The spring before last, I decided it was time to grow some food. I had the itch. I was sufficiently turned off by the idea of eating pesticide-laden food shipped to me by a faraway stranger and sufficiently inspired by the beauty of organic farmers-market produce. I didn’t have a ton of experience in the food-growing department. I’d helped my mom garden when I was small — but I could only recall two distinct memories from that time. One memory was of weeding (or trying to stay focused on weeding when there were bike rides to be had). The other was of teasing my tomato-loathing brother by popping cherry tomatoes in my mouth and running after him, dramatically proclaiming, “MMmmm!” as the juice ran down my chin.
Neither of these memories helped me all that much when it came time to get my hands dirty. So I began small — both in my hopes and my square footage. I decided to plant some tomatoes and some cucumbers in various neglected flower beds in my front and backyard (that were really just dirt beds plus one sad-looking rose bush).
As the spring and summer rolled on, I can only describe my first solo gardening experience in one way: thrilling. Not cliff-diving thrilling, or meet-the-love-of-your-life thrilling. It was similar to the thrill I get when I lay in the sun to read a book. The thrill of taking the time to do something beautiful and fulfilling and simply worthwhile. Even the weed picking, the sweaty afternoons working hard, and the small failures that occurred here and there (one of my beds wasn’t getting enough sun, for instance) all had their place and felt okay. Great, even.
My tomatoes were wonderful, and all the recipes I concocted because of their abundance were almost as thrilling as the growing itself: salsas, soups, stuffed tomatoes, bruschetta, sauces. Some delicious, some not-quite, but all worth the effort. Just like each plant.
The next spring, my boyfriend, Doug, and I went all in. We cleared the grass out of half our front yard and tilled it up, making way for higher hopes and more square footage. The act of tossing that sod in the wheelbarrow and staring at the bare dirt held so much potential. It held personal potential for me to grow as a gardener; it held the potential to grow all the veggies that would soon be planted there; and, perhaps most subtly, it held potential on a larger scale. Here was a young couple standing in their front yard in their cute, little neighborhood, saying, “To heck with the lawn. Let’s grow some food!”
What do you remember about your first gardening experience? Please post a comment below; we’d love to hear your stories.