I can be a total nerd about a lot of stuff, but I’m probably the biggest nerd about gardening. I have a love of gardening that borders on an obsession!
I’m not really sure where it came from, although my parents always had a garden every year when I was growing up. I spent years in college and living in Europe without a garden. But, when I finally settled in Washington, DC, I started growing plants right away in pots on my patio. I bought my first house at 24 years old and promptly put in a huge garden. Basically, I’ve never stopped since.
My love of gardening
In my DC house situated near the National Cathedral, I had very little space. I used to lovingly refer to it as my postage stamp yard, but in reality, it was bigger than most in the city. I planted a lovely flower garden in the first project we undertook renovating a 1925 home, and found places to stub in a cherry tomato here and a zucchini plant there. My next door neighbor’s little boy, who used to visit us almost daily, fell in love with cherry tomoatoes and he would joyfully pop them in his little mouth while visiting and bringing my dogs biscuits.
When I moved to California, we suddenly had the good fortune to have lots and lots of land. I went crazy! I planted an entire olive grove, a vineyard and – of course – a beloved garden centered around a labyrinth. I worked with my gardeners diligently on this and my husband pointed out when it was done that it lined up with the big dipper. I said “I know!” but it really was a nice surprise.
Now, I live in the city of Napa but I still have a big yard. My husband and I decided not to do anything to the landscaping for a year – live here, get the feel of how the sun moves, and think through our decisions. But, as soon as the spring came, I got the itch. I had to have a garden! My wonderful husband got busy building me garden boxes and I am like a kid every day running out to see what has bloomed.
Some people jog, some people go to the gym, and some people meditate. I combine all of those activities in one with my garden. I do get a sense of deep satisfaction when I’m in the garden. When I was in software, I used to get so frustrated because it took forever to complete things. That is when I really started to get into cooking because I could get a sense of completion. For example, when you make a pie, it’s done in a hour or so. I think the garden gives me that same kind of pride when I see seeds popping up from the ground that I planted. Not to mention how much I love eating everything! I’ve become so spoiled in California that I won’t eat any produce that’s not in season. It just doesn’t taste the same when it’s not fresh.
I’ve always called our big horsedog, Tuba, my husband’s dog. But I’m rethinking that now. He might be my dog. He loves taking vegetables right off the plant and eating them. One year, I planted cantaloupe and waited patiently until it was ready. The same day I went to harvest it, Tuba had taken it off the plant and proceeded to eat the entire melon, shell and all! Ditto for tomatoes, peas, carrots, cucumbers, watermelons, etc, etc.
I always remember the lady at the Healdsburg Farmers Market. She sold beautiful vegetables but occasionally had pea flowers. I had never smelled anything like it in my life. I would always buy them when she had them. She would smile at me and say ‘now dear, don’t forget to put them in warm water with a little sugar’. I always dutifully followed the instruction and had the aroma of fresh pea flowers in the house for days. Nothing like it!
Even if you can’t grow your own garden, you can always visit your local farmers market. I encourage you to support the hardworking people who produce your food. It’s inspiring to know their story and it’s important that we continue to support local, small, family owned farms. Remember – if it grows together, it goes together! Wine and olives. Tomatoes and basil. Peas and green onions. Young garlic and fava beans. What’s your favorite garden story? Engage with me on twitter and share!