Memorial Day in the Garden

Memorial Day may be a popular time to travel to the beach or mountains, but for me, I like to spend the holidays at home. My secluded backyard is far away from the traffic and crowds that turn well-intentioned, holiday-weekend travel into another stressful activity.

I’ll admit, I was dreaming of watching the ocean waves or wading in a mountain stream while I dug post holes in 90-degree heat for my garden fence. Still, both my wallet and my temperament have benefited from my decision to stay put.

Earlier this year I told you that I was finally going to put in the hard work necessary to grow my own organic vegetables, and this weekend, the resulting garden occupied much of my time. Here’s an update on my experience so far:

Taking the advice of blog reader, Sarah Besterman, I bought a few plants instead of relying on everything to grow from seed. I purchased kale, cabbage, and Bok choy from the Rodale Institute’s early spring sale and then a few tomatoes and peppers after Mother’s Day. The professionally grown plants are now giving the garden a lush appearance. However, from an economic standpoint, seed-grown plants yield the best return on the dollar.

So far from seed I’ve started:

  • lettuce,
  • radish,
  • spinach,
  • leeks,
  • carrots,
  • bush beans,
  • cucumbers,
  • tomatoes,
  • bell peppers,
  • cilantro,
  • marigolds (to deter the rabbits),
  • and sunflowers (after my friend Bob suggested every garden needs them).

Also transplanted into the garden are a few heirloom tomatoes which Bob gave to me — fondly dubbed “Mrs. T’s” for the Italian woman who made them famous among friends. I am now watching with intrigue to see which plants yield the most food.

Professionally started Bok choy and kale add an encouraging lushness to the garden.

The rewards from hard work have just begun.

Started from seed, nutritious lettuce and spinach hide under a makeshift sunscreen to extend their yield into the hotter weather.

I’m also embarking on a secondary experiment. The work I was doing this weekend was to extend the fence beyond the garden boundaries to include a portion of a native wildflower area I’d been unsuccessfully maintaining for the last 10 years. Guests never got to see much when they viewed this wild, rocky mess; deer and other critters chomped down anything worth looking at.

It has always been discouraging to see the flowers disappear while Japanese Stilt Grass (Microstegium vimineum) and other invasive weeds get left behind. Now, with a small portion fenced in, I will watch for the contrast to unfold within the safeguarded area.

A high fence now safeguards a small section of the wildflower garden from hungry deer.

Thankfully the deer don’t eat milkweed (pictured here in the unfenced area). These plants may not look like much to you and me, but they play a critical role in the life of a monarch butterfly.

It’s true I imagined fun times vacationing in a favored spot, but I found home life to be just as rewarding. I got to share a meal with close neighbors and friends. I devoured lettuce, radish, spinach, and kale just moments after cutting. I feel nourished both inside and out.

And every day, an inspection walk through the little garden takes me away from my desk and opens my mind to the possibility of future abundance. I have no doubts that I will experience a few frustrations along the way (the leeks don’t look good at all), but I’ll take that over sitting in a motionless car for hours any day.

I’m beginning to understand this sentiment — a gift from my late grandmother — more and more every day.