The first two memories I have about growing things are very different from each other. The first one was when I found a very small tree seedling and tried to save it. It didn’t work, and I remember being very sad about that. I think I was around 12 years old. The second one was when I planted a tomato seed. I honestly don’t know why I did it, or where I got the seed. All I remember is that a single tomato grew on the plant. I took a picture of it. It’s an old grainy picture from the 80s. I was 16. I don’t even remember who took the picture, but they cut off the top half of my head. Still, I am proud of that picture. There was only that one tomato, but it weighed 1.25 lbs! This was the very beginning of my love for growing plants from seeds.
I don’t think I really planted anything for many years after that tomato. I’m not sure exactly why, but there probably were many different reasons. The next time I know for sure that I planted seeds was after two of my children were born. We had just bought a house, so I had some yard space for planting. I wanted my children to experience the whole cycle of seed to plant to food to seed again. I didn’t really have a garden, per se. I just had what was basically a small flowerbed spot where we planted a few tomato seeds. It wasn’t much, but we did get a few tomatoes from it. The main goal was accomplished – the children really enjoyed watching those little seeds grow into plants. They also loved picking and eating the tomatoes. I got to show them the entire process, and we had a conversation about how it all worked. The miracle of getting new food from something so tiny was like magic to them.
A few years later, we moved to a bigger house after the birth of a third child. I had a small garden there. It wasn’t very big – maybe 8 feet by 2 feet. We mainly planted tomatoes, but occasionally a few other things. I think it depended on what seeds we harvested from things we bought and ate. A few years later, after my divorce, I moved into a rental house. I didn’t really have anywhere to plant. I didn’t want to dig up the yard since it wasn’t mine. It was strange not gardening.
Later, I got remarried. My husband immigrated, and joined me in the rental home. The following summer, even though there still wasn’t really anywhere to plant, I put a few seedlings in the flower beds. The squirrels ate them within days. The year after that, we bought a house of our own. My sweet husband had never seen any evidence that I could actually grow anything, but wanted to set up a garden for me anyway. I know he was just humoring me, but he really did create a nice little garden for me, complete with posts and a fence. I was so excited when I had one of the best crops ever. My husband, who had grown up eating fresh produce (and was quite disappointed with the offerings in the grocery stores – especially in the winter time), was amazed at the taste of the tomatoes.
Every year since, we have made our garden a little bit bigger each time. My husband set up an irrigation system on a timer, which means no more waking up early and watering the garden before work, or worrying about things drying out and dying if we go away for a few days. He came up with a way to have a mini indoor growing area in the winter, complete with special lighting. We’re excitedly starting to plant some seeds for this summer’s garden.
One thing I’ve found out is how to propagate certain plants. I had tried in the past to grow pineapple plants from the tops of pineapples we purchased, but never had any luck. I found out how to do it the right way, though, and it’s not really very difficult. I have several pineapple plants growing now. I’ve found out how to use the bottom parts of celery, fennel, and lettuces to grow new plants. The celery is in a pot, so I can have it all year.
Some people want to grow things, but have barriers. Sometimes they don’t have much money, space or time, or maybe they just don’t think they’ll be successful at it. Others aren’t sure where to start. One thing you can do in any of those situations is to plant an herb garden. Many herbs are fairly easy to grow, and can be done in small flower pots, even indoors. Basil, for example, doesn’t take much skill, and it will produce seeds for the next year. It’s wonderful to have fresh herbs, and it’s very convenient – just harvest whatever you need whenever you need it.
My children have now picked up my habit of saving seeds from just about everything we eat. I’ve shared seeds with several friends and family members, and still have a large supply. We have some very young apple, cherry, and avocado trees. My children now have their own mini garden plots every year.
I guess it’s not surprising. My grandparents had a garden when I was growing up. They own several acres, so theirs was much bigger than mine is. I remember being sent out to throw peels and scraps into the garden. We do the same, and also have 2 compost piles. I also remember eating the raspberries right off of the bushes when we would visit my grandparents on Sundays. My dad also liked to garden, although he didn’t do much of it until I was older and he moved out West. He had the biggest garden of all. I guess it’s in our blood!