As spring approaches and the seed catalogs start falling through the mail slot, I grow anxious for winter to end. Although southwest Idaho has become zone 6b, we still cannot plant until the 2nd week in May. Therefore I have 3 long months ahead for planning, dreaming and more planning.
After owning and operating a landscape maintenance service for nearly 7 years we decided to make a career change that enabled us to plan our own yard and gardens. We moved into our dream home seven years ago and much of the landscape and house had been minimally maintained for nearly a decade. What seemed like wise esthetic landscape choices 25 years ago had become over-grown and crowded. We decided to double our vegetable garden, thus two trees were removed, more needed trimmed and strategies to keep our dogs from running everywhere were formulated.
Our first spring and summer was spent simply clearing, moving and hauling truckloads of debris from the large corner lot. When I look back on photos, I am amazed at what we have created with little or no yard budget. The next spring I discarded the idea of a vegetable garden because I knew I wanted it to be perfect and did not have the funds to pull it off. Then a good friend visited, while we enjoyed food and conversation on the deck, she filled me in on the preparations of her own garden. Her potatoes were planted and the manure was delivered. Her enthusiasm inspired me to go for it. Because she also has many children and a busy schedule, I felt that if she could pull it off so could I. I began by salvaging some lumber used for garden beds long ago that had been buried in the alley beneath leaves and twigs. We built 6 raised beds with it and by this time the excitement was catching on as people we knew started telling us where I could find more things to recycle for the garden. There were railroad ties, and large rocks. We drug home rusty “garden art” from the local metal recycler. The kids strung beads and hung keys to create a fairy garden. I used an old postal secretary as a potting table and shelves. Lava rocks and river stones were rearranged to form paths and interesting focal points in beds and as edging. We trimmed and tied, unrolled wire for beans to climb and raked pine needles for paths between beds.
Finally the seedlings were ready to leave the laundry room to be planted. Our four small children were as excited as new parents to see their nurtured seeds put out into the earth to grow veggies. Planting day was a day of learning all the specifics about what each tiny sprout would soon produce. I know that they were wondering if all I told them was just a story. One of the boys asked how a green plant with tiny roots could possibly turn into a cantaloupe. I told him that the sun and soil along with God’s love would show him that anything was possible. Then the unthinkable occurred when a late frost took every tender plant, leaving only the potatoes and a few hardy herbs in its wake. When we ran outside the next morning, we all cried to see that our progeny had perished in the cold darkness. I felt like throwing in the towel but some encouraging friends sent me to the nursery to replace the lost plants.
We all crowded into our small car and headed to our wonderful local nursery, Edwards Greenhouse. Upon entry into the humid, rich environment all my hard feelings dispersed and hope was renewed. We found an interesting variety and some things we had not thought to plant before. Although we felt all was lost only hours before, now our moment of frustration had passed and became a blessing. With our new seedlings planted and safe from frost, we waited and watched. The once cluttered and weed filled space turned into an enchanting place to enjoy the sun and nature. Not only did we love to see our green plants turn into prolific bearers of vegetables, fruits and herbs, the surprise and wonder of visitors was a gift to witness. Everyone learned to eat and love foods not normally purchased at the grocery store. Our children actually devoured sautéed beets and Thumbelina carrots with fresh dill. They crunched fresh watercress and nibbled spinach and herbs while playing in the backyard. If they grew it, they ate it with joy.
My challenge is to inspire anyone with the desire to garden; DO IT! It is not necessary to have a lot of cash flow or the perfect situation. We pulled together an incredibly beautiful garden for fewer than two hundred and fifty dollars. So, dig in and reap the rewards of soil under your nails, fresh sweet strawberries warmed by the sun and the calmness of spirit that only growing things can bring. Create your own green space whether on a deck in containers or a full out section of land. The resources are endless, the benefits are priceless and the end result is full of health and contentment. Our next adventure; a greenhouse.
As our eighth growing season approaches, I am already preparing my plan. I have set the goal of planting cold crops twice this year therefore I need to have planting dates and the seeds ready by March 1st. I need to assess how my small crops will be rotated and if I am going to omit anything from my vegetable list. I received my first bundle of catalogs yesterday so here are the companies that I recommend as having excellent stock and quality products.
Seed & Plant Companies: