My first attempt at a garden was disastrous. I was a kid, and I didn’t know what I was doing. I grabbed a handful of old pumpkin seeds, nudged up some dirt near my parent’s house and threw them down.
I stomped them into the dirt, and naively thought I had successfully planted my first garden. I didn’t know how deep I should plant the seeds, whether pumpkins needed shade or sun, how much water they required or even how much space it took to grow them. I just thought pumpkins would be a neat thing to grow, so I tried to wing it. I didn’t realize that growing produce was a lot harder than it looked.
As you can imagine, it didn’t work out so well. The pumpkins that sprouted that fall were misshapen, small and altogether unhealthy looking. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be a long time before I attempted another garden.
It was decades later, when my son brought home a giant cabbage plant from school, that I finally toyed with the idea of planting another garden. I could only see the positives to it – the food would be fresher, tastier and cheaper than anything I would get in the stores.
And now that I was an adult, I was sure to be a lot better at the research I needed to do to have a thriving garden. So I enlisted my husband’s help and asked him to build four long raised gardening beds in our backyard for my vegetables. That way I wouldn’t end up with an aching back when I needed to weed them.
It’s been about three years now since we first planted that garden, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. There have been a few mishaps along the way, such as when I was running out of room in one bed, so I didn’t space out the carrot seeds. I figured they would still be OK, and then I realized they weren’t growing much of anything underground. That’s when my kids and I learned to take spacing requirements seriously.
My kids were fascinated the first year we grew anything. They had so much fun picking vegetables that they kept picking things even when they didn’t want to eat them.
My kids and I aren’t the only ones enjoying our little backyard garden. It has become really popular with their friends too. Some of their friends have told us they have never picked their own vegetables before. I suppose that’s a sign of the times, but I find that truly sad.
I remember the vegetable gardens my dad used to grow when I was a kid. They weren’t anything big, just a small plot of land behind our house. But I used to love eating the vegetables that we could gather up just by taking a quick walk to the backyard.
I wanted that same experience for my kids, although it took that school project to bring those long-ago memories flooding back to me.
Unless they grow up on a farm, kids are often so removed from the food-growing process these days that I don’t think they realize how much work it is to grow your own food. They don’t get to experience the wonder of planting something so small and watching it sprout through the ground just days later.
That’s why when my kids’ friends come over; they are always welcome to pick and eat whatever they want from our garden. I want them to experience a little bit of that amazement. Every time a kid comes over and I point to a carrot and ask them to pull on that green stem without telling them what’s underneath, I love hearing/seeing their surprise when they realize they’ve just unearthed a carrot. Without fail, it makes them laugh, and they immediately want to pick more.
But I love having our garden for a deeper reason than just the fun it gives my kids. Many of us live in a world of instant gratification. We get everything we want almost as soon as we realize we want it. I don’t want my kids taking their food sources for granted, or worse yet, not know how to garden someday when they may really need it.
If you have a child or a grandchild in your life, consider planting a small garden this year. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. If you don’t want to do the heavy lifting a full-fledged garden requires, just get a few containers to put in your backyard or patio. A couple of plants will be enough to spark their interest. Someday, they may look back at that little garden as fondly as I do my dad’s. You might not just be growing produce, you may be planting memories.
Shannon Serpette is a freelance writer and a mom of two who lives in Henry. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.