Embracing the Garden: Working the soil and being OK with never growing that perfect Jersey Beefsteak Tomato

an embraceable life Jun 05, 2018

Groundwork: setting a foundation, beginning anew, the root of a project.  Applicable to gardening and a new blog post. 

I am in awe every time a wee seed sprouts. I am grateful when meals are made from the food we grow. I am content knowing we are feeding our bodies with clean, organic, fresh food. 

I wasn't always an avid backyard gardener. I seemed to fail more than harvest, but I learned a lot along the way. Growing up in New Jersey it was mandatory that we grew Beefsteak tomatoes. It was my Grandpa Leo that always took care of that. Mmmmmm. Fresh picked tomatoes with kosher salt. I'm salivating as I type! Needless to say, living in Colorado for 23 years has been a challenge on the tomato front. 

I'm not a great gardener, I know this, but it's ok. I love being out in the garden. I love watching things grow, I love making it a lovely place to be.

Our garden consists of ALL recycled materials. I suspect that would have to include the seeds and starters as they came from previous grown plants. Huh? Yeah, I'll go there. When I built the garden beds 3 years ago I knew I wanted to do raised beds as the amending of soil is a must out west. I also realized that my back wasn't getting any younger so taller was better.  I took my husband's pick up truck down to our local Resource/Recycle center and picked up 6 old doors, two of them french doors, the idea being that we could observe what goes on below.  (That was the teaching/mom part kick in.) I cut 2 of the doors in half for the ends of the boxes and placed the doors with glass facing north as to not heat up the soil too much from the sun. I filled them half way with bales of straw since they are so deep,  then added local soil and an organic planters mix obtained from the local dirt, stone and peat guy. Basically, compost made from recycling our vegetarian output. Weed barrier came in the form of used burlap coffee sacks from one of the local roasters. I took the permaculture approach of growing. I planted what would become tall growth like tomatoes (beefsteak, cherry and pink heirloom), which would create shade in front of kale and lettuces that prefer cooler temps. It all went well. We collected ladybugs from weeds out front when we saw aphids. We lay the foundation for what became pure joy. 

This year, as we began anew, I replenished the soil by recycling once again. A neighbor of mine has a very large grow operation. Organic, sticky bud. It's legal here, so I can say that. After a couple of harvests he needs to change out his soils and is happy to deliver a truck load. I have amended the soil as it gets depleted of its nutrients, but glad to take some off his hands. Now as much as I love to be in the garden, I love to look at it. I wanted to make new plant markers, pretty ones. I took sticks from the ground and with little square fabric samples that have been sitting in my studio since 2016 that I received at a craft conference, I cut little holes in them, wrote the plant name and made colorful flags. Pretty! The groundwork, literally, has been done.

I find that each year, as I begin the garden with the groundbreaking ceremony which I call "weeding", to the planting of seeds, to the fruition of harvest, I am so grateful to Mother Earth and this earth mother, for sticking with it. 

Once again, as I do each year, I plant one starter beefsteak tomato. Nevertheless, she persisted.  

my trusty wheelbarrow

Grits, our rescue beags supervising the groundwork 3 summers ago

2017 in full bloom

this year's start with our new gate we made from branches on our property

In the off season the raised bed becomes a dog bed. This is Padme, our rescue Treeing Walker Coonhound.


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