When I lived in Chicago, I tried growing tomatoes and squash in an impossibly tiny scrap of grass. Total rookie mistake, as the squash's eager tendrils sprawl for days. The plants flowered, then withered on the vine before bearing fruit. In the more forgiving land of Southern Indiana, I fared better with a decent crop of tomatoes. Still, they were a little mealy, then got overrun by worms before I could harvest most of them.
Cut to Indy, several years later and with very little know-how, my husband and I embarked on our most ambitious garden to date. To be exact, we set out to cultivate an 8' x 16' plot with tomatoes, okra, chard, beets, fennel, eggplant, spinach, lettuce, lima beans, green beans, cucumbers and several varieties of peppers.
I'm getting to my favorite meal, I swear.
We didn't know how this grand experiment was going to work out. Believe me, I am shocked that in December (in the Midwest!) we are still harvesting vegetables. I pulled two big bunches of leeks today. We have an abundance of lettuce and chives, still thriving despite a couple of light frosts.
And so, the week before Thanksgiving, I enjoyed my favorite meal of the year using produce just pulled from our garden. We prepared roasted beets and then sauteed the beet greens with a dash of vinegar. These accompanied an amazing Donna Hay recipe for bacon-wrapped beef filet, stuffed with leeks and horseradish with a red wine, currant jam sauce. Here's a photo of the haul that week, which includes the leeks and beets that made that meal so rewarding.
We were floored at the amount of produce we reaped, which can in part be contributed to the following:
We read a book. Well, at least the parts that applied to our size and scope of garden. We learned invaluable tips, like that planting a perimeter of alliums such as garlic, onions and leeks helps keep pests at bay. It also urged us to build a raised bed, which I'd say is easily the number one reason for our lucky abundance.
Dive in and be forgiving.
We just went for it. We built up the bed, ordered a couple of hundred bucks worth of soil to fill it and just got our hands dirty. We knew everything might not grow (our green peppers never developed and we got one tiny eggplant from two plants), but many things flourished.
A Recipe for Cultivation
This story is about gardening. But the lessons I learned could apply to anything.
Study up, learn what you can, then dive in. Be prepared to forgive yourself for what doesn't work. You never know what you can grow until you try.
This post is part of Think Kit 2011.