Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Green Thumb

I have had my seedling started since the middle of February and now my tomato, pepper, herb and flowers have filled two large plant stands that fill the space in front of two large sliding glass patio doors in our home. Growing plants has become a passion in my life. I am not sure how it was nurtured, but it is something I seem to have a talent for and also something I enjoy very much.

I am not sure when I first got an interest in plants. I do know that I neglected this interest for several years of my life. I have always loved outdoor places and felt at home around plants and gardens. My parents tended a garden and I spent many hours observing my mother and father till, hoe, rake and harvest our little garden plot in out backyard. As an adult, however, I never tended a garden or even took care of plants until I was well into my thirties.

I lived with a girlfriend who kept a few houseplants and I always appreciated these plants, but I did not tend to them. She also kept a stock of cut flowers on display in the rooms of our apartment. We would attend the Farmer’s Market together and admire the fresh produce. When our relationship ended, and I moved out on my own, I immediately sensed the emptiness of my new apartment. I missed the plants.

I went to Frank’s Nursery and Craft and purchased several houseplants and cacti. I bought pots and potting soil. I tended to these plants and discovered a nurturing side of myself and a need to grow things. My plants flourished. They grew huge and became centerpieces of attraction for all who came to visit a bachelor pad I shared with two roommates. Our houseplants were the envy of many female visitors to our little pad.

I had a talent for growing things. I even experimented with some seeds I had found in a purchase I had made for recreational pleasures. Again, my plants grew large, strong and powerful. My friends and I harvested more than a years supply of buds that was shared between 5-10 thirty-something bachelors. My success in growing this item was not to be repeated.

Upon moving to New York State to attend graduate school, my girlfriend, and soon to be wife, rented a small cottage in Schenectady, NY. In the small backyard I started a compost pile and made a small garden plot of vegetables and flowers. In the Front yard, I created a spot to grow the three sisters (corn, beans and squash). Growing Sweet corn right along the sidewalk in an urban area is bound to become a neighborhood attraction and conversation piece.

When we moved back to MN into a suburban home I began a backyard conversion of lawn into a large garden. Over three years I planted strawberries, red raspberries, blue berries and concord grape vines. My garden area grew from a 10 by 10 foot plot to eventually cover nearly the entire backyard which now stands at 110 by 50 foot plot. We have an apple tree and a pear tree. I created a series of raised beds and trellis to grow my plants to the heavens and save room on the ground. I mulch heavily and have a rich compost that I prepare with neighborhood discarded leaves and grass clippings, our kitchen waste, discarded plants, and added soil amendments (Sea Salt and azomite).

I have set up rain barrels in front of the four downspouts that drain the water from our roof and have four more barrels that collect the overflow. I hand water everything, but my soil holds a lot of moisture, so I don’t have to water too often. I don’t use any chemical fertilizers or herbicides and pesticides. I plant clover in the aisles between the raised beds, but welcome an occasional weed if it is not interfering with my harvested plants. Otherwise I control weeds by mulching and pulling. All of this tending the garden is full time work when I am not working for pay at my day job. It is work that I do not abhor, in fact, it is work I love doing and work that makes me understand authors like Wendell Berry and his reflections upon work.

During the height of the harvest we have over 40 blooming tomato plants, 30 some pepper plants, potatoes, garlic, onions, bush beans, pole beans, peas, carrots, lettuce, kale, swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, herbs, squash, pumpkins, sweet corn and many other herb and flowers. Our freezer quickly fills with stored produce (fruits and veggies) and our cellar bins fill with garlic, potatoes, squash and apples. We can pickles and jellies and fill large jars with brines with other vegetables. We dry peppers, too and then settle into a long winter of preparing for the next season.

What amazes me is how easy it is to grow things, but how often I am approached by others for gardening advice. Many times I am told tales of woe about an inability to tend a garden or even to grow a plant. I have no secrets. I am perplexed by these inquires from others. I suppose I have what is called a green thumb. I care for my plants and they grow. It’s as simple as that. I don’t neglect them. I watch their growth from seed to bloom/fruit and grow right along side of them. I don’t miss a step along the way, because I am excited for their growth as they appear to be. As much as I nourish them, they nourish me. I suppose that’s the secret to a green thumb as much as anything.


Dr. Rich said...

What amazes me is how easy it is to kill things. Like with a lawn mower.

Andy B said...

I shot a deer when I was 16. A big buck. 10 points. I'd shot a few other critters in my life up to that point; squirrels, rabbits, grouse, pheasants, geese, ducks, but the buck was my first big mammal. Shot him 7 times. Big mammals don't die easily. I haven't gone hunting since.

Richard Loggins said...

When I was a boy scout, my Uncle took me to one of those scout camps that has a rifle range. It was a long uphill grade on a dirt road to the range. When we finally got their, with all the other boys, I told him I didn't want to shoot. He was a little annoyed that we walked all that way for nothing. I have never shot a gun, but I've seen my share go off on television.