I’ve been a gardener for 30 odd years. Growing food for my family, cooking with food fresh from the soil. In my thirties, the empire building decade, I grew mammoth gardens. I ran a small scale CSA, of fresh vegetables and flowers. It was my days of growing flowers for sale, weddings, events….My flower garden was 50 x100 feet, and my vegetable garden just as large. I did most of the work by myself, and it wore me out, my joints especially. It also taxed my soul, I couldn’t really enjoy my garden. I was in the midst of such beauty...lilies, roses, butterflies, hummingbirds, and all I could see was the work.
Creating a life that matters to you
My forties were all about deconstructing my empire, and learning to be alive instead. I moved off my 5 acre secluded paradise, grew my children up and out the door, although the door is always open. I’ve been, to my great joy, steadily downsizing ever since.
Productive beautiful manageable
My current vegetable garden is small, but probably one of my favorite gardens yet. I love it because it’s so productive, yet takes so little effort. Productive, beautiful and manageable, those are my criteria, and it’s good to have criteria.
What I’ve learned
Keep it small My garden has four 3x6 foot beds and it daily feeds two big vegetable eaters.
Keep it diverse Think about what you really eat, not what a garden should have. Right now we are eating: kale, chard, peas, lettuces, mustard greens, parsley, cilantro, chives and arugula. We just finished the longest and best spinach season ever. Coming in are bush beans, beets, carrots, tomatoes, and basil, leeks, onions, celeriac, zucchini, other summer squashes. Keep it close The best place for a kitchen garden is close to the kitchen. Where you can see it when you look out a window, or walk past. Then you think about what’s ready and needs to be used.
Live in the abundance of summer
Harvest something everyday Even if you can only stand there for a few minutes and eat peas off the vine, eat from your garden. I’ve put harvesting into my weeding time. I take out some big metal bowls and harvest enough chard, spinach, and kale to last us several days. Then I take it in wash, and store in the crisper so it’s all ready to go. A lot of times I’m too lazy when I’m cooking to go out and harvest, so I try to make it a separate event, like shopping is. In fact I think of it as my own personal produce section.
Gardens, growing food and flowers is necessary to my nature. I’ve never not had a garden. When I lived in the Fremont district of Seattle, I turned our parking stip into a fragrance garden. In graduate school, my apartment’s deck was my vegetable and herb garden. I can’t not put seeds into the ground.
I shout them out---beans, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, polk greens, potatoes…as I fly by the curling leaves, and tumbling vines. While bush beans hang in clusters of threes. I run up and down the ruler straight rows of mammoth cabbages, and ferny carrot tops. The gardener, my Granddad Wilson sits in his lawn chair, under the awning of the shed. His legs crossed so elegantly, and the ever present Fedora on his head. He’s filling his pipe with Prince Albert, tamping the tobacco down, and lighting it from a matchbook, then drawing in the long smoke, and leisurely letting it corkscrew into the summer sky, as I recite my vegetables.
Support the Vitality
Keep planting I plant a spring, summer, and fall garden. I start the fall garden in July in flats in the shade, so I can just plug the starts in as summer plants end. Keep it healthy Super productive spaces need lots of vitality. Use the best possible soil. Keep the compost coming, use soil, amendments. Make compost and nettle teas. I’ve just started making weed tea for my garden. I put all of my weeds into a garbage can, fill it with water, put the lid on in a sunny area and cook it. After a week or two, water the plants with it. It’ll smell like cow dung, but it’s so good for the garden.
Pass it on
If you already know how then teach someone else to plant a garden.
Expose your children to growing food, and if nothing else start a little garden for them.
Life is your lover not your jailer
Learn to grow a garden If you don’t know how, I learned in college by hanging out at the pea patch and asking if I could help out. Let the garden bring you joy Take the time to open your senses, breathe deeper and quiet down. This is the right time, now.