In addition to making food, eating food, and writing food, I have always loved growing food. This has everything to do with my dad, who maintained a garden throughout most of my childhood (he took a brief break, but was tempted back into it the summer I graduated college; I was looking for a job and had nothing better to do than send out resumes and re-break the completely overgrown sod. He bought a roto-tiller the FOLLOWING year.). Dad’s garden wasn’t huge, but it managed to have a good yield of tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, and beans. Every year he would plot out what to plant and where, drawing funny little diagrams on scraps of paper. We’d buy seeds and seedlings and put them into soil – or at least he would. We kids were pretty good at picking out rocks and digging holes and the like, but inevitably would get distracted by things like a really disgusting worm or slug and move on. Despite the attention span issues, however, that time in the garden really stuck with me – the smell of warm soil and tomato plants, the feeling of dirt under your fingernails, and most especially, the taste of the vegetables that eventually sprang up like magic from the plants. It was always an amazing thrill to bite into a garden tomato or carrot – so sweet, so fragrant, so unlike the mealy or woody vegetables from the supermarket. When I finally moved into an apartment with some decent outdoor space I knew I wanted to recreate that feeling.
Well, Mr. Menace and I have that space, but there’s just this one teensy little problem with it – it’s completely paved over as a parking lot. The town in which we live doesn’t allow on-street parking overnight, so the little yard in the back of our house was converted into parking for the tenants. Since we only have one vehicle that requires a parking spot but two spaces, we were left with a small outdoor plot that could either go to waste – or turn into something amazing. Something…like a garden.
How fantastic is that? Mr. Menace is, at times, truly a genius, because he invented and built that beauty all from his own fertile imagination and my vague garden longings. I’d originally envisioned a series of pots, but this was better – a mini-garden, raised high enough that I didn’t need to bend over to weed or water it, and wheeled so that we could move it into the sun – or back out of the way if a visitor needed to park.
This set up had other delightful benefits as we discovered last year, when it rained profusely for most of the summer here in Massachusetts. While everyone else’s tomatoes rotted on the vine, sad and full of blight, there were mine, hale and hearty, the very picture of tomato health:
They survived thanks to strategically placed drainage holes, which whisked the excess water safely away!
Less successful were my beets and radishes, although I suspect that was largely to do with not having enough fertilizer.
I’m eager to get started again this year, with a few modifications – more tomatoes in pots, more beans for a better yield, and perhaps an attempt at carrots. Cucumbers or zucchinis, alas, are beyond my reach due to being ridiculous space hogs, but some small peppers or eggplants might work…
Be on the look out for future posts on what I’m growing and how it’s coming along, as well as the triumphant return of the Vegetable Therapist – it will be hard to resist writing about veggies when such lovely ones are growing in my backyard!