At the beginning of the summer, my husband and I entertained the entire neighborhood by attempting to rotatill virgin soil. We eventually succeeded, planted some seeds, and waited.
Eventually those seeds sprouted, and our backyard looked less like a patch of mud, and more like a garden. We had new neighbors move in below us, and they, too, put in a garden. We have spent the last few months tending to our plants, and I have been surprised by how much fun we’ve had because of this small piece of ground. I was prepared for how much work it would be, but I wasn’t prepared for how good it would be for our marriage.
Gardening has been a delight in our marriage. Caring for this garden as newlyweds as been so good for us: from racing out there the minute we see a bunny sneak its way inside the fence, to discussing what we should do about the droopy lettuce to arguing about the proper way to put up a fence (I was right. He was wrong. At least, I think so) we have really enjoyed this whole process. We have worked together to keep our plants alive, and we have gained more than just veggies: we grew a hobby that we both greatly enjoyed, and learned more about each other through the process of tending to these plants.
There have, of course, been some plants that have done better than others. Here is a brief summary of what has succeeded, and failed in our garden this year.
Plants that are Thriving
Watermelon / The watermelon is taking over the garden. This one octopus of a plant has stretched out its fifteen foot arms and legs had has engulfed half of the garden. Every day I find another of its limbs escaping through the fence to the wide expanse of the lawn. There are over half a dozen baby melons about the size of softballs, but I just hope I have other plants left by the time we eat that juicy fruit. Ha ha!
Lettuce and Spinach / We ate lettuce and spinach all spring long. Never have we eaten so many salads. Usually we buy lettuce, and end up wasting it (because we forget about it in the veggie drawer), but there is something about growing your own that makes you value it a lot more. I got in the habit of mixing up my own dressing (olive oil + lemon juice + Dijon mustard + chopped up kalamata olives) and we ate bowls and bowls of the stuff. Towards the middle of the summer, both crops were just done, and I have missed them ever since!
Lemongrass / The lemongrass is massive. It has gone from a few blades of grass (that didn’t look that different from the lawn, to be honest) to a huge plant that is twice has high as the fence. At first, I really didn’t know what to do with it, and just let it grow, and grow, and grow. Then my husband, after nibbling on a blade, exclaimed excitedly that it tasted just like what his family always used for tea. He quickly snagged a bunch of it, ran inside, bundled it up, and brewed a pot of tea. You guys, fresh lemongrass tea is SO yummy. He drank his hot, and I stuck mine in the freezer to chill it, and then drank it cold with a bit of honey. So delicious. I also began using it in stir-frys which is such a delicious complement to a stir-fry filled with ginger, garlic, and soy sauce.
Basil / My basil has also grown enormous. I gingerly would cut off a leaf here or there when I made spaghetti, but other than that I let it be. Then I noticed it began to go to seed, and after doing some research (and armed with some kitchen shears) I ran out to the garden and pruned away every seed and blossom. I carefully cut off all the leaves from my pruning, and blended them with a bit of olive oil, and then froze that in ice cube trays. The pruning hasn’t seemed to hurt the plant at all, and now I have some basil stocked up for the winter.
Parsley/Rosemary/Lavender / All three of these herbs have been doing really, really well. I have used the rosemary and parsley a bit in meals, but I am at a loss for what to do with the lavender at this point. Any suggestions?
Kale / I planted the kale late, but it has been doing really, really well! I was a little worried about it at first, but it has rallied and grows larger every week.
Peppers / All the peppers have been doing well! We have eaten lots of black jalapenos this summer as well as a few green bell peppers.
Summer Squash / We have been eating summer squash like there is no tomorrow. SO yummy! Our plant is thriving, and produces a squash or two a week which keeps us amply supplied. My favorite way to eat it is in a stir-fry (it soaks up all the sauces quite nicely)!
Seedlings / I have baby cilantro, another batch of lettuce and hollyhocks growing right now. I have been trying to fill up the empty spaces in my garden (although now that the watermelon has gotten so possessive I probably won’t have to worry about that anymore).
Onions / The onions have been thriving, and we’ve used lots of green onions in our meals. We just picked the last of them this morning. Next year I plan to plant a lot more, because we use onions almost daily and I know we’ll burn through these beauties quickly.
Swiss Chard / I planted Swiss chard a month ago alongside the onions, and it has been so fun to see all the colors pop up. We have started using it a couple times a week, and I have newly remembered how much I love this earthy green.
Plants that are Struggling
Tomatoes / Ay yi yi. The tomatoes. They just do not like my garden! I grew up helping grow tomatoes: my Mom usually plants a couple hundred heirloom tomato plants every year. When I initially planted my four plants I had visions of canning salsa, tomato sauce, and soup! However, one by one my tomatoes have died. The first round died, and I decided they must have had some sort of chemical spray that caused their leaves to curl and turn brown. I then bought a whole new set of plants, and they all seemed to thrive for a few weeks, but now they, too, have begun turning brown. Hubs and I have worked so hard to try to rally them all summer, but to no avail. No amount of tlc is helping. My Mom visited, and said we might have fertility issues in the soil (since this is the first year of gardening), and I am beginning to think that is our problem. We will definitely be supplementing the soil with lots of mulch this fall!
Lemon Squash / My summer squash is massive, happy, and producing. My lemon squash is…dead. It yielded approximately two lovely squash, and then it promptly up and died. I am guessing by some sort of squash bug. R.I.P lemon squash.
Cilantro / I planted cilantro from seed, and only one small sprig came up. Then I planted it again a few weeks ago, and I have a few (tiny) seedlings beginning to pop up. We shall see. I eat so much cilantro, that I would love to always have a plant or two so I wouldn’t have to spring for it at the store every week.
All in all, I am really happy with how our garden has turned out this summer!