This is the third year I’ve grown vegetables, although I have grown perennials and shrubs and trees since we moved to the suburbs 20 years ago. I never grow annuals, which I think of as the gardening equivalent of fast food (that will be the topic of another post), and vegetables are annuals, so it requires a little bit of a mental switch.
When you plant a perennial or shrub, you’re thinking of many seasons to come: how big will it be in five years? in ten? when will it first flower? will nearby plants crowd it? will it send out suckers and take over the bed? With annuals, it’s completely different. the plants are new each year, and you must anticipate only a single season’s growth. Of course, you still have to deal with the environment: you must continually enrich the soil with organic matter to replace what last year’s crops removed, and you will almost certainly be dealing with the eggs of last season’s pests, which are waiting to emerge and attack this year’s plants. To deal with the first problem, I make compost and spread it on my plot, and to deal with the second, I try to outwit the insects in various ways. Details to come as we move through the gardening season.
I garden in a tiny plot (about 5 x 16 feet) in the Glen Rock Community Garden. I’m very lucky to have my plot–there’s a waiting list, and the site and fellow gardeners are great. The soil is well drained and quite fertile, but rather weedy because it was pretty much an unmanicured lawn alongside a Little League field for many years. The site gets plenty of sun, which is the most important thing, after all.
To me, having a vegetable garden is a humbling experience. Just imagine if I really had to feed the family with my efforts. I start in early spring by growing some mixes of greens from seeds–arugula, spinach, and mesclun–and I’m lucky if we get half a dozen large salads before the plants go to seed as soon as the weather gets hot. Here’s a picture of some of those greens, taken yesterday; they’re a couple of inches high now, and I’m very proud: