Oooh! It’s that time of year when everyone wants to slip their green thumbs into some gardening gloves.
Can I plant yet? Yes? Great. I’ll plant six tomatoes, three varieties. Three summer squash. Three winter squash. Two zucchini. Two cucumbers. Radishes, yes, those grow great. One or two seed packets of carrots. One packet of Swiss chard; those look so pretty. Bush beans. Pole beans. Broccoli. Eggplant. Peppers. Onions. Potatoes…
Two months from now you will wish someone had given you a good shake. Reality check! There are about 1,550 individual carrot seeds in one packet. Even after thinning, that is enough carrots to make someone beg to go blind. And tomatoes? Hold on. But I’m going to can them, you say. Really? Are you?
So this was kind of how I started this year. My husband and I have been in our house a few years. We’ve planted some grass and trees. (The previous owner lived in our house 55 years and did absolutely no landscaping.) We put some beds in the front yard. So, this year it was time to actually plant something in this nice new dirt we had brought in.
I live in New Mexico along the Continental Divide with a growing season of 115 days, if we’re lucky. It’s desertous and generally barren. We, no joke, have tumbleweeds, huge truck-sized tumbleweeds, rolling through our neighborhood.
I grew up mostly in Houston, where the growing season is 11 months long and you can grow with ease the beautiful, exotic varieties of the most difficult plants. We “gardened” when we were kids. We’d scatter some seeds in the dirt, add some manure, and ta-da! We’d have veggies or berries.
I grew up being a big fan of gardening. Every family should have a garden; that’s what our Prophet Spencer W. Kimball touted: “We encourage you to grow all the food that you feasibly can on your own property. Berry bushes, grapevines, fruit trees—plant them if your climate is right for their growth. Grow vegetables and eat them from your own yard. Even those residing in apartments … can generally grow a little food in pots and planters. Study the best methods of providing your own foods. Make your garden … neat and attractive as well as productive. If there are children in your home, involve them in the process with assigned responsibilities” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 170–71; or Ensign, May 1976, 124). Good Mormon homes have a garden; that’s how I was taught, by word and deed.
But now, with my own house as an adult sans Texas-magic-wand, I’m faced with the worst-possible scenario as far as gardening challenges go. My 10-year-old gardening experience counts for nothing. Except it’s placed in me this idealist dream, that was once upon a time a reality, of wanting that plot of land that’s overflowing with deliciousness.
But back to reality, I can’t eat hundreds of carrots. And there’s a reason everyone has baskets and baskets of squash and tomatoes they are begging you to please take home with you come Fall. They grew as much as they feasibly could, without any regard for how much they could feasibly consume. Spring fever does something to us that just makes us want to plant, plant, plant, without any thought to how many beans and zucchini a 3-person family (mine) can actually tolerate before it goes bad. And Swiss chard? I don’t know how to cook that. Radishes? Forget-a-bout-it!
Memorial Day weekend is this week. If you haven’t sown your seeds into the ground, it’s not too late. There is sure to be a crowd of wanna-be green thumbers at your local nursery this weekend. And no, I’m not referring to Nursery, Nursery. This is a plant nursery. Although, you might feel surrounded by a bunch of 2-year-olds running loose at snack time.
Here is your reality check: Don’t plant more than you can eat. You will spend the upcoming weeks and even months thinning, weeding, watering and then harvesting food that will in all likelihood spoil. Plant what your family will actually consume. Share the extra you will still probably have. And enjoy the summer with your family doing something other than weeding. Okay, a little weeding. But then something else. Anything else.
What I am really planting this year:
1 tomato with bite-sized fruits my toddler will enjoy. In a hanging basket: no weeds. Extras for recipes. No canning.
Herbs/spices: oregano, thyme, sage, basil, chives, cilantro, parsley, green onions, lavender, lemon balm, mints. I splurged in planting my herb garden, because they are mostly perennials that take very little maintenance. I only planted ones I actually use in recipes I actually cook.
18 Strawberries. I will freeze or can any surplus. I love strawberries.
12 Jalapeño peppers. Hubby loves jalapeño poppers, and we like to have them at BBQs. This is how many I would buy from the store. If somehow we end up with abundance, I will freeze and use in everyday recipes.
1 summer squash.
Maybe a teaspoon of carrots.
My inspiration for planting small: Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, a book my dad gave to me with a pile of other gardening books. His version of passing on the magic gardening wand to me. This one has been my favorite so far. It covers basics others assume the reader knows. Specifics on plants for my area came from Sunset’s Western Garden Book. The bible of plants for western states. The plant finder on Sunset’s website is also fantastic.
We’ll see how these go in my hazardous climate, and I’ll try some more next year when the youngin’ is old enough to help me water and weed. For this year, his helpfulness ends at picking rocks out of the new beds.