Gardening Therapy

This is turning into one of those days. When the best-laid plans turn to mush, or in my case, a silky Basil-Raki syrup. The plan was to combine some of my favorite flavors of summer into an icy treat, but, my bad luck with transforming spirits into desserts is continuing its dismal run. I’m going to have to experiment a lot more before you’ll see that recipe on this blog anytime soon.

It’s days like this that I’m immensely grateful for our garden. It forces me to step out of the office, take a deep breath and see that life is, indeed, moving along just fine, with or without a new sorbet recipe in the blogosphere.

After last year’s slow summer harvest, we finally took the plants out in mid to late October, installing cool weather crops like Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli and Cauliflower which overwintered. The winter garden was dismal, to say the least. The broccoli was overrun with aphids from the start and never quite found its momentum. The brussels sprouts didn’t get enough sun after we transplanted them, then bolted into flowers when the weather warmed up, leaving us with the tiniest of sprouts no bigger than the nail on my little finger. Our cauliflowers did a little better,  but even that meant two to three heads out of the five we planted. Not the most stellar of winter gardens I have to say, but the silver lining was that these cover crops helped protect and nourish the soil over the winter months, loosening the thick clay we have and making it a lot easier for us to turn the soil in the spring.

2010’s modest garden success was apparently enough for us to significantly expand the number of crops for 2011. After restraining ourselves to just four heirloom tomatoes at Love Apple Farm’s incredible plant sale, we bought: a six-pack of romanesco broccoli, serrano peppers, chiles d’arbol, an eggplant, a six-pack of Dragon Langerie beans, summer squash, zucchini, romaine lettuce and spanish onions. In addition, there are our lavender bushes and Chandler strawberries and rosemary that are really digging in and getting into the swing of things in their second year.

"Bloody Butcher"
"Marvel Stripe"

We planted the summer garden in late April and they’ve taken well to the soil. In part, I think, due to the mix of fish meal, compost and worm castings that went in with each transplant. Although we’re still fighting an ongoing battle with aphids, especially with the broccoli (using this homemade blend of garlic fire spray), and flea beetles have claimed our eggplant, most of the plants have really taken root, and it shows in their healthy green foliage.

While the vegetables on this small patch are certainly not enough for us to survive on, this exercise is proving fulfilling in so many ways, not least the relationships that are starting to form with other residents in the shared garden who’ve been doing it a lot longer than we have. I guess having a healthy patch ‘proves your worth’ in a sense, that you’re not in it just for the excitement of going to the nursery and plopping a transplant in the soil, only to forget about it. It’s just not our way. Even with the work needed to turn the soil, the occasional weeding and constant pest-fighting, the value of having a garden to go to and chill out in, especially on days when nothing seems to be going right, is priceless. And definitely a lot less expensive than a shrink’s couch. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this good run continues for the next few weeks – I can’t wait to bite into that first heirloom tomato, straight from the garden.

13 Comments

  1. Our garden, however small it may be, does have the same calming effect on us as it does on you. I always feel refreshed after I see how tall the Early Girls have grown, how many calamansi buds have turned into fruits. I’m confident you’ll nail down your icy dessert soon! Have a great weekend, Danielle.

  2. It’s great to read your experiences in the garden. This is my first year in a community garden plot, and each time I visit the garden shows me something new. Not everything is a success, but just when I think a plant isn’t thriving it will burst into bloom, ready to harvest all at once. Nature is a mystery!

  3. Like most creative activities the art and science of gardening comes with experience and experimentation. I’ve only been growing for three years and had my share of success and failure! Yesterday I spent three hours in the garden weeding, tying up beans and installing my seedlings in my new greenhouse and it was like being in another world. It is winter here in the southern hemisphere so seeing these luscious summer strawberries warmed me up no end.

  4. Danielle

    @Jun: How did I not know that you’ve got a calamansi plant in your backyard??? Trade you for meyer lemons? 😉
    @la domestique: Yes, nature indeed works in mysterious ways, although sometimes a plant is too far gone for pleasant surprises like that, like our eggplant transplant. The flea beetles did too much damage. There’s always next year to try again 🙂
    @g: Thanks! Wow I’ve never heard of gardeners battling blue herons before – maybe you could install a wire cover over your strawberry plants so that they can’t get to it?
    @Gilbert: Have fun!
    @Domestic Executive: It does transport you to another world doesn’t it? I have to admit that it can be drag to get out and do the mundane, gardening stuff, but once I’m there, it’s hard to stop 🙂

  5. Wonderful post, I feel the same about gardens! I have some succulent plants on my window and they make me so happy when they grow or have flowers and I know that they are doing well. With vegetables it is the same and then you can benefit from the fruits of your work. Your photos are beautiful, now I wish I had a garden too and could plant all those beautiful plants! 🙂

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