To say that I grew up gardening would be a bit of an understatement.
Every spring my dad would spend days tilling up a huge plot of rocky, clay filled, sandy Michigan soil. Us kids would follow behind and pick out the big rocks, grub worms (which we’d save for fishing bait), and earth worms, which we would transport to a predetermined location for the compost pile (usually somewhere near a burn barrel). Afterward’s my dad would till in tons of manure and peat, turning our grey clay soil pitch black. When we’d get off the bus that day, we knew it was planting day. My mom would measure out long thin plots for seeds, using string and sticks to mark where and what we’d need to plant. She’d direct us on how deep the seeds needed to be, how far apart they needed to be, which plant’s to co-plant for the best outcomes (to this day I still cannot buy a tomato without thinking about marigolds). As the seeds grew we’d spend hours water, weeding, picking bugs, and then picking produce. I was the eldest, so I also got the privilege of learning how to can and freeze. Of how to best cook and prepare our crops.
And after I grew up and moved to the city – I seemed to forget just about everything my parent’s taught me about gardening. To be fair, gardening just was not at the front of my mind. Why would it be when I was two minutes from a Publix? Somewhere along the way, I lost my love and ability to grow things. That all changed after I had my son.
My little boy is ALL boy. He loves all that cars, bugs, trucks, and dirt. Especially dirt. He comes in from playing outside and I find dirt in his hair, in his shoes, in his ears even! While doing a unit of how things grow, I bought some seeds and potting soil – patiently taught him how to plant and water, and tend – and watched his little face light up with wonder when a shoot for a sunflower first appeared. It got even better when they grew taller then him. He was so proud that he grew something! He made me fall in love with growing plants all over again.
Much to my dismay, I found that growing produce was not as easy as my parent’s had made it seem. For one thing, I was attempting to grow things that were meant to be grown in the cooler, drier climate that I grew up in. Another was that I didn’t account for Florida’s sandy nutrient lacking soil. My first attempt at a Florida vegetable garden was pretty much an utter failure. Except for a mint plant, that turned into a mint bush, that eventually turned into a mint lawn. True story. Every time I would mow the lawn I would end up smelling like toothpaste. Kind of unnerving.
So, I did what any do it yourself black thumb gardener would do. I bought a book with step by step instructions and fool proof plans on how/when/where/what to plant for a successful Florida garden. Let’s just say my second attempt was much more successful! I managed a very healthy crop of green onions and basil. Broccoli heads that were the size of mine! Jalapeno, Bell, and Poblano peppers that grew right through the dead of summer – putting out dozens of peppers each week. My corn, tomatoes, and cucumbers all failed. Some sort of root rot in the latter two, and worms that I spent hours picking off of the corn.
Little by little, year by year, I’ve been slowly reteaching myself how to have a green thumb. Each year, my container gardens get a little bigger. I buy pots for huge discounts in the “fall” at Target and Lowes. Then I use them for a Florida winter garden full of leafy greens and other less heat tolerant crops.
One neat little trick I want to share with you, especially if you are new to gardening or just don’t think you are capable of getting anything to grow is, the green onion water grow trick. ANYONE can grow green onions using this method. All you need is a bag or bunch of fresh green onions from the grocery store. Take them home, wash them and use them like you normally would. Save the white root tips. Place them in a tupperware with a bottom full of water and add water when it gets low. Very shortly, your green onion roots will sprout green stalks! You can keep them in the water, or, transplant them into soil. They will grow indefinitely! I have green onions that are now four years old, that are STILL putting out massive stalks using this method. (they are pictured below in the square container, just a few days after a cutting – and next to my rain barrel.)
It’s been a truly awesome journey, from my farm girl roots to my big city life. I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything in this world but, I’m very happy to be heading back towards where I began. What is your biggest gardening fear? And what has been your greatest gardening accomplishment? Let me know!