them before we do, and I don't believe roasted slug would be anywhere near as good as roasted lizard. I'm sure Kitty would agree.
    Wonder if there is still time to grow tiny watermelons in your garden. I've always wanted to grow tiny watermelons.
    This garden sounds like a perfect process vs. product experience to me. Also, she is creating a home for things that live in the soil, or something like that. Yeah.

  4. OK so I finally am catching up on blog reading and I laughed the whole way through this. In my garden, I am only the weeder. Marc does all the real work. And brie eats and chews and spits out along the path what she deems unworthy. I wish you could tolerate flying so you and kitty could come stuff your faces with me. And as a side note: we have no strawberries. And I'd eat fried lizard. Seriously! ;)

    1. I so wish I could head North to see you and your family and Melissa and hers! Its not the flying that is so bad (tolerable thanks to Xanax ;) )its the looming approach of Mark leaving work. *gulp* So while we need a vacation and man would I love a couple of them, the financial reality of leaving employment for the next oh, 5-6 years is making me nervous about doing much of anything these days!