Dirt Under My Nails

Lettuce and Beet Greens

“Inch by inch row by row, gonna make this garden grow.” – The Garden Song

Way back in February I decided to make this year the year of the garden.  My mind began imagining all sorts of romantic scenes of planting tiny seeds and picking little rocks out of my not yet uncovered vegetable garden.  I could see so many benefits to planting vegetables in our garden.  I would build a stronger connection to my little plot of earth, The Little Helping would learn that food comes from the ground and not from the super market, and our family would certainly benefit from the food our garden would provide.

Boy looking at a worm

Before planting could begin the garden itself needed to be uncovered.  I had my eye on a patch of dirt on the south side of our house. At some point the garden had been covered by less than effective plastic weed barrier topped by lava rocks.  During a stretch of dry-ish weather before the end of winter I set to work uncovering the bed. I am willing to concede this work would have been easier if I had coughed up the cash for a large shovel. I would have used a steel gardening shovel but it was quickly confiscated by The Little Helping. With a plastic shovel and sand buckets I uncovered the garden in a few days.

When things warmed up a little more I took a trip to the local hardware store and grabbed more than a dozen packets of seeds, a plastic greenhouse, and several bags of compost.  Mixing the compost into the new bed was the most labor intensive task in the creation of the vegetable garden.  There were rocks to be removed and clay soil to break up. This time I was able to use some proper tools so I had the satisfaction of attacking the ground with a long tined pitch fork to keep me motivated. I know now that I should have spent even more time digging in the compost but learning for the future is all part of the process.

Garden Markers

While the digging and turning went on outside, inside the little seeds snuggled up in their little warm moist nests and slowly but surely began to uncurl to find the sun.  I probably checked their progress two or three times everyday.  It was amazing to mark their progress once the first bits of green poked out from the dirt.  One particularly warm Saturday I swear they were growing so quickly the tiny plants looked different every time I passed through the kitchen.

Vegetable Sprouts in Peat Pots

Eventually it was time to move the sprouts to their home in the new garden.  I took The Little Helping out with me hoping to see the sparks of understanding and excitement ignite.  I showed him how to dig a little hole for the “baby plants” and then gently pat the dirt back around them.  Well he was delighted but my bubble was quickly burst.  His approach to gardening was far more Godzilla Takes Tokyo than gentle botanist.  We lost several seedlings right away under the tred of his rubber rain boots.  A few more have been curiously yanked up since those early days.  Once afternoon he walked up to me in the kitchen asking, “what’s this mommy?” “Well,” I answered flatly, “that was a squash.”  Whenever he pulls out a plant I take him back to the garden to replant it, so far none have survived this process but you never know.

I am not so amateur that I planted a finite amount of vegetables.  His curious, “thinning” was taken into account and I filled the ground with sprouted plants and seeds.  Right now I am thinning our red beets.  The baby beet greens are so soft and tender with none of the bitterness of a mature beet and just a hint of sweetness.  We have also begun enjoying arugula, red leaf lettuce, and a green lettuce that I think is bibb.

Vegetable Growth Progress

Beet Greens and Lettuce

Another funny layer to gardening with Godzilla – I mean a two year old.  All the little row markers I so carefully wrote out were immediately pulled out of the ground and reorganized.  I should have drawn a map of made a list of what exactly was being planted but in a rookie move on my part I thought I could come back to it later.  I have a fairly good idea of what is in the ground but precisely what comes up will be a surprise.  The biggest surprises will be all the squash we planted.  Two types of zucchini, yellow squash, pumpkins, sweet meat, butter nut, and buttercup all sprouted in little peat pots.  I wrote the names of each crop on its peat pot in pencil and as soon as they soaked up some water I could no longer read the pencil markings.  Now we have to wait months to know what grows where in the garden!

Carrot Leaves

The surprises will be worth waiting for.  All the fruits of my labor will be worth waiting for.  I like many others have a long way to go when it comes to learning patience.  My dreams of fresh sun ripened vegetables began forming in the grey days of winter and are only now beginning to produce food for our table.  In the months to come I hope we will enjoy peas, beets, carrots, chard, onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, and many many squash!

Growing this garden could not have happened before shedding all the weight.  At my heaviest the physical act of weeding was more than I could bear.  Now I can comfortably get down on the ground or crouch to pick weeds, remove rocks, plant seedlings, or simply breathe the deep mineral smell of damp earth. The garden is one more symbol of my new life.  Staking a claim with a humble patch of earth and working with nature to put fresh flavorful food on our family table.  A true Victory Garden.

Potato Plant with Flowers


One thought on “Dirt Under My Nails

  1. One of the big seed companies used to sell a packet of mixed seeds — various veges and flowers — for children to plant and be amazed at the surprise of what came up. Sound like your Little Helping has created the same effect for you!

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