Monday, September 7, 2015

On How I Became a Gardener

I used to have a self-proclaimed black thumb.  I had no desire to grow plants.  Whenever I was gifted one, I'd think, "Great... another one I will end up killing."  My mother once gave me a mini cactus.  It required minimal care and could be kept indoors.  That died on me, too.

Destined not to be friends with growing things, I had an answer ready for whoever asked.  "Well, it's because I'm more of a people person,"  I'd say.  "I don't care for plants."  When we bought our house three years ago, we inherited a dying garden bed of basil and tomato.  I considered turning it into a sandbox for my children.  Though I ignored it, the basil (that grows quite well in South Texas) continued to thrive.  Eventually, my family and I ate of the biannual herbs and enjoyed them.

When the basil came to the end of its cycle, we missed it.  It was during this time that my dear friend, Angela (a.k.a. The Master Gardener; read the poem I posted about her) asked if she could use our garden as "therapy."  "Sure," I thought, "why not?"  Gardening was necessary for her.  We would chat while she worked on our garden, and I would closely observe her.

She cleaned out our garden bed and turned the soil over with her own compost, and proceeded to plant some new basil.  She told me to keep an eye on it, and to water it about every other day. I learned how to properly trim it so that it would continue to grow after being harvested.

The correct way to trim basil:  look for the area where two leaves split, and trim right above it to ensure proper regeneration.
A couple of weeks later, she returned to find the basil had grown quite a bit.  "You're an excellent basil student," she said.  And that was all it took.  Before I knew it, she was asking me what else I wanted to grow.  "Be sure that you will eat whatever you plant," Angela advised.  This past year, we grew chives, oregano, parsley, tomatoes, lettuce and green beans.  Over time, I fell in love with gardening.  It became therapeutic for me, too.
This was our garden in January (you can see basil, chives, lettuce, green beans and tomato).
Our garden area looks different during different seasons, as does life (more on gardening, life and spiritual parallels in a future post).  Angela recently moved to Florida.  My family and I have continued the tradition of making our own compost and planting herbs and vegetables.  We planted many of the same items this year, and have added corn.  Most recently, I was overjoyed to discover that I was accepted to be a vendor at the Brownsville Farmers' Market!  I will be selling some of our basil, chives and oregano, as well as value-added items like basil dressing, pesto and compound butters (keep your eyes peeled for when that will be!).

I do not know where this journey of growing food will take me, but I am enjoying the ride!  I am convinced that people can learn how to do most anything, so long as they have a teacher that believes in them and inspires them.  Who knows? Perhaps one day I will be a Master Gardener myself.
One of my favorite things about gardening?  It's a family affair.  This is a picture of my daughter helping in the spring, shortly after she turned one-year old.