This is the first in an occasional series of posts on how I create my family home with the help of my garden. Growing my own vegetables, herbs and cut flowers is a part of seasonal living, appreciating nature, spending more time outdoors and taking advantage of what our land has to offer.
This year, my adventures in the garden started indoors. Today I started my tomato seeds indoors. In a few weeks I’ll start my summer squash and zucchini seeds. (These don’t have to be started indoors, but a pesky groundhog that loves to eat my seedlings lives nearby, so if I want summer squash, it’s a necessity).
I’m learning how to scale back the right way after two lackluster gardening seasons during my pregnancy and my son’s infancy. I’m looking forward to gardening seriously again, but am cautious about how much I try to take on with a toddler in tow. In no way will my garden be as big or look as beautiful as it had the first few years we lived here, but it’ll be something, and something is a lot better than nothing.
There are a few things I’m unwilling to live without in the summertime. Homegrown tomatoes, basil, parsley, rosemary, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers and cut flowers. Lots of cut flowers. I choose what I grow based on the recipes I like to make and the herbs I like to dry for use year-round. (That’s why I’m trying to cram summer squash and zucchini plants in my small kitchen garden—I do not want to live without them ever again!)
Some of my favorite summer meals include bruschetta, shrimp fra diavolo, greek cucumber salad, zucchini fritters with a hint of mint, tomato sandwiches, pesto on bread or with pasta, feta cheese and grape tomatoes, summer squash sautéed in butter and garlic, breaded and fried zucchini and squash rounds, the list goes on and on.
There’s something special and amazing about growing your own produce and herbs and using them in the meals you make for your family. It feels so good to go outside and pick some vegetables and herbs before you start cooking. It’s such a shame we can’t garden like this year-round.
Because of the size of my tiny kitchen garden (compared to the 1,000-square-foot garden I grew in years past), I must pick and choose wisely and be prudent about the varieties I select. This year I’m growing heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes for slicing, Granadero plum tomatoes for dicing, cooking with and canning (if I get enough), Zephyr summer squash and Plato zucchini, in addition to the perennial flowers and herbs I already have in the garden. (More on them some other time.) Being prudent in this case means admitting to myself that I have no room for cucumbers.
As I planted, the things I’d learned about gardening over the years came flooding back to me. Moisten the soil before filling the cells. Don’t plant the seeds too deep. Plant two or three seeds per cell. Although I could feel the warmth of the sun when the wind wasn’t blowing, I was kneeling on cold, wet earth. How I can’t wait for the warm weather to return and to get my hands dirty in the garden. I mean, really dirty, not just kinda dirty like I did last year. The promise of spring is everywhere around me, but the seedlings that spring up in these cells will be the promise of summer. And that's what I'm after.