Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Journey Into Nature: The Garden

Before...Hobbes keeps watch in the window.
I planted a garden yesterday! It is the first garden I’ve ever had on my own. When I was little, there were three large garden boxes on our side yard. They belonged to my mom, my sister, and me, and each of us were in charge of what to plant in our own box. My mom taught my sister and me about healthy food and taking care of the earth through our garden. We learned how to compost, and noticed how incredibly well our plants grew when they were filled with dirt from the compost as opposed to store-bought dirt.

My mom was willing to experiment with us; one year, I decided to devote my whole box to corn, which my mom agreed to, even though corn grows better in Iowa than in California. I don’t think we were even able to eat any of the corn we grew, but we had a lot of fun growing it! We also got to name our boxes, and christened them with names like Han Solo and Frodo Baggins.

In Santa Barbara, we had no outdoor space at our studio, and thus no space to garden or compost. When we moved to Connecticut, and actually had a back yard, the idea for a garden was planted. Our landlord agreed to it, and I began scheming.

Now here’s a rather unfortunate fact about myself: I often have grandiose ideas that I never bring to fruition. This is a character flaw that I want to work on, so as I daydreamed about the garden, I became very determined to actualize my plans.

Another Before shot.
On Memorial Day, I decided I’d planned for long enough. I went to Home Depot and bought a shovel. I went to a local greenhouse and purchased plants. My mom told me how to compost out of one of the large gray bins that we used to move. My landlord had given me the dimensions she wanted (4’ x 6’), but other than that, I didn’t have a concrete idea of how I wanted to make the garden. So I put the shovel in the ground and started digging.

Essentially an adult-sized sensory tub.
You can see the newly minted compost bin in the background!
I dug up the entire garden plot, loosened the snow-packed dirt, added in two bags of garden dirt (next year I’ll use the compost), and planted the plants! Four hours from first leaving the house to buy plants, I stood back and surveyed what I’d done. 

I planted 12 marigolds around the perimeter to keep out bad bugs. Inside, I planted basil and tomatoes next to one other (another good combination to keep out bad bugs, says my mom), with parsley alongside them. I planted a row of jalapeño plants at the bottom of the garden, six bell pepper plants and three yellow banana pepper plants. At the top of the garden I planted three broccoli plants. On the far side of the garden, I planted two oregano plants.

We’ll see what happens! I’ve seen rabbits in our woods, so my main challenge so far has been trying to figure out how to deter rabbits from eating my vegetables. If anyone has any tricks, please tell me in the comments!

Aaron helped me punch holes in the bottom of the gray bin to make a compost, and I found some worms near the tree line. Mom said leaves are awesome for the compost bin, and we still have plenty of fall leaves around, so I made a base layer in the compost bin with leaves and dirt. I added the worms and then began composting! Today, tea bags, one banana peel, one onion peel, and two garlic peels went into the compost!

It may sound a little mystical, but planting the garden made me feel more connected to the land here. It’s another step toward making the Hobbit Hole home.

Unfortunately, in the process of gardening, I became a blood donor for 137 mosquitoes. Yes, that’s right. I counted the bites, and that’s a conservative estimate. I look like I have a disease. I realized that mosquitoes were far more rare in Santa Barbara than they are here…I don’t think I ever had 137 bug bites over the course of five cumulative years there. However, I should have known better; when I was a kid, I’d come back from our church’s family camp every year bitten alive. I’m still learning about this Connecticut climate.

Hobbes sat in the window and watched me for most of the gardening experience, fascinated by the fact that her human was doing something other than reading or yoga!

Even if I never get any vegetables, I’m proud that I made my garden idea happen. Gardening wasn’t as hard as the obstacles in my mind made it seem, and it was incredibly enjoyable. I’m looking forward to spending more time in my garden!

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