Earlier this year I joined thousands of other people across the globe and low-key became a suburban gardener. What started as a way to keep my kids busy and engaged in learning while we waited for lesson plans from our teacher has become somewhat of an obsession.
This DIY Garden Kit for Kids was a hit. All of the seeds sprouted and we had a lot of fun learning what a seed can become.
Picking our way through Spring
Our DIY Spring garden gifted us a small bounty of cherry tomatoes (all but a handful were enjoyed alfresco straight off the stem), cucumbers and Poblano peppers. Most were divided and enjoyed amongst the kiddos, but we had so many peppers we were able to use them in a few of our dinner dishes. See? Low-key gardener.
We also had two very proud sunflowers that reached nearly six feet and a tiny little pumpkin that succumbed to two tiny feet.
C’est la vie in quarantine.
Shuddering our way through pests
I learned a lot about pests from a very helpful podcast called The Beginner's Garden with Jill McSheehy, particularly the kind of pests that love tomato plants. At first I thought I’d hit the jackpot and attracted caterpillars that would become beautiful butterflies. I was very wrong. SHUDDER. After a quick Google search and checking out the Epic Gardening group on Facebook, I quickly realized I had a hornworm problem. Eww, David!
I tried explaining to my animal-loving daughter that we had to remove and “dispose of” these nasty plant-eating pests—but she wasn’t having it. She decided to keep them happily munching on tomato leaves in a glass container. As long as she's the one picking them off my plants and sealing them in tight...
SHUDDER. BLECH. EWW.
Falling under the gardening spell
There is something weirdly satisfying about growing food from a seed or seedling. My grandparents always had a big garden on their property growing up. I remember helping my grandma pick green beans and breaking off the ends before for dinner. As I grow in my garden—which is significantly smaller—I realize how much thought, time, patience and work must have gone into their garden every day.
So. Much. Respect.
Now that my plant babies are in the ground I get up early, exercise and tend to my babies like a doting new mother. I water them, check for pests, remove fallen leaves and replenish their soil with compost. That's right, I’m composting now too.
Rising with the sun, exercising, growing vegetables, composting... who even am I? As it turns out, a low-key suburban gardener who’s trying her best to have a no-dig organic garden. Seriously noone could have seen that coming.
But, this is 2020.
Fumbling my way through garden planning
I learned a lot in the Spring, bought a gardening book and even researched companion plants. Did you know that plants have friends and foes? Well, they do. Cucumbers do not like to be planted near tomatoes, which is ridiculous because they are both so tasty in a salad. They are also not fans of aromatic herbs like cilantro, basil, rosemary or thyme.
The more you know.
Learning that thyme really is everything
Last week I was struggling with pests again, this time with cabbage worms that look a lot like tomato hornworms. Ugh. SHUDDER. I was so over picking them off my broccoli, cauliflower and kale plants every day. I needed a better and organic solution. Not even my floating row covers were stopping them.
So, I let my fingers do some quick research and found that a lot of people had success with dusting a mixture of equal parts flour and baking soda on the leaves.
Let‘s just day I won’t be doing that again.
I dusted my carefully measured mixture over my broccoli, cauliflower, kale and lettuce. I must have been heavy-handed though because my lettuce shriveled up and died faster than a slug covered in kosher salt. I probably, very likely, most definitely shouldn't have dusted the lettuce. Whoopsie.
My other plants survived, but did not come away unscathed. Many of them look like they’ve been burned. A week and a lot of research, pruning, cleaning and apologizing later and my plants are just starting to forgive me. Hopefully they keep growing. Lesson learned. Use thyme next time. A little sprig sitting on the plant is doing the trick so far.
I guess the moral of my story is that gardening is fun and rewarding and frustrating and gross, but I’ve never tasted a better cucumber, cherry tomato or pepper in my life.
So, onward I go into the Fall garden experience.
I’m still learning and welcome all kind and thoughtful tips, so leave me a comment here or on IG @sarajromero.