My green thumb.
July 11, 2011

I used to joke that I had the Black Thumb of Death.  You hear stories about people who can make things grow, who take plants knocking on Death’s door and nurse them back to health, but to me these people have always been one part astounding and two parts incredible.  If I so much as looked at a houseplant, it died.

This is what corn leaves look like when they are two feet taller than you.

This is my first summer garden and it seems almost magical to me.  I have tomatoes nearly as tall as my gum boots, watermelon plants pouring over the dirt surrounding them, pea plants that dwarf my daughter.  It is hard to believe that this is my first year gardening, because barring a few gopher tragedies, everything here has worked.  Even without an ounce of garden know-how, my plants are living.  Growing.  THRIVING.

Lately, Donald and I have been working on a long-term garden plan.  We would like to be able to supply the majority of the fruits and vegetables our family consumes every year, even as our family grows.  We would like to support beneficial insects like praying mantises and native bee species.  We would like to discourage gophers and other pests from eating all of our food.  We would like to eliminate malicious insects like grasshoppers.  And we would like to find positive ways to incorporate birds and toads (hopefully without the birds eating all of our seeds and sprouts).

The sad fact is that we are going to need to become much more efficient gardeners and much more knowledgeable conservationists to attain those goals.  My cats are killing at least one gopher every week, but I have still lost several dozen plants.  I lost seven stalks of corn last week alone.  And I don’t know the first thing about native bees, insects, or birds.  Right now, my garden isn’t anywhere near where I would like it to be.

A couple hundred square feet of our garden of late.

But we’re making progress and that’s the good news.  We’ve talked to a few of our neighbors and asked them if they mind refraining from pesticide use so that we don’t have to worry about their chemicals landing on the foods we put on our dinner plates.  (This is one of the hardest things I have ever done, but everyone we’ve talked to so far has been understanding and supportive.)  We’ve started looking at water systems that will allow us to filter metals and chemicals from our water before it’s pumped into our sprinklers and drip lines.  We’ve joined a native wildlife group to learn more about how species here interact and how we can support them without sacrificing our vegetables.  And we’ve begun tackling the tasks, like relocating our compost pile, that needed to come first if we want to expand our garden area and keep it gopher-free (read: add raised beds) (with chicken mesh on the bottom).

As Donald and I are finishing up our first year of gardening, I’m finding that I have truly enjoyed it.  I enjoy the hard work, the problem-solving, the excitement of trying new things, the satisfaction of watching seedlings grow, the feeling that I’m doing something good for our family and our world.  Most of all, I enjoy the confidence.  I know now that I was wrong about having the Black Thumb of Death, that anybody can grow food, even me.

The seeds cost money, the water costs money, the raised beds are going to cost money.  But the feeling of having made something happen that I thought was impossible seems priceless.

This post is a part of the Summer Garden Show-and-Tell outreach with Healthy Child, Healthy World.  If you are interested in blogging on Healthy Child, Healthy World topics, please click here.

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  1. By on July 11, 2011

    Love the Frank Lloyd Wright quote. Have you seen the smart gardener website, My husband and I just discovered it - it’s really cool. Also, have you read Barbara Kingsolver’s, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle?“ That book inspired me to garden, buy/eat locally as much as possible. Congrats on your garden success!!!!

  2. By christy on July 11, 2011

    i just love your garden posts!

  3. By Leslie Crane on July 11, 2011

    Erin-Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is next on my reading list, so excited to read it!

    Sarah-your asparagus peas really took off!!

  4. By Leslie Crane on July 11, 2011

    Also, this guy is in SoCal maybe this site can be helpful? His lifestyle is pretty inspirational if not realistic for everyone.

  5. By Wendy Irene on July 11, 2011

    Although I am not growing a whole garden, for the first time this year I am growing some strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and romaine in pots.  I, like you, thought I had the black thumb of death.  It is incredibly rewarding.  Keep us posted on your solutions for keeping pests away.  I’d like to plant a whole garden next summer and need all the advice I can get!

  6. By Jeneva on July 11, 2011

    Wow, I am so envious! I would love to have a garden like that. Although not sure how well that would work with my husband being deathly allergic to bees. But no matter, we haven’t the room currently anyway. If you get too much I will more than happy to help you out with any of it. =)

  7. By elizabeth Mackey on July 11, 2011

    Fantastic garden Sarah!!!

  8. By Sarah Christensen on July 11, 2011

    Leslie - The Dervaes family aren’t too far away from where I live, actually, but I’ve been a little conflicted about them ever since the whole trademark hullaballoo.  Also, enjoy the Kingsolver book.  Would love to hear what you think afterwards =)  It’s an interesting read.

    You know what’s weird about the asparagus peas?  They’re spreading on the ground!  They’re still only maybe two inches tall right now.

    Jeneva - I’m deathly allergic to bees too, but the native species here don’t sting.  Of course, they don’t hive or make a bunch of honey either.  If I didn’t have to carry a couple Epi-pens with me everywhere, I would totally take up bee-keeping, but alas.

  9. By Alicia S. on July 12, 2011

    We’re lucky that my father in law has an amazing garden, so we get all of our fresh veggies from him. Even though we don’t have nearly the space that my in-laws do, we manage a small collection of veggies—peppers, tomatoes and pumkins right now, more for the fun of it than anything else. Which is amazing to me because I am notorious for sucking the life out of flowers. :-/

    P.S. I’m really excited for you to post some recipes. Since my daughter was born, she’s been fed nothing but homemade purees with fresh friuts and veggies, and now that she’s getting older, I’m worried about her getting on the same processed diet my son has fallen into. Thanks for sharing!

  10. By Leslie Crane on July 13, 2011

    Erm, I hadn’t heard about a trademark issue…what’s the deal?

  11. By Leslie Crane on July 13, 2011

    Oh god, just looked it up quickly. Well that’s really disappointing and obnoxious if true.

  12. By on July 13, 2011

    being curious, I looked it up too (the trademark thing) - what a Tool.





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